3 min

Hopes of rebuilding

Interim committee to review Pride's governing structure, debt

ONE HAND GIVETH. "Two years ago we got a grant from the City Of Ottawa for $3,000. [But] it cost the committee $32,000 in services back to the City Of Ottawa for that festival," says Pride's Robin Duetta. Credit: Rob Thomas

A new 10-member interim Pride Committee Of Ottawa has been appointed to help get the beleaguered festival back on track.

The committee, which will only serve for a 90-day term, has been asked by the festival’s membership to not only develop a financial plan to deal with its staggering $100,000 debt, but also to suggest ways to update and improve its structure, governance and transparency.

The 10-member panel was unanimously appointed during the festival’s annual general meeting on Oct 28 – an at times contentious standing-room-only gathering in an Ottawa City Hall meeting room, which was attended by more than 70 community members.

“I really think that people need to start looking at [Pride’s] foundation and structure, so we can accomplish the task at hand,” says Jay Koornstra, who put forward the motion to appoint the interim committee. Koornstra is executive director of Bruce House.

“It brings accountability back to the community instead of putting it on the shoulders of only five people,” says Koornstra.

Once the interim committee’s 90-day term expires, a general election will be called to allow a vote on a new slate of candidates to serve on the restructured committee, as well as on any governance-related recommendations.

The committee may then choose to select an executive board from within their own ranks, including its chair.

“This new structure expands the voice of Pride and really opens the festival up to the community,” says Robin Duetta, former executive director of Pride, who, in addition to the 10 new members, will serve on the interim committee as a non-voting past chair.

The slate of newly elected members includes Richard Hubley, Marion Steele, Sheryll Townsend, Monique L’Heureux, Doug Saunders, Darren Fisher, Jon Pollock, Jan Hobbs, Lee Callan and Cecil Turcotte.

The committee is made up of several former Pride board members, as well as community members who can bring their private-sector expertise to the benefit of Pride’s governing table.

“We don’t want to just put bodies in chairs,” says Pride membership-holder Brian Gallant. “What we need are skill sets, so we can actually move Pride forward.”

Interim committee member Marion Steele says she hopes that a new board structure will allow for increased inclusion in the annual event’s governance and attendance.

“I would like to see a lot more diversity on this board and in Pride as well,” says Steele, who previously served on the committee from 1995-2000.

In addition to restructuring the Pride committee, the interim panel will also look at the recommendation to hold monthly operations meetings that would be open to the public, as well as a developing an overall financial plan or budget.

The past few months have been a tumultuous time for the Pride Committee of Ottawa.

At the end of July, first vice-chair Ric Watson, second vice-chair Mary-Lou Bruce and secretary Jerry Martinovic resigned amid bitter infighting and finger-pointing over the festival’s estimated debt of $100,000 – a figure that includes the City Of Ottawa’s $50,000 loan guarantee granted to the board in April.

Although Watson tentatively returned to the board in August, he resigned again later that month along with board chair Janet Vachon – leaving only treasurer Geoff Robbins and Duetta, who had assumed the position of past chair on the board.

“This board has been hobbled,” says Duetta of the outgoing committee.

According to Robbins, although this year’s financial numbers for Pride were poor, that “debt is being managed,” while the board’s debt from previous festivals “is all but settled.”

“The festival had a difficult year, but the situation continues to be manageable, and Pride is in better shape than it was when the outgoing board took office early last year,” says Robbins. “It is clear, however, that without increased support from the community as a whole, Pride cannot continue as it has been.”

Duetta adds that the committee has been unable to hire an independent auditor to review the festival’s books because the board has no money to pay the required service fee.

Members voted at the AGM to delay the audit until the committee could come up with the funds needed to hire an auditor.

Although heated discussion and debate erupted several times during the AGM – which lasted for more than three hours – the meeting’s facilitator, Joe Clouthier, was able to defuse any situation that threatened to boil over and derail the meeting from its agenda.

Duetta says the interim committee might just be the first ray of sunshine in what has been another dark and stormy period in the festival’s long and bumpy history.

“This is amazing,” says Duetta of the unanimous decision to appoint the interim panel. “Let’s not lose this momentum.”