About 60 people piled into the meeting room at St John the Evangelist Church for a special general meeting (SGM) of Pink Triangle Services (PTS) on Feb 9. Members, volunteers and staff called the meeting to demand the resignation of the current board of directors because of perceived bylaw violations.
The meeting came after two months of written exchanges between the PTS board of directors and the dissenting members.
In December 2010, 25 members of PTS wrote a letter to the board demanding an SGM and suggesting that the board had violated the bylaws. By electing five executive members instead of three outside of the annual general meeting (AGM), the board had not only broken provincial laws but also risked PTS’s charitable status, the letter asserts.
Bob Walsh chaired the SGM, which began at 6pm with a question-and-answer period. Discussion focused on why the SGM was called, how the bylaws were interpreted, why the board members felt they had acted in good faith and why members felt there had been a breach.
Audience members expressed concerns about a perceived conflict between the executive director and PTS staff and the unwillingness of the dissenting members to communicate with the board.
Stas Tikhonov, one of the dissenting members, said that the members had approached the executive director of PTS, Claudia van den Heuvel, with their concerns about the election of the executive officers.
Tikhonov’s comment came as a surprise to the board.
“This is the first we are hearing, actually, that communication took place with the ED regarding the concern as to how the board was formed,” said Lisa Ostapyk, president of the board of directors.
Ostapyk defended the board’s actions, saying they were lawful.
Denis Schryburt also spoke about how the board had come to elect two vice-presidents.
“It wasn’t just two people who decided to be vice-president when Stas stepped down,” said Schryburt. “We had a meeting and we asked around who wanted to be vice-president and there were no hands going up.”
He and Lyle Borden were asked to become vice-presidents and they decided to share the position, says Schryburt.
Borden said that, in 30 years of volunteering in the community, this is the first time he’s seen a board asked to step down because of a mistake.
“I am having a lot of difficulty wrapping my mind around the fact that how can you possibly expect people to feel that you are here for the community when you are ready to say, because someone made a mistake — not because somebody intentionally went out and did something that would cause the downfall of PTS, that they made the mistake of choosing two people instead of one to help comprise the board, to help run the organization more efficiently, that that warrants that the board would have to resign. To me, that automatically says there is an ulterior motive,” said Borden.
The question-and-answer period ended shortly after Jay Koornstra, executive director of Bruce House, asked the dissenting members what they had done to communicate with the board to try to solve the issue.
Stas Tikhonov answered the question. “Given my prior working relationship with the board, I felt that it would not be a constructive dialogue,” he said.
Walsh then called for votes. In the end, 23 members voted to oust the board, while 37 voted to leave it intact.
The members passed motions to form a committee to overhaul the current bylaws and to recruit community members to fill vacant spots on the board.
The meeting was adjourned at 7:15pm.
This is not the first time PTS has found itself in a crisis. In 2005, some of its founding members accused the organization of financial missteps and of appointing its members illegally. That resulted in mass resignations and a period of instability.