Despite a plunge in community donations and a depleted budget surplus, the head of Pink Triangle Services is blaming a recent public controversy on “sexism, biphobia and trans-phobia.”
PTS president Ruth Dulmage addressed an Oct 25 special general meeting called in response to a public controversy over the legitimacy, finances and ethics of the organization’s board of directors.
“Whether you believe that sexism, biphobia and transphobia are the root causes or underpinnings of recent challenges or whether you are understandably fearful of change, growth and expansion or whether some of the resignations personally affected or concerned you or whether some of the historical problems, that have now been solved, concerned you, we ask that you move along with us and support PTS in any way you can.”
Dulmage offered the organization’s members no admission that she or the board accepted blame for the controversy or for past behaviour. Instead, she urged that people move on without a pause to carefully examine the issues that had created the fuss.
“Tonight, we want to focus our energies on moving forward, healing and working together, in a positive, safe environment,” she told a room filled to overflowing. “Today, we stand before you looking for your support, prepared to continue to move forward. We are small in numbers, but I can assure you that those who have remained are committed to the best interest of our entire community and PTS specifically.”
Dulmage pointed to progress on other issues that led to board resignations over the summer and fall and public questions about the legality of decisions made by a board that fell below quorum.
Board liability insurance had been purchased, assuring stability of the board and the return of at least one member who resigned for that reason, Dulmage noted. And the election of eight new board members at the Oct 25 meeting would set right any concerns about quorum or the lack of fresh blood, she suggested. The board had twice fallen below quorum this year, and appointed new members without calling an SGM — a move some members felt was in clear violation of PTS by-laws.
Dulmage did not resign from her post, despite publicly voiced concerns about a past sexual relationship with a fellow executive member on a powerful three-member executive. A messy break-up between Dulmage and former treasurer Sandi Bonini last summer has previously been blamed for difficulties in getting work done on the executive, and ultimately led to resignations that brought the board below quorum. That issue remained undiscussed at the SGM and an opportunity to create policy prohibiting intimate relationships between executive members was missed.
Finances, however, got a thorough airing, with PTS members learning of a series of serious trends. Treasurer Michael Henschel, a recent board appointee, predicted the organization would suffer a second deficit in a row — this one for at least $35,000. And, he predicted, the $81,873 surplus left by the board two years ago will be largely gone.
Moreover, the recent fundraising campaign was a disaster, raising less than $16,000 of a targetted $110,000. (The subsequent fundraising ball of Oct 29 also had sparse turnout, and will raise nowhere near the $50,000-plus profit of several years ago.) In 2002, PTS was able to attract $80,000 in donations but the donor levels have been decreasing by approximately $20,000 each year. With donations on a steady decline, the organization was starting to put an emphasis on getting government grants.
“The vast majority of funding for PTS now comes through operational and project-based grants,” Henschel explained in his treasurer’s report. “This is a drastic turn of events over the last three years.” But even grant funding for the year has come up short — $145,000 of the $160,000 budgetted.
But that’s the wrong approach, members suggested at the meeting. PTS is in financial difficulty because it has strayed too far from its core membership, they said.
A motion from the membership urged the board to get closer to the community it serves. The board can measure progress toward the goal by looking at the increase in volunteers and individual donations, the motion suggested.
The accounting books are now up to date and the new treasurer was able to present audited financial statements for 2004, which, Henschel agrees, should have been presented at the AGM last June. All funding reports have now been completed and sent in to the various funding bodies.
Henschel says a new level of fiscal professionalism will be incorporated into PTS practices including the hiring of a contract bookkeeper to deliver monthly updates to the books, and the creation of a policy where volunteers will no longer be in positions of financial responsibility.
Some of the most public critics of recent moves at PTS either left the Oct 25 meeting early or didn’t bother to show up at all.
Judy Girrard, a PTS co-founder who brought the controversies to the membership’s attention, says she left the meeting she triggered before the question and answer portion of the meeting, so that she wouldn’t miss her ride.
Girrard later told Capital Xtra she didn’t bring up any issues because she felt she already made her opinions clear and thought, “If other people weren’t feeling likewise, then what’s the point?”
Girrard says she’s given up on PTS and won’t be back. “PTS has lost its soul. Its soul is gone.” Girrard adds that she ceremonially burned her membership card.
Another cofounder, Barry Deeprose, wouldn’t even attend the Oct 25 meeting. He later told Capital Xtra that Dulmage is a polarizing influence. He recently asked her to resign in a phone conversation and encountered accusations of biphobia, transphobia and sexism.
“I think it’s appalling that someone in a leadership position is so willing to label anyone who doesn’t agree with her,” says Deeprose. “At that moment I thought, ‘I cannot be in an organization led by this woman.'”
Members approved a slate of eight nominees to the board; 11 of 13 seats are now filled, well exceeding quorum. The slate included Henschel and Lisa Ostapyk, who were appointed a few months ago, and Kevin Bisback – who had earlier resigned due to lack of liability insurance. The other new board members are Aubrey McGibbon, Ian Capstick, Jeff Atkinson, Jessica Freedman and Melanie Pasztor.
The new members join a board made up of Dulmage, vice-president Richard Montminy and Alex Adam. There are now three trans people on the board — Adam, Freedman and Pasztor.