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VPS back on track

Plans hatched for paid staff

DUAL ROLE: Christiane von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg was elected both treasurer and secretary of the VPS at a general meeting Mar 10 Credit: Matt Mills photo

The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) is in solid financial shape, is considering hiring paid staff and has a freshly elected board of directors after a general meeting, Mar 10.

The VPS board temporarily dissolved itself, Jan 22, after a group of former board members discovered that necessary documents, including lists of directors and financial statements, hadn’t been filed with BC’s Ministry of Finance since October of 2004. The revelation left some past directors to wonder if they might be legally responsible for the actions of a society of which they have no current knowledge or involvement.

“We just have too much at stake,” former VPS president Shawn Ewing told Xtra West, Jan 22. “Until our names are removed from the register, we want to have full knowledge of what’s going on.”

Ewing and current VPS president John Boychuk agreed to co-chair something they called a “committee of the whole” until the paperwork was corrected, the audit was complete and new elections could be held at a general meeting Mar 10.

Ewing told the crowd of about 50 people who assembled for the meeting at the Central Presbyterian Church in the West End that she personally completed and sent the forms to Victoria and that they will be processed by Mar 14.

Former VPS vice-president Randy Atkinson pointed out that the VPS seems to find itself in an administrative crisis every three years. In February 2004, for example, the VPS had to scramble to correct a similar paperwork mix-up.

“The problem is every time we have that happen we lose the confidence of the government, we lose the confidence of our sponsors, and most importantly we begin to lose the faith of the community in

Vancouver,” said Atkinson. “It takes longer and longer for the community to believe again in this organization…We need to look at a way to ensure there is an executive director in a paid position on the VPS.”

“I just want to remind people that we are here because of a piece of paperwork,” said VPS director Lee Casey. “Last year, we went from 165,000 on the parade route to 304,000. Our festivals were all huge successes and we more than tripled the money we had in the bank from the year before. I feel the credibility of the board should not be questioned and we are moving forward. There are people behind the scenes working toward the goal [of a paid executive director].”

The membership voted to establish a committee to look into sources of funding for what would be the VPS’ first paid staff person who, along with a host of other administrative duties, would be responsible to ensure that paperwork is in order. The committee will report back to the membership at the next general meeting expected in November 2007.

Audited financial statements were presented and accepted by the membership at the Mar 10 meeting that confirmed the accuracy of the unaudited statements that were rejected last October. They show a debt-free society with money in the bank and a surplus of $28,025 on revenues of $170,752 for 2006.

“They’ve gone through the offices of two different chartered accountants and there have been no questions raised,” said VPS treasurer Carol O’Dell.

It was also announced Mar 10 that the VPS would not be formally enforcing a trademark claim on non-sanctioned Pride events for the foreseeable future. In 2000 Pride Toronto registered a trademark on Pride in an effort to fend off corporate profiteers who were staging unofficial Pride events and selling unofficial Pride merchandise without contributing anything to the queer community.

“Toronto has said they are not intending to continue,” Boychuk told the crowd. “That means there will be no enforcement from the VPS as there is no agreement on the trademark.”

“The trademark is a done deal,” said Ewing. “It will not be pursued by the VPS at this point or any point in the near future.”

Many of those who were VPS directors prior to the Jan 22 meeting were reelected to their posts Mar 10. Boychuk will continue as VPS president, and Aviva Lazar will continue as vice-president. But treasurer Carol O’Dell, festivals director Lee Casey, and directors Ray Lam and Marc Schaper were not reelected by the membership.

“It’s a shame that all the work that has been done for some of these people that they can’t complete it,” Boychuk told Xtra West after the meeting. “That’s the hard thing, for someone to put their heart and soul into something since the last election, after five months, and to not be able to move forward.”

Elected as both treasurer and secretary was businessman Christiane von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg.

“I’m a forensic tax consultant and a corporate compliance officer,” von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg told the meeting. “My specialty actually is all the problems we’re looking at today… How many of you can look at the financial statement and say honestly that you can understand every single thing on there? Most of you would struggle to ask the right questions. That’s part of what a finance officer is supposed to be doing: explaining to laypeople why, what, how, where and when.”

“[Von Pfahlenburg-Marienburg has] accepted two very important roles,” Boychuk told Xtra West. “I’m confident that he will be able to move forward. The eyes of the community will be on him. He will be under a great deal of scrutiny as to whether or not he’ll be able to perform those tasks. It’s been very hard over the past few years to fill those roles. He’s got one heck of a challenge on him and we’ll do what we can to make sure there’s a smooth transition.”