The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) presented a solid-looking set of financial statements and returned $5,000 in charitable grants to the queer community at the annual general meeting (AGM), Oct 21.
The statement shows a flourishing society on solid financial ground with a surplus of $28,025 on revenues of $170,752 for 2006. The numbers suggest that the VPS grew overall and socked-away about 25 percent more money to invest in future Prides than it did last year.
VPS president John Boychuk presents Legacy Fund cheques to some of Vancouver’s queer community groups.
The biggest factor in that growth appears to be a huge five-fold increase in corporate sponsorship dollars over 2005.
Also of note in the financials is that Homopalooza, the new addition to this year’s Pride Celebration, lost $3,268 on revenues of $26,974.
“We set a plan, we kept it tight and it shows,” VPS president John Boychuk told Xtra West after the AGM. “We lost money in a few areas, but at the end of the day the society came out ahead.”
But the AGM, although mostly civil and constructive, was by no means a warm and fuzzy backslapping party.
Despite a VPS resolution in March 2006 that the financials be independently audited, the VPS board presented unaudited financial statements.
An audit is a thorough inspection and verification of all the financial dealings of an organization by an independent chartered accountant. It is the only way the queer community can verify with certainty that the VPS board has acted as it says it has, and that the VPS is being managed in a way that will ensure its survival into the future.
The VPS did submit the financial statements to an accountant who checked the math, but there was no verification.
“Our auditor has reviewed everything based on generally accepted practices,” VPS treasurer Carol O’Dell told about 50 VPS members who attended the AGM. “He has provided us with these statements with confidence in our reporting and our financials. If the society wants to spend the money on an audited statement, then I would like a motion for that today.”
And the membership did vote to hold another meeting within four months at which audited financials are to be presented. Boychuk told Xtra West after the meeting that the audit will “absolutely, yes” be complete before the four-month deadline.
But the most contentious business at the AGM concerned an attempt by the VPS board to get the membership to grant it powers to arbitrarily suspend, discipline and remove its own board members. In particular, the board hoped to eject VPS director Marc Schaper.
The move stemmed from a Jul 15 altercation between Schaper and VPS festivals coordinator Lee Casey. On Jul 25, the VPS board voted to suspend Schaper even though there is no mechanism in the BC Societies Act or in VPS bylaws to do so.
“I don’t believe you should be commended for this petty, very unprofessional and very disrespectful act against another board member,” VPS member Jamie Lee Hamilton told the board. “I don’t think you should be there to police other board members. You’re asking us to go back and approve something that you already did, which I think is very unethical.”
But the board withdrew its proposal to eject Schaper from the board under the terms of a last-minute agreement between Schaper and Casey and mediated by past VPS vice president Randy Atkinson and past VPS president Shawn Ewing.
The agreement stipulates that Schaper should not be sanctioned by the board because of the altercation with Casey, that Schaper will not volunteer for any future event for which Casey is responsible, and that the VPS begin work to develop a code of conduct and a mechanism for dispute resolution among board members.
“These guys in doing what they did shows that there is hope for our community to work together and not walk away from incidents that cause ruffled feathers,” Ewing told the board. “I think the board has a huge opportunity to set the example. We need to move forward.”
But regardless of the agreement, the VPS board pressed on with a resolution to remove Schaper as a member of the VPS, a move that would have effectively removed him from the board as well.
“If we start expelling people from membership in societies, nobody would be part of any membership of any society anywhere. One of the things that you can be sure of in any board is conflict,” former parks commissioner Laura McDiarmid told the board. “We elect you to deal with that conflict on our behalf at the board level. You can’t come back to us and say, ‘We can’t deal with this guy, so we want him out of here.'”
But several board members said that the altercation with Casey wasn’t the only reason they wanted Schaper removed.
“It has to do with what he said to the media and the public that was completely inaccurate,” said VPS vice president Aviva Lazar. “He misrepresented us, he misrepresented the facts and that’s why we want him removed.”
Lazar was referring to the Aug 2 issue of Xtra West in which Schaper said he was suspended from the board because he opposed the VPS’ effort to claim a trademark on queer Pride festivals in BC. In that same piece, Boychuk is quoted as saying the trademark issue had nothing to do with Schaper’s suspension.
Schaper rose to speak to the allegations but instead reiterated his opposition to the trademark issue. “I think that there’s been some miscommunication, I think that’s understood. I do believe that we should not be trademarking the word Pride,” he said.
In the end, the membership voted to defeat the motions to remove Schaper, clearing the way for him to remain on the board, and agreed not to commit the VPS to any action on the trademark issue until after the next meeting within four months.
VPS member Barry Peirsdorff then moved that the membership censure the VPS board for acting inappropriately and outside the bounds of its authority by suspending Schaper. Censure is a symbolic slap on the wrist that has no real consequences, but that remains as part of the public record forever. The motion passed with a resounding 28 to three majority, but there were many abstentions.
The tension between Schaper and the rest of the VPS board was palpable. Xtra West asked Schaper after the AGM how he planned to work with a group of people who so obviously distrust him.
“You can just quote me as saying that I plan on building positive relationships,” he replied. “I’m going to carefully represent the society and its members.”
When asked how he planned to accomplish those goals he said, “By just being me.”
“Yes there is a certain level of disappointment but in the interests of the society we’ve buried the hatchet,” said Boychuk.
“We did reinstate Mr Schaper. We gave him the opportunity to come back onto the board, he accepted that opportunity and is moving forward.
“Democracy is a beautiful thing,” he continued. “To see the membership come forward and accept the information and to participate in the development of the society is fantastic.”