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Hyack 'not in good standing with city' Mayor Wright says
Mayor Wayne Wright has had it with the Hyack Festival Association after an expected showdown between its factions turned into a surreal coup Tuesday.
A special general meeting (SGM) of the association's membership was cancelled by the Hyack board about two hours before it was to begin. But the faction that called the meeting went ahead with it anyway and removed president Gavin Palmer, vice-president Alan Wardle and treasurer Gloria Munro.
"My frustration level has come to its end," said Wright Wednesday morning. "Council has sat back throughout this whole thing and tried to be neutral, but this is a fiasco … I'm not happy, I'm really not."
New Westminster council will likely discuss Hyack in camera Monday. Wright went on to say he is worried the divisions are so deep there are even more problems than the ones being discussed publicly. He noted the city's annual grant to Hyack—$140,000 annually and another $40,000 for in-kind services in 2013—will be on the table soon when council divvies up its grant money for 2014.
"Right now I would suggest the Hyack organization is not in good standing with the city," said Wright. "Our position is going to be quite simple, there are going to have to be some changes."
Palmer refused to respond to Wright's assertion the situation is a fiasco.
"I have no comment on that. That was his viewpoint," said Palmer on Thursday. "He's giving you an opinion."
The final bizarre sequence of events that led Wright to his conclusion began early Tuesday when five members of the board of directors—secretary Mariane Kazemir, past-president Bill Radbourne and directors Ron Unger, Stephen Loyd and Patti Goss—resigned.
They had initiated the SGM to consider resolutions to remove Palmer, Munro and Wardle. After filing their notice, the executive had responded with special resolutions of their own for the meeting, calling for the ouster of the five, as well as director Michail Boncea.
The division between the two sides was created when the executive board fired executive director Douglas Smith on July 31. The board of directors, however, said the executive didn't have the power to remove Smith and reinstated him.
Although he returned briefly, Smith left because conditions he had asked for, including the removal of Palmer and Munro, weren't met. According to the directors who resigned, Hyack avoided litigation by reaching an agreement with Smith last week, which they said will saddle the association with substantial settlement and legal costs.
Registered parliamentarian Eli Mina had been brought in to run Tuesday's meeting but in their resignation letter the five directors said Mina quit last week because of "repeated interference and unilateral and illegitimate actions by the President, Gavin Palmer."
When Wright found out Mina had bowed out, he stopped being neutral.
"I was extremely disturbed when one of the most professional parliamentarians in the province had to resign. That didn't make sense to me," said the mayor.
Without a parliamentarian running the meeting, the group of five decided to resign, believing their special resolutions to remove Palmer, Munro and Wardle were unlikely to pass, since they would require a 75 per cent majority.
In the afternoon, Palmer and the remaining board of directors held an emergency meeting and voted to accept the resignations. They then decided to rescind the notice for the special general meeting and cancelled it less than two hours before it was to begin.
Palmer said since the resignation letter pointed out the motions were unlikely to be passed the logical thing for the board to do was cancel the SGM "as it seemingly will not accomplish anything positive."
But about 25 members of the association showed up at The Columbia Theatre anyway and instead of a highly anticipated showdown there was an uncontested coup. Association member Brian Leonard, with a copy of Roberts Rules in hand, took over as chair of the meeting and those that were there voted to remove Palmer, Munro and Wardle.
Unger said it was a legitimate meeting because there was enough for a quorum.
"The board had no authority to cancel a meeting," said Unger. "We just went through the process as per the notice … There were two lawyers here and they didn't question it."
Palmer, however, is questioning its legitimacy.
"That was an illegal meeting," said Palmer Wednesday. "There was a board meeting that pre-empted that, and the board meeting officially rescinded the notice of the SGM, and that happened prior to the start of that meeting."
Palmer insisted he is still president of Hyack. "There's no argument about it."
Palmer refused to comment on the costs of firing Smith, Mina's resignation and the future direction of Hyack when asked by the NewsLeader following the cancellation of Tuesday's meeting.
His opponents say the resignations and removals have left Hyack without anyone on the executive and only five directors. That isn't enough to form a quorum, they contend.
Unger said it is clear under the association's constitution only the board of directors can appoint new members to fill vacancies that develop between annual general meetings, but a without a quorum that can't be done.
"That's a bit of a vacuum we're now in," said Unger, although he noted members can call a special meeting to vote in new board members.
He stated ideally an independent lawyer would be brought in to sort out the mess. Unger suggested the city could provide some direction since Hyack exists to serve the city and its residents.
Coun. Betty McIntosh disagreed with Wright's assessment.
"It's not a fiasco. They didn't have a meeting last night. They had a gathering of some dissidents. And whatever they decided means absolutely nothing. Three lawyers said the meeting could be canceled," said McIntosh on Wednesday.
She revealed that during the emergency board meeting called by Palmer on Tuesday afternoon, the board not only accepted the five resignations but also appointed her husband Ken, Glen Richmond, Peter Goodwin and Gerda Suess in their place.
"There is no vacuum. There is a board in place, and the board is moving forward," said McIntosh. "It's just unfair how the Hyack association is being treated. There's been awful lot of half truths and half lies going out there too long. When there's lies after lies after lies happening, it's too frustrating."
She also labelled the resignation letter as libelous, and she is skeptical that city hall has remained neutral throughout the controversy.
"I don't believe council has stayed out of it. There's been a lot of back-room discussion happening. What is the best for this community is not being considered," she said.
Although he didn't vote, Coun. Bill Harper attended the meeting as a Hyack member and it was his understanding no one had the right to cancel the meeting.
"I was never notified as a member of Hyack and then the people who were supporting the Palmer and Munro group decided not to come to a meeting that had been given its proper 15-day notice," said Harper. "You have to show up and deal with the issues."
He added council's concern for the moment is for some of the events coming up that Hyack normally organizes. Next on the calendar is the annual Parade of Lights down Columbia Street on Dec. 7.
The resignation letter said the handling of Smith's firing by Palmer, Munro, Wardle and former president-elect Nadine Proulx, who has since resigned, was done against the advice of other board members and without the board's knowledge and authority.
"These three Directors have refused to acknowledge any personal liability for these costs which directly arose out of their personal actions and therefore Hyack is facing a significant non-operating deficit that is now being put forward to the membership for financing through debt," said the group.
They also said there were many additional examples of executive incompetence that are continuing.
"While Hyack may in the past have been a vibrant, valuable service organization that benefited and contributed to the community spirit of New Westminster, we feel it is no longer that today. We believe that the organization has lost its way, focusing excessive money and energy on exclusive activities outside the City, rather than creating an organization that reflects, includes and celebrates the many ethnic, community and business organizations that make up our City."