Monday July 06, 2015

 

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Written by Alan Hustak for VMO
Monday June 23rd, 2015

The annual general meeting of the Collective Community Services ended in chaos Monday evening when an unruly crowd claimed it had lost confidence in the board of directors and disrupted the meeting. 

In fact, the meeting never even got off the ground. 

As it was called to order, a petition signed by 42 dissidents was dropped in front of Board Chair Tom Boushel and CCS director Fred Jansen. But Boushel refused to deal with petition until the names on the petition were scrutinized and he was satisfied all those present had been registered members for 30 days. 

“You have a right to be here, but not all of you have the right to vote,” he declared.

It was the first annual general meeting since CCS dropped the name “Catholic” from its brand earlier this year, a controversial move intended to make the 40-year- old Catholic charity more inclusive so that it might continue to receive program funding from Centraide. 

CCS however, continues to be a tenant in a building owned by the Foundation of Catholic Community Services (FCCS) and administers summer camps owned by the Foundation.

The meeting quickly disintegrated as Boushel patiently attempted to explain why the name and the original corporate bylaws were changed earlier this year. Centraide, he claimed, “told us, …advised us strongly to change our bylaws.” He referred to article 105, which now states that “CCS be managed by a board of directors who are composed of volunteers who have no affiliation or declared ties with any kind of religion or political group.”

He then attempted to explain who was eligible to vote under the new bylaws and it appears that some credentials for a voting member which once applied may - or may not - still apply.

One person was told his application for membership was rejected because “his process wasn’t a complete process,” because his telephone number hadn’t been included on the application form. Former CCS board president Richard Macklem came with a letter sent to him in 1994 giving him free membership for life. “Are they trying to tell me I am not a member?” he asked.

When pressed to explain how new membership applications are processed and confirmed, Boushel replied: "The answer is there is no procedure for confirming members.”

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Josie Campis, a director of family camps, insisted that as a volunteer she was automatically entitled to a vote. Boushel said no, under the new bylaws she was excluded because “we no longer have to accept any volunteer members.”

Bishop Thomas Dowd informed the meeting that his application for membership, filed last February had not even been acknowledged. Boushel suggested that because the bishop represents a religious institution, his application was being studied by a committee to determine whether he might qualify as an honorary advisor.

Asked to explain why CCS has lost three directors of operations within a year and a half (Erica Botner, Linton Gardner and Garry White) and why eight other staffers have quit, Boushell said he was prohibited from discussing the files because “it is against Quebec labour laws.”

The room was clearly divided as Boushel was taunted with shouts. “This community is not served, and is not going to be served as long as this board is in place,” someone thundered.

Ruth Pelletier, a grandmotherly matron who has been involved with non-profit organizations for more than 40 years, pleaded with the unruly crowd to allow the meeting to continue. “What I see here tonight is really embarrassing,” she said. “ There is a time and a place to bring up grievances privately. Lets move on.”

But others – equally grandmotherly - reminded her that an annual general meeting was exactly the time and place to deal with such grievances.

With that, a motion to continue the meeting passed by a vote of 13-10, but only after Boushel challenged one of the dissenting voters.

He attempted to soldier on as the shouting match continued.

“According to the bylaws, we are proceeding with the meeting,” he insisted. He pleaded with those present to at least allow him to talk about future projects and new avenues of financing. Lawyer Richard McConomy, however, pointed out that until the new bylaws were ratified by the AGM the meeting should not continue.

“If we lose control we will cancel the meeting, “ Boushel warned. Most of you here are not members.”

He was drowned out in the uproar that followed

“Discussions are over, its out of control, clear out,” he said as he abruptly adjourned the meeting.

As Boushel left the room he indicated the next step will be to call another meeting and exclude anyone who is not a registered voting member from attending.

 

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