Rutland Park Society president resigns

Todd Sanderson says his fight with director Wendi Swarbrick has made the situation "untenable" for him.

The embattled president of the Rutland Park Society has resigned.

In a letter Thursday to the RPS members, Todd Sanderson, who earlier said he planned to step down at the upcoming RPS membership meeting that he called for Aug. 23, said his resignation was effective as of midnight Thursday.

“The current situation is untenable for me personally and I simply cannot continue,” wrote Sanderson in his letter, published on the ourrutland.ca website.

“Despite my efforts to find consensus, the remaining director on the board (Wendi Swarbrick) has refused to accept legal advice that my presence (as president) is required at all board meetings. So I choose to resign today (Thursday).”

At a meeting of RPS members last week that Sanderson was not at, a motion was passed calling on him to resign because he had lost the confidence of the membership.

Saying he is proud of what the board he led accomplished, Sanderson urged members of the society to attend the Aug. 23 meeting and “press” for answers to questions he has been asking.

“One person stacking a meeting should not be able to speak for all members,” he wrote.

Sanderson and Swarbrick have been waging a very public battle for power on the RPS board since all other board members quit July 18 during a stormy membership meeting.

Since then Sanderson has revealed the board stripped Swarbrick of her treasurer position back in May, a move Swarbrick refuses to acknowledge.

She does have support from many RPS members, however, as evidenced by the membership meeting she called last week—without Sanderson—where six men were named to the board.

While Swarbrick says the men are now all new directors, Sanderson said according to the society’s lawyers they are not, because they were elected at a meeting not properly constituted.

In his resignation letter, Sanderson said the former board “fired” the society’s bookkeeper, and Swarbrick as treasurer (though she remains a director), in May. He also said while he had requested the society’s financial books for an independent review, that request had been rejected by Swarbrick.

She told the Capital News earlier this month she did not have the books, the bookkeeper did and she could not get them to hand them over to Sanderson. But the RPS constitution says as treasurer she is responsible for all financial records of the society.

Despite having said she did not have the financial records, at last week’s meeting, Swarbrick said she plans to hold an open house in September to lay out the RPS books for all members to see.

Meanwhile, the former bookkeeper, Petyr Hrynewich, says he is owed $11,206 for work he did for the society, a bill being questioned by the former board.

Sanderson has also accused Swarbrick of a conflict of interest, something she has denied. She has threatened legal action against Sanderson for his comments about her.

In his letter, Sanderson wrote he was made aware of “inconsistencies” that he said cannot be verified without getting access to the society’s financial records.

“Something is not right,” he wrote. “There are clear issues that will only be resolved by an independent investigation. These records belong to the society. To have (them) withheld for so long is wrong and has hurt the society. If there is nothing to hide, only a professional independent review will verify that and permit the society and its new board to move on.”

As for the future of the aging Rutland Centennial Hall, which the society still owns and operates, the former board was in the process of deciding whether to refurbish or rebuild based on a final decision of the membership. But Sanderson said the consultant’s report that was commissioned at a cost of $25,000 has yet to be released or discussed because, in his words,  the process was “hijacked by a minority of individuals” he said feel strongly about a different approach, “Even though no opinion as to the future (of the hall) has been finalized.”

The RPS sold the adjacent Rutland Centennial Park and its driveway to the City of Kelowna in 2013 for $800,000, money that was to be used to bring the hall up to current building code standards. Since then the city has made some improvements to the park but the hall remains in the same condition that it was at the time of the sale.

The society has been told it will get a federal infrastructure grant of $272,000 if it refurbishes the hall.