UPDATED: Rutland Park Society interim board rejects membership renewals from political foes

No reason given for rejection of membership renewals by four former board members and a member-at-large.

Former Rutland Park Society president Todd Sanderson is one of at least five people whose membership renewals in the RPS have been rejected by the interim board.

Updated Oct. 19: Brian McCallion says he has now heard from a member of the RPS interim board who told him the board did not reject his membership renewal. According to the unidentified board member, McCallion’s membership renewal was never brought to the board for a decision.

McCallion says he was told his renewal was rejected by board member Wendi Swarbrick alone. The board member also told McCallion the board has not elected Swarbrick as its chairwoman, she appointed herself.

As a result, McCallion said he plans to attend the RPS AGM on Oct. 27 because he believes he is, in fact a member, having paid for a membership and not been rejected by the board, as the rejection notice he received indicated.

The AGM will only be open to RPS members, who will have to show identification at the door.

 

Original story: With the first annual general meeting of the Rutland Park Society since a power struggle between the board’s former treasurer and its former president took place earlier this summer just over a week away, questions are being asked about why membership applications and renewals are being rejected by the society’s interim board.

Former RPS member Brian McCallion says despite signing up to renew his lapsed membership during a raucous RPS membership meeting in August, he has now been told the board has “declined” his renewal.

But, he said, his attempt to learn why has resulted in silence from the board and its new leader, former treasurer Wendi Swarbrick.

Swarbrick did not return calls from the Kelowna Capital News this week.

She took over leadership of the society before the August meeting—which Sanderson called while he was still president. At that meeting, Swarbrick refused to let Sanderson present a final report to the membership because, she said, he had resigned a few days prior to the meeting and not at the meeting, as he originally said he would do.

That meeting, like the one before it, resulted in audience members shouting each other down and talking over one another, with Swarbrick telling audience members to “sit down and shut up” and even accusations that audience members threated to step outside and fight.

“I don’t know why they declined (my renewal)” McCallion told the Capital News Tuesday. “I sent an email to the board but I have had no response.”

And McCallion isn’t alone.

Four members of the previous board who quit the board before Sanderson but say they maintained their membership at the time, have also had their membership renewals rejected — former community market chairwoman and public relations director Laurel D’Andrea, former vice-president George Basran, former membership director Mary-Ann Belland as well as Sanderson.

Their memberships expire Oct. 26, one day before the planned RPS AGM on Oct. 27 at the Rutland Centennial Hall.

D’Andrea said both she and Sanderson also emailed the board to ask why their membership renewals were rejected. Neither has had a response.

D’Andrea said she talked to current (and former) board member Joe Iafrancesco about McCallion’s rejection and Ianfrancesco said he did not know who McCallion was. That despite the rejection notice McCallion received saying it was the board that declined his membership renewal. The RPS constitution says new members must be approved by the board.

D’Andrea said Iafrancesco also told her there was no vote held on renewing McCallion’s membership renewal. McCallion and the former board members all say they meet the requirements for membership as outlined by the RPS constitution.

While the fight between Swarbrick and her supporters and the former board and its supporters was very public, it’s unclear why McCallion would have been rejected.

At the Aug. 23 meeting, he did move a motion to have the books of the society audited by an independent auditor, a motion that appeared to pass in a vote at the meeting. However, minutes for that meeting, circulated recently to some, but not all, society members, show an amended motion that reads:

“That the Society be granted the power to operate the hall and pay the bills until the AGM and at that time, when the financial(s) are caught up, they be reviewed with the possibility of a third-party auditor being brought in to do a full audit as far back as 2013.”

It does not list McCallion as the mover or seconder.

At the meeting, the restriction on board spending until the AGM was voted on as a separate motion.

In response to McCallion’s call, Swabrick, a local accountant, told the membership an outside audit of the books could cost more than $30,000.

He said as a long-time Rutland resident, he wants what he feels is best for the community and is in favour of rebuilding the Rutland Centennial Hall, which the RPS owns and operates.

“I think Rutland could use some help getting on the map,” he said.

A $25,000 study, looking at the pros and cons of retaining the aging hall and refurbishing it or building a new one on the same site, is to be discussed at the AGM next week.

That meeting, however, will only be open to RPS members who show proper identification at the door, according to a notice sent to members informing them of the meeting. A full agenda for the AGM will be sent to all members next week, says the notice.

Also at the AGM will be the opening of the society’s books for RPS members, promised by Swarbrick before the AGM.

Part of the battle between her, Sanderson and the rest of the board earlier this year when she was the treasurer, centred on access to the books by the former board. Despite the RPS constitution saying as treasurer, she was responsible for the financial records of the society, Swarbrick claimed not to have the books.

She told the Capital News at the time, they were in the possession of a bookkeeper hired by the board. The bookkeeper, who works in Swarbrick’s office, claims he is owed $11,000 by the society for work he did dating back two years. Members of the former board dispute that claim.

D’Andrea said she was told Swarbrick has tried to convince the interim board to pay the bill but current directors have balked, saying they require more information.

 

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