A war of words between the two remaining members of the Rutland Park Society is continuing after the mass resignation of society directors from its board two weeks ago.
While president Todd Sanderson says he has suspended treasurer Wendi Swarbrick because of what he described as “a conflict of interest” he said she has responded by saying she plans to sue him for defamation of character.
On Tuesday, Sanderson told the Kelowna Capital News that on Saturday, on the advice of the society’s lawyer, he suspended Swarbrick, the only RPS director who did not resign at a heated board meeting held July 18. That meeting was to determine Swarbrick’s future on the board, but she said it was never properly adjourned.
While Sanderson said the other directors quit after a barrage of insults from RPS members in attendance, Swarbrick said it was the other way around, with RPS directors insulting audience members and telling them to “shut up.”
Sanderson said the society’s constitution requires a board meeting to be held so Swarbrick can be given an opportunity to explain why she is not in a conflict of interest and should not be fired from the board. That meeting is to take place Aug. 12, he said.
While Sanderson would not reveal what the conflict of interest was that he found, from his review of the society’s banking information, Swarbrick denied any conflict and vowed there will be no Aug 12 meeting.
“He is off his nut,” she said of Sanderson, further accusing him of “having some sort of breakdown.”
She said instead of the Aug. 12 meeting, RPS members themselves plan their own general meeting to elect a new board Aug 9. As expected, Sanderson and Swarbrick differ on whether that can legally be done.
While Sanderson said Swarbrick only responded to his suspension of her with “profanities,” she denied that, saying she had not responded in any way, adding she was planning to sue Sanderson for defamation.
The pair, both of whom are accountants, also differ on who has the society’s financial information which Sanderson said he needs in order to turn over to an independent financial auditor who he wants to review the RPS books.
While Sanderson said as treasurer Swarbrick has the information, she said she does not. It is held by a bookkeeper that the society hired some time ago, and Sanderson knows that, Swarbrick contends.
But, she added, as far as she is concerned, the society’s finances have been properly looked after while she has been treasurer.
“There will never be a penny of Rutland Park Society money missing on my watch,” said Swarbrick.
In addition to suspending Swarbrick, Sanderson said he has also reached out to one of his sharpest critics, community activist David Buckna.
Sanderson said he wants to invite Buckna to join the board as an interim director until the society’s next planned AGM in October. He said he’s willing to show Buckna the books—once he gets them—in an effort to get him to help the society move on.
But, Sanderson added, to date despite many emails reaching out to Buckna he has had not response.
That, he said, is unusual given Buckna’s penchant for being a prolific letter writer to local newspapers expounding on a myriad of local issues particularly that of the future and workings of the Rutland Parks Society.
Sanderson said he suspended Swarbrick because the society’s lawyer advised him that if he did not do so and the conflict he said he discovered proved to be true, a new board could sue Sanderson personally for any losses the society faced as a result.
He said if Swarbrick does not show up for the Aug. 12 meeting, she will be deemed guilty and fired from the board.
Meanwhile, the future of the Rutland Centennial Hall remains in limbo.
A report commissioned by the former board outlining the pros and cons of refurbishing the existing hall with the $800,000 it received from the City of Kelowna for the sale of the adjacent Rutland Centennial Park or spending millions more to build a new hall is waiting to be presented to the board.
At an open house outlining both ways of moving forward earlier this year, a representative of the consulting firm that wrote the report, said refurbishing the hall would simply bring it up to code, it would not improve the hall, something Sanderson said groups interested in renting the hall have been asking for.
But even the hall’s operations have been a bone of contention between Sanderson and Swarbrick, with Swarbrick accusing Sanderson of harassing hall employees and trying to fire the hall’s manager on five separate occasions.
She has also accused him of threatening the business of a woman who runs a daycare at the hall by sending out a mailer to parents of children there, saying they may have to find a new place for their kids.