News heated up in the summer when the internal squabbles of a group that runs the city’s largest annual festival hit the headlines.
The story started in July, when a handful of Hyack Festival Association executive board members fired its executive director.
Douglas Smith, who many say breathed new life into the once-stale Hyack Festival, was fired on July 31 without the approval of the Hyack Festival Association board. But he was reinstated after the board at-large voted to ask him back.
“The board invited me back to work. I returned to work last week,” Smith told The Record in the summer.
The agreement was that he would return to work for a period of one month without prejudice, which meant Smith could still take legal action against the association for his dismissal, which he ultimately did.
Smith said he was told he was let go because of an incident that occurred on Canada Day during a live music performance. A group was being disruptive during a Concerts on the Quay performance. Smith intervened, and later one of the group members accused Smith of assaulting him, although Smith was never charged for the incident.
But Smith speculated that his firing was related to future plans he put forth to re-vamp the Hyack Festival, including a name change to Festivals New West.
As a result of Smith’s firing, the Hyack board also passed a motion calling for the four executive members who wanted Smith fired – including president Gavin Palmer, treasurer Gloria Munro and vice-president Alan Wardle – to resign. But they refused to give up their seats.
So Smith left, and so did sponsors, like Royal City Centre and the Uptown Property Group, who liked the sophisticated flavour Smith brought to the annual Hyack events. Another division seemed to be over the fact that the old guard wanted to take various jaunts to other parades in the Pacific Northwest, don their plaid jackets and carry on as per usual, while some seemed to want to focus funds on building support closer to home.
Then the two camps – Smith supporters and those who wanted him out – started working on ways to get rid of one another; each making motions to kick the other group off the Hyack board.
The group that besieged president Palmer wanted gone – directors Ron Unger, Bill Radbourne, Patti Goss, Stephen Loyd, Michail Boncea and Mariane Kazemir – resigned from their posts, but stayed on as members.
They resigned just before a showdown meeting, which was expected to determine the fate of the two groups.
However, in another strange turn of events, Palmer and his group called off that meeting. Nonetheless, about 25 Hyack members reportedly turned up and voted to remove Palmer and friends.
Palmer denied the legitimacy of the meeting and the vote, saying it had been cancelled. He also refused to give up his seat and maintained that everything was A-OK at Hyack, despite the drama.
But it wasn’t enough to convince the city, which took over the Christmas parade this year from Hyack.
As well, city council voted to request all financial records and procedures from the organization so it can conduct an independent audit. It also contacted the registrar of B.C. Societies to investigate the conduct of the Hyack Festival Association and to suspend any future funding to the association until the governance matters are resolved to the satisfaction of the city.
Jan Gibson, the city’s acting director of legislative services, told The Record the city had received a response to its letter to the registrar of societies but staff wouldn’t be reporting back to council on the resolutions until January.
As for Hyack, the remaining group, including Palmer, continue to plug along despite the debacle. And Smith, before Christmas, was pledging to take the matter to court because his settlement is frozen with the rest of Hyack’s accounts.
Why does all of this infighting of a non-profit matter so much to residents? Well, because the association receives approximately $150,000 in funding and in-kind services from the city, or more precisely, local taxpayers.
Interestingly, the remaining group recently unveiled a new name: Festivals New West – the same moniker that was kicked around when Smith was involved with the group.