A group of 80 Squamish Chamber of Commerce members were left disappointed and asking more questions following a general meeting on Monday, Dec. 5 that was requested by a group of chamber members.
The members requested the board of directors call the meeting so questions about the recent expulsion of a director could be discussed.
Over the course of 21 minutes interim board chair Jasmine Henczel outlined the reasons for the expulsion and adjourned the meeting, at which point the directors stood up and most walked out of the room to avoid answering further questions. The chamber members heckled the board members as they left, calling the sudden adjournment "shameful."
The meeting started with Henczl asking if the expelled member would allow the board to disclose information discussed in-camera. Henczel was given approval by the individual and proceeded to read a list of allegations that the expelled member — who threatened legal action against anyone associating the accusations with him — described as fabrications.
Some members at the meeting said they agree with the assertion from the expelled member that the allegations weren't backed by facts. Krista Dutton, a friend and former business partner of the expelled member, said she worked closely with him during the 2010 Olympic Games for 44 days in a row and never experienced any issues. Krisztina Egyed, the chair of the Squamish Arts Council, wrote a letter of support and described the expelled member as courteous and gentle.
Moe Freitag, the Squamish Chamber of Commerce chair before Henczel, has indicated he believes a private meeting of the board of directors held on Nov. 14, in which the member was expelled, was improperly called and decisions made at the meeting should be struck down.
Henczel read the allegations directed at the expelled member from an eight-page prepared statement at the Monday meeting.
"First and foremost — during the regular course of doing chamber business...several female directors on the board experienced conduct, behaviour and communications from this individual deemed as offensive and bullying in nature," she said.
Henczel went on to say that female members of the board of directors felt they were intimidated and mocked. She also said they heard abusive language, demanding behaviour and saw misrepresentations of their words in written correspondence.
According to Henczel, the matter was referred to the police. Sgt. Wayne Pride of the Squamish RCMP said no charges were laid after the police received the complaint.
The Chamber member facing the allegations from the board of directors said no RCMP members made contact to discuss the allegations.
After reading the allegations, Henczel turned the meeting over to director Denise Imbeau to read answers to eight questions that were posed earlier to the directors.
"The current board strongly believes that submission to threats and bullying behaviour is unconstitutional, unlawful, and repugnant," said Imbeau in responding to why the directors terminated a member knowing the move could cause damage to the organization.
When Imbeau finished reading the answers to the questions, Henczel said any further questions should be sent to the chamber manager. She then thanked everyone for attending and adjourned the meeting. It was at that point that all the directors except for Sameer Kajani quickly left.
John Winter of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce attended the meeting along with John Noonen, a registered professional parliamentarian.
Noonen was hired by a group of Chamber of Commerce members who felt the meeting should have been facilitated by a neutral third party. An attempt to introduce Noonen at the beginning of the meeting was disallowed by the board of directors.
A member of the RCMP was on hand for the formal portion of the meeting.
Jeff Cooke, one of the concerned members who requested the general meeting, believed the board of directors arranged the RCMP presence.
"They called in the cops and we called in a parliamentarian," Cooke said.
Pride said the RCMP was aware of the meeting and potential tensions so as a proactive move a member was sent to have a presence at the meeting.
Noonen led a discussion following the adjournment of the formal meeting. One of the remedies dicussed was addressing concerns about the organization's bylaws, which many in the room agreed were inadequate.