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Police asked to investigate London Pride

Police asked to investigate London Pride

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Festival in the red; board suspects money is missing
Pride London emptied the cupboards in 2010, according to financial statements presented at a meeting of its members Jan 25. Organizers finished 2009 with more than $19,000 in the bank. As of Sept 30, 2010, that number had been reduced to $818.

When you factor in the organization’s outstanding debts, the London, Ontario festival is about $6,400 in the red, according to the treasurer’s report in the minutes of the meeting.

What happened in the intervening year remains unclear. In January, financial information was turned over to the London Police Service, in relation to $14,000 the organization can’t account for, board president Deb Al-Hamza told the meeting. Some suspect that number could be even higher.

“We need to do things right. We have all the receipts for grants and donations. We have some really good people with us now. I don’t want to lose any people who may potentially help us out in the future. I’m not trying to hide anything. I have your phone number and name,” says Al-Hamza. “There is a police investigation going on. Everything is with the police. We can’t point fingers.”

Last year, Pride London did not have a formal treasurer. Some cheques were written by signing officers of the corporation to themselves, Al-Hamza alleged at the meeting.

A complete financial picture was not available at Pride London's AGM in the fall. The board called the January general meeting to explain the year's final numbers to its members.

London Police Service’s Diane Willis is investigating the possibility of an internal theft, based on a complaint filed two weeks ago. She says there has been no media release and there is no information to report at this point, but a release may be forthcoming.

Al-Hamza declined to send copies of the meeting’s minutes or financial statements to Xtra, but members of the London community forwarded Xtra the 28-year-old festival’s general meeting minutes anyway.

When Xtra asked for more information on Pride London’s Facebook page, administrators blocked the reporter and removed the request. They also changed the group from an open group to a closed one.

Al-Hamza responded with a post.

“A post was recently removed from this wall from a reporter that had inaccurate information about Pride London Festival finances,” she wrote. “Once this investigation is completed, this board will be transparent with the outcome to the Pride London Festival members and the general public.”

When contacted to clarify information in the financial statements, Al-Hamza threatened to sue Xtra.

One Pride member who wishes to remain anonymous says  “no one can give a straight answer” whether there is missing money or not.

“There was no financial officer last year, and everyone had access to the money that went missing – bar sales, ticket sales, etc. So to point blame on one person, in my eyes, is ridiculous. No one seems to want to be held accountable. I hope that this year’s board and membership continue to hold people accountable for their actions. People need to own up to their mistakes. We all make them, but hiding hurts the community at large,” he says.

Joan Brennan, who runs Literary Night, says it is not the first time in Pride’s history that money went unaccounted for and “likely it won’t be the last time.”

“Small organizations have a hard time when rip-off artists become involved. And, of course, the rip-off artist has likely thought this out really well, or did it before,” says Brennan.

Comments

How about Police being called in for Toronto
Pride?
Thanks Sarah
Thanks for your comment Sarah. Good eye. The festival in question is in London, Ontario, not London England. I've clarified it above. Cheers.
Which London?
There is nothing in this article to indicate whether it is talking about London Ontario or London UK! Both are of reasonable interest to readers - kindly clarify in future.
Cookie Jar Cash Management
Here is the cookie jar, and in it are the cookies so please help yourselves. Guess what happened? Why are we not surprised? The general public looks at this and says "Well what can you expect from a bunch of silly fairies?" This does not reflect well on the larger gay community both in London and elsewhere. Perhaps they should retain the services of a professional accountant to be an arms-length trustee for the funds of the Festival to supervise all receipts and disbursements. Imposing proper cash controls might cost a little bit more but still a lot less than the value of the missing funds and the loss of good public reputation and credibility. This might not be the first time that this has happened but it should certainly be the last time that it will happen. If board members cannot promise at least that much then please move over and let someone else with more resolve do what needs to be done. We have come to expect silliness and hysteria in Toronto but London has always had a reputation for being sensible and Pride London should try to live up to that reputation.
Thanks Joan
Thanks for posting your comment to Neil in full. I realize it's a difficult topic. For space reasons, Xtra only usually only includes a portion of what's said, but of course it's a tricky thing. The way I read it, it doesn't sound like the snippet distorts your meaning, but now that you've posted the longer version, of course, I'll leave it to Xtra's readers to judge for themselves. Cheers, Marcus.
What I actually said, before editing...
This is the actual response I gave to Neil McKinnon when he asked for comment. "Hi Neil, I don't know anything about it personally, just that there's gossip. It's sad if it's true: won't be the first time in a Pride Committee's history. And likely won't be the last time. Some of us are worse enemies to us than our biggest haters. Small organizations have a very hard time when rip-off artists become involved because the committee or Board members are usually volunteer or not up to any hard accounting practices. And of course the rip-off artist has likely thought this out really well, or done it before. And that person calls the shots, leaving everyone on the committee two steps back and trying to figure out retroactively what happened. I am unhappy about the seeming fact that we may not have Pride this year. Sorry I can't help you more. " I think that the editing did not convey what I actually said.
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