The Yukon Quest International Association has apologized.
It recently barred somebody from its annual general meeting for inexplicable reasons.
Now, in light of the controversy, it is apparently examining its constitution.
While this sounds reassuring, it is unnecessary and could cause more problems than it solves.
First, some history.
The dog-and-people show, which receives more than $300,000 in government funding every year, recently lost its executive director and was also recruiting a few new directors. It asked people to attend its annual general meeting.
So we did.
Sports reporter Tom Patrick took the time to attend the meeting – to see what happened. He was met at the door by outgoing executive director Georgina Leslie, who denied him entry unless he forked over $42 for a membership.
The meetings are fully open to the public, she said. Anyone can attend after they pay.
It’s always been this way, she said.
Patrick refused. The meeting went on without us.
There are several problems here, not the least of which was the Yukon Quest’s assumption a pay-to-attend approach to its annual meetings was OK.
Imagine the precedent this sets – suddenly the affairs of any nonprofit society could become revenue generators – a means to make more cash to sustain the organization. You want to see the financials, or observe the election? It’s gonna cost you.
Or, much more likely, the fee becomes an easy way to prevent snoops from nosing around a wealthy organization’s affairs.
Also, the way this particular event played out speaks volumes about the Quest.
This is a Yukon society that receives substantial government support – that is, the public pays for a huge chunk of its annual operation. As such, any citizen interested in observing its procedural business should be welcome to do so.
But the modern Quest is not all that interested in locals.
Instead, its officials run it like a exclusive club, accepting the government cash as if it were simply a fee for international tourism marketing services rendered.
It shouldn’t be like this.
And, according to the Quest’s constitution, it isn’t.
In fact, it clearly states all meetings are open to all, except people who don’t behave.
But at its most recent annual general meeting, officials clearly didn’t want any onlookers.
A skittish executive decided, in an odd twist of logic, that a membership meeting meant nonmembers were to be excluded.
“The interpretation of our constitution was made to the best of our ability,” Quest president Al Doherty said in his letter of apology (see below).
But remember, this organization is responsible for managing a huge chunk of government money. We hope they punch above their weight when handling the cash.
In the end, the group was successful in blocking observers from their recent meeting. We’ll never really know what happened there, but the organization has pledged to make its minutes and results of the gathering available. That is an imperfect fix, but it’s the best that can be expected in the circumstances.
And the leadership will review the wording of its constitution to “prevent further confusion.”
We’re curious to see how this plays out.
Such a review could be used to ensure undesirables, such as reporters, were kept from future meetings, without question.
But we doubt that will happen. We’re an optimistic bunch.
Nevertheless, we urge the Quest to save itself some time and simply affirm its existing constitution, which, despite Leslie’s wonky interpretation, is very clear, simple and concise.
“All meetings of the membership shall be open to the public and no person shall be excluded, except for improper conduct.”