For months, some Humane Society Yukon members have wished for a new board. But on Friday, that wish became a judge’s command.
Supreme Court Justice Leigh Gower has ordered the society to hold its annual general meeting on Thursday at 7 p.m. to elect a new board. Financial statements must be ready for the meeting.
These orders came “not a moment too soon,” said Jordi Mikeli-Jones, a former society president who had had her membership illegally denied this summer. On Friday, the court ordered the society to re-instate Mikeli-Jones and five others whose memberships were denied illegally. The society must also grant memberships to others who have been waiting.
Her celebration plans were simple, to go home and wrestle with her own dogs, but getting the society back on track will take a lot of work.
The Mae Bachur Animal Shelter is strapped for cash. “There was a time when I considered closing it down,” said president Shelley Cuthbert on Monday morning.
Last week, the court heard it may not have enough money to remain open in the new year. The society is approximately $50,000 in debt, said Cuthbert. Donations have gone down “drastically” starting in September, she said.
The society has received about $38,000 less in donations than it did last year, she said. It costs $450,000 a year to run the shelter.
Nine staff have been laid off since last month, leaving five employees at the shelter. The shelter has also stopped accepting animals.
As of Tuesday afternoon, there were five cats and five dogs at the Tlingit Street shelter. Three of the dogs are puppies. The shelter has plans to find homes for the puppies in British Columbia.
It’s not clear when the shelter will be taking in new animals. That will be up to the new board to decide, said Cuthbert.
But she knows she won’t be seeking re-election Thursday night.
“No thank you,” she said Monday morning when asked if she would run for a position. She “has no idea” what her role with the society will be now, she said.
“My door’s always open to taking in difficult animals that have behavioural problems,” she said. It’s up to the new board to decide if they want her to continue doing this, she said.
Mikeli-Jones also has no plans to seek election on the new board. But she wants to support it any way she can, she said. “I see this as a lifelong commitment,” she said of her involvement in the shelter. As the owner of Triple J’s Music Cafe, she will be directing the funds from her Moonstroke Music Festival to the society again next year, she said.
The registrar has appointed lawyer Richard Buchan to chair Thursday’s meeting, said Tom Ullyett, assistant deputy minister of justice. The registrar wanted someone with a reputation for impartiality, said Ullyett. Buchan has chaired many boards, including the Yukon Review Board and the Employment Standards Board, he said.
The meeting will be held in the fireside room of the Thomson Centre. People are to enter using the continuing care exit.
Legal battles have embroiled the society for most of the past year. In May, members filed a complaint with the registrar of societies alleging the board was not following the Societies Act. A subsequent government investigation found it had broken the law in numerous ways. But the board remained steadfast in its refusal to obey government orders to reinstate memberships and hold an annual general meeting.
And the court appearances will continue even after the new board is formed.
Individual board members have been charged in territorial court for not obeying these orders. They entered individual not guilty pleas last month. The trial has been set for Feb. 25 at 10 a.m.
It’s “unfortunate” the matter had to go to the Supreme Court, said Ullyett. But the government felt it needed to do something since the case was in the public interest.
“It does show that the registrar has real powers, and that societies have real responsibilities, and that the registrar has the responsibility of supervising how societies carry out their powers and their duties under the Societies Act.”
The humane society’s board is “disappointed” with the order, said Cuthbert. Its lawyer is reviewing the decision, she said.
Also on Friday, the judge declared the board violated its duties by denying memberships, not processing membership applications in a timely fashion, not letting members view the membership list at the shelter during business hours and not holding a special meeting after 20 per cent of the members requested one.
The board made these decisions based on information they had, said Cuthbert. There were many negative comments posted about the board on Facebook, she said. That publicity caused donations to dwindle, she said.
Interim financial statements have been sent to the registrar, said Cuthbert. As of Monday morning, the accountant is working on having the draft statements ready by Wednesday, she said.
The government’s petition also asked individual board members to pay for costs associated with these court cases. The judge still has to make a decision about this, said Ullyett.
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