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Troubled Parrsboro radio station loses court fight

CiCR owes thousands to lawyers

by Bruce Wark

CICR-sign1-204x300The non-profit Society that runs Parrsboro, Nova Scotia’s 50-watt community station is facing serious financial troubles because of outstanding legal bills after losing a court battle on February 18, 2013 in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

In his ruling, Mr. Justice Robert Wright ordered the Parrsboro Radio Society (PRS)  to hand over complete financial records as well as the minutes of its Board of Directors meetings to a rival faction that wants changes in the way the radio station is run. He also ordered PRS to pay the legal costs of the rival group that includes Parrsboro residents Sarah Hartman, Carrie Goodwin, Saundra Spence and George Spence. Hartman represented the group in court. Their legal costs were about $600.

Station manager Ross Robinson won’t say exactly how much the PRS spent on lawyers, but it’s clear that the total exceeds $25,000 — an astronomical sum for a station that depends on weekly Bingo revenues to survive. Patterson Law, the Truro-based law firm that represented the PRS, has obtained a small claims court judgment confirming that the Society still owes it $14, 319.06.

PRS goes broke?

Money troubles forced the Board of Directors to fire PRS lawyer, Melissa MacAdam. She officially withdrew her services on February 8, 2013, just 10 days before the case was to be heard in Amherst. The PRS appointed Board member Alexander Lich to argue its case as best he could. However, Judge Wright sided with what he called the Hartman-Spence group, ordering the PRS to turn over the financial records and minutes they were seeking.

In his oral ruling, Judge Wright rebuked the PRS Board of Directors for expelling members of the Hartman-Spence group from the Society on January 20, 2012 without notifying them first and giving them a chance to speak as required under PRS bylaws.

“You cannot affect or denigrate the legal rights of a person, even membership in a Society, unilaterally without giving them notice and giving them an opportunity to be heard,” the judge said. “That is a fundamental requirement of procedural fairness and it was violated here.”

He ruled that the Hartman-Spence group are still members of the PRS and therefore, have the right to inspect the financial records and minutes.

The judge also sharply criticized the PRS for failing to give proper notice of a members’ meeting to elect its new Board of Directors on January 9, 2012. The judge had been told that the PRS announced the meeting over the radio and put up notices around Parrsboro.

“I raise my eyebrows,” he said, “that the people affected weren’t given any direct notice.” The judge added: “It strikes me as highly unusual that notice to members of a Society would be done through a general radio announcement or possibly putting up posters somewhere on telephone poles.”

Read Part Two of this report

5 Responses to CiCR1

  1. Sandy Graham says:

    A clear summation of the ruling, which itself is quite unequivocal (though “there are none so blind as those who will not see” – Jonathan Swift).

    What has been taking place at Parrsboro Radio is a travesty. If the Parrsboro Radio Society had followed basic governance ethics and common sense, and avoided certain instances of pettiness, all of this could have been avoided.

    This is (supposed to be) a community resource, and one which has tremendous potential to harness hitherto untapped resources amongst the citizens and youth of this area. All of us who care about this are going to need to be able to trade and differ on opinions and ideas, to share and pool our knowledge, in an effort to find the “common ground” that is necessary to run an organization, and develop its vision and path to the future.

    In such a conversation, there will be harmony, as well as dissent and discord. That is surely part of the process of reaching agreement, but more importantly, compromise. The “my way or the highway” style of governance, and management, doesn’t work very well in nonprofits. But it emerges, and finds strength, in an environment in which powers feel that they are only answerable to themselves. In this case, Judge Wright’s ruling put a stop to that, and put the Parrsboro Radio Society in its place (and I’m a neutral observer).

    And now, will enough people take a stand, and help the Society rebuild? If I can, I will join with anyone else who will place the welfare of the (new) Parrsboro Radio Society, and that of the Parrsboro area, above themselves or their own agendas. I have a sneaky feeling that this is the way it is supposed to work.

    Sandy Graham

    “Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul.”
    — Mark Twain

  2. Donna Babineau says:

    Sandy Graham: You said it all in that which you wrote! Sign up with us (Hartman & Spence, PARRSBORO COMMUNITY RADO) We (as in former members should not have gotten kicked out by the master of the castle as you stated). Yes people of Parrsboro stand up and SCREAM, “NO” “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” Do not let our few people who have worked so hard to keep your COMMUNITY RADIO SAFE AND RUNNING IN AN HONEST MANNER. Right now I could scream all of the horrahs for Sarah Hartman who has worked so diligently day after day to enable us to get somewhere, and now is the time . Remember this is a Supreme Court judge pointing out and it has only taken us two years to get there. There is a feeling that we have that all documents are gone in smoke or to the dump, or in some very deep hole. All willing to join all of us telephone Sarah Hartman or me, Donna Babineau.

  3. Maggie Phinney says:

    I am still not totally sure of all that has happened with the radio station or the society as it was happening just as I moved back to town. I have just stepped away from another society here in town,(for my own reasons) . I believe having the radio station in town is a good thing. If I can be a society member without the requirement of being in a leadership position, I would gladly consider it.

  4. Jackie Quinn says:

    I am in disbelief that any of this even happened. All involved are adults, this is not a battle on the playground where someone didn’t get picked to play red rover. Just think of all the lawyer fees that could have been applied to upgrading the society instead of burying it. I stopped playing Radio Bingo when this all started, I also do not listen to the station anymore. I am sad to say that because the station was good for our quaint little town. There is no right or wrong. There is a whole lot of difference of opinions. And it is just my opinion that this could have all been settled in a more civilized adult manner. And I hope that things get better and our town can once again be proud of what we have, work together instead of against and much will be gained instead of lost.

  5. Donna Babineau says:

    We, “The Wrong Group as we are Called” wanted to just see the books and instead the ones that took control and locked the doors, had court orders to keep us off the premises, and voted us out without giving notice are the ones that have caused the trouble and problems and spent the money! Do you think this was fair? How else could we have gone anywhere in this area? If you do know let me know or join us in our position? My telephone number is in the book, New Prospect. I hope to hear from you soon!

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