Troubled Parrsboro radio station loses court fight
CiCR owes thousands to lawyers
by Bruce Wark
The 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.”