The Cloverdale Rodeo & Exhibition Association has not been paid more than $400,000 it says the City of Surrey owes it.
The Association held a special general meeting Sept. 1 when president Shannon Claypool revealed the unpaid operating fee.
The irregular summit was called after more than 10 per cent of the membership signed a petition calling for a special meeting.
Only three items were on the agenda, but other questions were asked about the Rodeo Association and the human rights complaint.
The agenda items consisted of: 1.) an update on the human rights complaint that was filed against the Association; 2.) an update on the transition of management and operations of the Fairgrounds from the Association to the City of Surrey; and 3.) an update on the timeline for the 2021 AGM.
Chris Drinovz, a lawyer for the Association, provided the update on the complaint. He said the Association still does not have very much information about it and that they have yet to receive the entire complaint.
“What we do know is that the complaint is directed against the Association as a whole and not
the Board of Directors.”
Drinovz said he’s contacted the Human Rights Tribunal to request more information and he’s also asked the Tribunal to “refuse the complainant’s request” that they continue to remain anonymous.
The lawyer told the membership that it will likely be several months before the Tribunal reviews the complaint, at which point they will decide on whether to proceed with it or not.
After Drinovz’s update, a member asked why they hadn’t been given the info sooner.
Claypool apologized for the lack of communication.
“I take full responsibility,” Claypool said. “But we were up to our ass in alligators dealing with this.”
Claypool said everyone was inundated with calls after his picture, along with that of vice-presidents Dale Saip and Rich Kitos and treasurer Gerry Spielmacher, was splashed on the news.
“I had media phoning my wife,” he added. “When the four mugshots were put on TV, the other three gentlemen’s phone numbers were given to the media and (my wife’s) number was given.”
Claypool said the process of addressing the human rights complaint has taken time.
He was asked by a member why the Association didn’t act sooner than they did to address the complaint. (The Association responded to the complaint 13 days after the complaint was made public.) Claypool said as soon as they hired Maple Leaf Strategies they addressed the complaint.
“We did do a statement to the membership,” he said “We don’t even know what the complaint is. That’s our challenge.”
On the update on the transition of managing the Cloverdale Fairgrounds from the Association to the City of Surrey, Claypool said negotiations were progressing, but intimated they weren’t going well.
“As of Jan.1 this year, the city did not pay us our operating fee of $412,000,” said Claypool. “We have a three-year operating agreement that expires Dec. 31, 2022.”
Claypool said because of the success the Association has had with generating revenue from film and television series—such as revenue from the set built for Superman and Lois on the north end of the Fairgrounds—the city has decided they didn’t need the money.
“It’s a bit of a sticky point for our board of directors and our Association,” he explained. “We are trying to negotiate in good faith the transition to just managing the Rodeo and existing on these grounds for three weeks to a month of the year, from running these grounds. The Association was formed in 1888.”
He said they have a committee that are “doing their best” to negotiate with the city and to come out of it in a good financial position.
Claypool wondered about the Rodeo’s future. He said the Rodeo has 75-years of tradition behind it in the City of Surrey, but he was puzzled about how serious the city is about the Rodeo and Country Fair’s future.
“I believe the city wants to keep it here, but I have moments negotiating with them where I wonder.”
Claypool added there are lots of logistical problems to be worked out.
He said other challenges include, new access roads to the ice rink cutting off part of the rodeo’s concessions area, Superman and Lois is taking up parking lot 8 (which traditionally is used for stabling and for concessionaire vehicle parking), Elements Casino also informed the Rodeo they’d be taking 50 per cent of all parking revenue going forward.
“We’re being squeezed in a lot of ways. It is very, very concerning for me,” said Claypool. “Twenty-five years of my life here, the last thing I want to see is the City of Surrey decide that we’re not that important. I believe we’re a heritage event and I believe we deserve to be in Surrey.”
Claypool informed the membership the AGM is set for Oct. 17. The AGM will be outside so everyone can attend.
After the agenda items were covered, Claypool fielded questions on a variety of topics.
He was asked again about the human rights complaint and what was being done to mitigate fallout from the bombshell allegations.
“We’re managing it the best we can as we get information,” he said. “The problem with the (human rights complaint) was all we got were the salacious allegations. We didn’t get the actual complaint. To this day, we still don’t have it. We don’t even know if it will be registered.”
Claypool was prodded about why the former GM left.
“Was (Mike MacSorely) removed, or was he let go?” one member asked.
“I can’t say because we signed a non-disclosure agreement.”
“Okay, but there had to have been a reason.”
“I’m just telling you that I’m bound by law. I cannot say anything because it’s a non-disclosure agreement.”
“So was he given a severance of any kind?”
“I signed a non-disclosure agreement, as the board of directors did, and we can’t say anything.”
Another member asked Claypool to describe how the Association is ensuring a safe environment for employees and volunteers going forward.
“We’ve put a system in place,” answered Claypool. “We have a safe-workplace policy manual. And we’ve hired an outside HR consulting firm that will be the go-to process if there is staff, volunteer, or member—anyone that has a complaint or a concern. They will be able to go to an independent human rights consulting firm,” he said.
“Unfortunately, being a one-horse town, word travels fast—sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not—and with that goes the rumours,” another member said. “What has been the vetting of this new HR company? There are stories out there that there is a connection with board members and HR companies. And if that’s the case, we deserve to know.”
“We had an HR consultant that did the investigation, InThink HR Consulting,” Claypool answered. “We’ve hired another consultant, Rockwell Consulting, and yes she is Dale Saip’s ex-wife.”
Claypool was also asked why the four board members named in the complaint didn’t step aside temporarily until the process was seen through.
“The allegations are against the Association,” said Claypool. “When we actually see the complaint, that’s another conversation.”
A member then pressed Claypool for more action on the matter.
“When this actually gets filed, right now it’s just sitting on somebody’s desk, when it actually gets a file number put on it, or it gets thrown out, or moves forward, at that point the board of directors will decide how to handle it. And we will 100 per cent keep the membership up to date to the best of what we can tell you.
“We are a volunteer board of directors and we are doing the best for the association.”