Kwantlen Student Association settles lawsuit

Decision by current directors comes just two months after conflict-of-interest allegations.

A lawsuit against former Kwantlen Student Association (KSA) directors involving the alleged mismanagement of more than $1 million in student fees has been settled.

In an online statement dated Sept. 30, KSA president Sean Birdman confirmed the current student group decided to dismiss the case, and that there would be no additional cost to any of the parties involved.

“This lawsuit had been a five-year process with absolutely no finish line in sight,” wrote Birdman. “Kwantlen students have already funded the battle to the tune of $800,000 in legal fees and staff time, and there was a very low probability that our council would be victorious in the case to recoup the monies that went into it.”

The settlement comes just two months after conflict of interest allegations erupted at Kwantlen over decisions being made by KSA members who were elected earlier this year. The new members of the student association were accused of postponing the civil suit because two directors were related to one of the defendants, Aaron Takhar.

In fact, Justine Franson, who served as director of operations but has since resigned, is Takhar’s sister. Nina Kaur is Takhar’s cousin.

The 2008 lawsuit, which named Takhar, Danish Butt, Jaivin Khatri, Yasser Ahmad, Jatinder (Joey) Atwal and AST Ventures Ltd., stemmed from findings of a financial review in 2007 that concluded there were thousands of dollars in questionable loans and investments and undocumented payments made to KSA executives and staff between 2005 and 2006. It was alleged the defendants orchestrated $820,000 in unsecured loans, attempted to use $1 million in the KSA’s health and dental plan to profit personally and paid $20,050 for a party that didn’t happen.

Takhar was leader of the Reduce All Fees (RAF) party, which took power of the KSA in a controversial 2005 vote and was then ousted in a court-ordered election. He and the other defendants were sued by the subsequent student executive, which included then-chairperson Laura Anderson and longtime KSA general manager Desmond Rodenbour.

Kaur and Franson were directors in April when the lawyer handling the lawsuit was let go, spurring the conflict allegations. However, they argued the dismissal was because the lawyer was a friend of Rodenbour, who was terminated earlier this year after an independent review found “substantive abuses of his position.”

In August, current KSA members said the conflict-of-interest allegations were nothing but a ploy by former student directors to divert attention from prior longterm financial fraud and embezzlement.

The current KSA has hired Deloitte & Touche to conduct a forensic review of the society from 2001 to 2011 in hopes of setting the record straight.

However, on a Facebook page called Concerned Students of Kwantlen — KSA Watch, negative response to the lawsuit being dropped was swift.

“As a Kwantlen student, I hang my head in shame today,” said Katie Walker. “I cannot believe the actions of the council, nor the lack of options provided to the students to oust such a destructive KSA. That it would even be legal for a council with such a conflict of interest be allowed to make such a decision disgusts me.”

Matt Todd, who was once a White Rock councillor and is former KSA director of operations, said the settlement is part of a “long string of actions” that violate the KSA’s own regulations, adding it is up to students to “rise up and hold these directors accountable.”

“Wow, just wow,” said Daniel McCully. “I hope the students get angry enough to demand something be done about the situation.”

Surrey North Delta Leader

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