Linda Gambee ousted from CLE board after legal threat

Linda Gambee has been ousted from the board of directors of the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition, but there is a difference of opinion as to why.

Gambee believes her concerns about boardroom bar led to her dismissal

Linda Gambee told CBC she will reluctantly resign from the Christmas Cheer fund. (Adam Burns/CBC)

Linda Gambee has been removed from the board of directors of the Canadian Lakehead Exhibition, but there is a difference of opinion as to why. At a general meeting Wednesday night, CLE members voted by a two-thirds majority to remove Gambee, who also chairs the Thunder Bay Christmas Cheer fund.

Without naming Gambee,  CLE chair of operations Ralph Scharf said Thursday a director was removed for "conduct unbecoming a member."

In a written statement later Thursday, the board elaborated on its action, saying it was the result of board members being concerned that they had been threatened with legal action. The statement said, "The reason for the individual threatening to sue a volunteer Board of Directors was the unsubstantiated allegations of defamation of character [...] Threatening legal action by an individual on the board was considered a conflict of interest."

But Gambee believes she was ultimately removed because she tried to put a stop to what she called "abuse" of an open bar in the boardroom. "You can go in there seven days a week, 24 hours a day," she said, adding, "five or six people do."

She alleged that some directors invited friends to the bar, and some directors have left the bar to drive home after having too much to drink.

"I've seen other prominent directors leave there quite drunk, get in their car, go through stop signs, drive down the street.  It's a real issue [...] and we shouldn't take it lightly."

Gambee said she complained to police, but they never caught anyone. She added that she did not get a chance to defend herself against allegations of conduct unbecoming, but said her threats to take legal action were made because she was bullied after she made efforts to change the rules around the bar.

The board's statement, on the other hand, said the "only" reason for the meeting and vote was the threatened legal action against the volunteer directors.

Gambee said she reluctantly feels she must step down as chair of the Christmas Cheer fund, which operates out of the CLE.  She said she hopes Christmas Cheer can remain there, but the chair has to work very closely with the CLE, which would make it difficult for her to continue in the job. "I cannot do that to an organization I believe in so much," she said in an interview Thursday with the CBC.