Moose Jaw Pride dissolving after discovery of extensive financial liabilities
Members voted unanimously to shut down organization
Members of Moose Jaw Pride voted unanimously at its annual general meeting Sunday to dissolve the organization and liquidate its assets.
The vote came after the organization's board learned of extensive financial liabilities — totalling more than $100,000 — earlier this year.
Moose Jaw Pride board chair Cole Ramsey told CBC that during the pandemic, monthly financial reports — provided by the executive director — were either presented orally or not presented at all, with the excuse that the financials had not been completed by the accountant the organization worked with.
Ramsey said they became suspicious early this year after an email from a granting organization, alerting Moose Jaw Pride of an overdue grant report.
From there, the board eventually discovered that no accounting had been done in 2021 and that the liabilities had piled up, said Ramsey.
"All I have been told in talking with our former accountant is that they were told their services would no longer be required," said Ramsey.
According to a financial statement accurate to Aug. 31, the liabilities include $90,000 in loans, more than $3,700 in grants to be repaid and almost $2,000 for rental of a photocopier.
Various transactions were also charged to a credit card the board was unaware of until last month.
The organization has made just over $1,100 since the start of the year and has about $15,000 in assets. Its balance currently sits at less than $6,800.
Ramsey said all financial duties were the responsibility of the organization's executive director — who, from September 2019 until last month, was Taylor Carlson.
Ramsey confirmed it was Carlson who last communicated with the accountant. Carlson was let go by the board on Aug. 11.
According to Ramsey, Carlson has been reported to police.
Carlson did not respond to requests for comment.
Operations to slowly wind down
Ramsey said Moose Jaw Pride still needs to pay off its liabilities. While there's a small chance it could obtain enough money to pay them off and keep operating, dissolution is likely.
The outcome also means the Rainbow Retro Thrift Shop, opened by the organization in 2018 as an additional income source, will be closing as of this weekend. Rainbow Retro was called into question in the organization's financial report, as just over $12,000 was recorded as revenue from the store, but the money was never deposited in any of Moose Jaw Pride's bank accounts.
Ramsey — the organization's longest-serving board member — said they're having a difficult time processing their emotions about this situation.
"It's certainly not … what any of us expected when we signed on to be volunteer board members," they said. "We're taking things a day at a time and dealing with things as we're able to."
Amanda Farnel, a former Moose Jaw Pride board chair who was present at Sunday's meeting, said she was surprised by the news.
"It's disappointing, it's an organization that I care for and is so important to our community," said Farnel. "I feel for them because it's hard as a volunteer to not trust your executive director."
Farnel said the organization provides a safe space and resources for the LGBTQ community in Moose Jaw. She's hopeful the organization will continue in some form in the future.
Ramsey said that as of now, Moose Jaw Pride as an organization will not be delivering programming or services, but its members will try to continue providing resources to the community. Arrangements are being made with other community organizations and pride services as well.
"It remains to be seen what form exactly that will take, but there will be Pride in Moose Jaw," said Ramsey.