page twelve | September 13 2011 | vol. 4 issue 01
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
The Runner | www.runnerrag.ca
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR
Director of ﬁnance still in conﬂict and should resign
We’re back in business After a rather unpleasant and public dispute, the KSA has reversed its decision and has chosen to remit over $60,000 in ear-marked publication fees to The Runner’s Polytechnic Ink Publishing Society. According to letters from president Harman “Jay Sean Diddy Birdman” Bassi, the KSA took issue with The Runner’s coverage of the KSA and decided to withhold money that does not belong to the KSA, thereby flouting the KSA-PIPS autonomy agreement which explicitly forbids such action and protects Kwantlen’s free press.
On behalf of The Runner, I would like to commend the KSA for making the right decision. As is true in Canadian provincial and federal politics, elected (student) government officials have no business interfering in, silencing, or in any way hindering investigations by an independent and free press. It even says so in our autonomy agreement. Sincerely,
JEFF GROAT COORDINATING EDITOR
Nina Sandhu served as Langley campus representative before this year’s election. MATT DIMERA/THE RUNNER
I THE RUNNER
At the beginning of August, The Runner broke news that two KSA executive directors were directly related to Aaron Takhar, the former KSA director of 2005-06 who was alleged to have mismanaged millions of student dollars – but they never publicly disclosed their family ties, despite the KSA’s ongoing legal battle against Takhar. This flagrant conflict of interest was never disclosed during last year’s election and has yet to be fully answered for by the KSA’s executive directors. Justine Franson, the then-director of operations, is Takhar’s sister, while Nina Sandhu, the current director of finance, is his first cousin. Franson has since resigned (having made no mention of the conflict of interest) but continues to hold influence over the KSA’s executive board by chairing in camera meetings – after her resignation. Sandhu was also Langley representative on KSA council during the previous term and before her current stint as finance director. As a vote-holding member of council, she had (and has) certain obligatory duties to the KSA as a society. For instance, any director has access to most, if not all of the society’s documents, filings and paperwork. This includes court cases like the RAF civil suit against Aaron Takhar. Sandhu’s conflict-of-interest is already over a year old. Presumably, she has had access to every single document in the
litigation the KSA had against Takhar, her cousin, since April 2010. This has yet to be addressed either by the KSA’s president, Harman “Jay Sean Diddy Birdman” Bassi or any of the four remaining executive members. Sandhu is in the very same conflict of interest as her cousin Justine was: having direct family ties to Aaron Takhar, whom the KSA was in the middle of suing. Franson resigned as director of operations, seemingly confirming this conflict by the resignation – so why has the director of finance not tendered her own resignation? KSA council even brought forth out-of-meeting executive motions to council, re-stating the KSA’s position on the RAF case while noting the two directors’ asbtentions from the decisions. This raises two clear points. One: this act, again, seems to confirm the conflict. Further, this suggests the conflict has existed as long as these two were directors of the society. As well, the fact that this was never disclosed is alarming. The lack of prudent and proper disclosure on the part of Sandhu raises far too many questions about her intentions as an elected member. Given the current KSA executive members’ recent action to adjourn the RAF case, one can only guess at her real motivations. Sandhu must immediatley answer to this conflict-of-interest and resign from her position – there is no “doing-over” that can solve this problem.
Referendum removes ﬁnancial accountability I THE RUNNER
The KSA plans to hold a referendum on Sept. 21, asking students if they support a move from a fee system that scraps the old, “ear-marked” fees that are split up and delivered accordingly, to one that rolls all of these specific fees back into an amalgamated “general revenue” fund. Taking KSA council’s recent behaviour into account, this could only mean an unwelcome shift to opaque financial practices and a reduction in much-needed accountability. This summer, the KSA executive board voted for giving themselves pay raises, adjourned the civil suit against a former director who had already been found in default judgment (the KSA only needed to find out how much money was to be awarded to them), all the while attempting to silence dissent by bullying the few council members who dare speak up in protest. Since January 1 of this year, legal spending has ballooned to an amount three times the budgeted dollar amount. The KSA has retained no less than six law firms through out-of-meeting motions, which are often not released to council in a reasonable amount of time. If this referendum passes, students will
be handing the KSA a blank cheque when it comes to their fees. The accountability that comes from having ear-marked fees which require specific dollar amounts to be tracked and accounted for will disappear under the new system. It would become difficult to confirm that money budgeted for programs like START volunteers wouldn’t be slashed and put toward, say, a ballooning legal budget. This referendum looks like the continuation of secretive practices that the KSA seems to love. Banning recording devices from meetings, asking council members to vote on secret regulations, and removing this set of checks and balances from the books – it’s all the same. Contrary to what is being said publicly by the KSA’s president, the KSA is clearly not moving forward on the path to accountability, transparency and good governance. Council members are elected by and for students. Students have entrusted the elected officials with millions of dollars in society money. The KSA should be reminded that they hold this fiduciary duty to the society – a duty to maintain sound finances on behalf of those they serve. Students won’t stand for any more reckless spending of their own money behind closed doors.
Published on Sep 20, 2011