They say you can't fight city hall. Roy Sumpter would beg to differ.
The 81-year-old community volunteer, the recipient of last year's Mayor's Arts Awards for Volunteerism, filed a lawsuit against the city after he didn't receive a $2,500 cheque that a booklet included with the award said he was entitled to.
Shortly after the Courier ran a story about the octogenarian's pending legal battle, the matter was instead settled out of court, and Sumpter received a cheque last week in person from Brenda Prosken, the City of Vancouver's general manager of community services.
The confusion apparently stems from Sumpter receiving the wrong booklet. As the name suggests, the Mayor's Arts Awards are meant to recognize artists for their contributions in the fields of literary, culinary, visual or performing arts. Each winner then gets to select an emerging artist in his or her shared discipline to split the $5,000 prize with. Although separate awards are given for volunteerism, philanthropy and business support, those categories don't include a cash award.
"Let me put it this way, we were appreciative as to how a misunderstanding could occur," Prosken told the Courier. "We took a look at the situation and I made the decision that an exception would be appropriate in this circumstance."
Prosken said she doesn't expect she will soon be hearing from other recipients of the volunteerism award, which was first handed out in 2008, looking for a handout.
"This was a special case. We want to keep [cash awards] for artists because this is their career, this is what they do for money."
Sumpter retired 21 years ago and has since dedicated his time to serving 25 different organizations free of charge. Known as "the man in the red jacket," he is a regular fixture at countless cultural and charitable events held around the city and carries a business card with the message: "Volunteers are unpaid not because they are worthless but because they are priceless."
He says he isn't sure yet what he'll spend the money on.
"My wife says I should spend it on my funeral, but I don't think I'll do that," he said.
He said the lawsuit was never about the money, but instead about the principle at stake.
"They did the right thing and I appreciate it," he said. "I just hope for their sake the cheque doesn't bounce because then they will never hear the end from me."
The 2012 Mayor's Arts Awards take place Sept. 20 at the Roundhouse Community Centre.