Sex, lies, corruption — accusations heat up in community centre brouhaha

Riled up in Riley Park

It has the makings of a best-selling novel, including accusations of alleged political corruption, financial misdealings and online advertisements for sexual services.

But as it turns out, the scandalous plot is not the creation of an author’s imagination, but rather recent events surrounding the Riley Park/Hillcrest Community Centre Association.

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And depending on whom you ask, the association’s board of directors is either the target of unwarranted attacks or at the root of all that’s plaguing the community centre and non-profit association.

Association member Art Bomke said he and other neighbours are concerned with the way president Jesse Johl is managing the board of directors.

“I’m a member but just started getting active with what’s happening about a week and a half ago when more and more neighbours started to realize we need to step in and do something,” said Bomke, a long time Riley Park resident. “The fact they’ve filed no minutes for two years, as a member I find that inappropriate. How are we supposed to attend an AGM with no information?”

Bomke said he and other neighbours were also concerned because the annual general meeting was called for this Thursday afternoon, the day before Good Friday, with little notice, especially in light of proposed changes to the association’s bylaw, which were to be decided at the AGM. One of those changes would mean society members must purchase a valid membership at least 90 days in advance in order to vote at meetings. Other changes laid out grounds for removing a member of the board of directors, including letting their membership to the association lapse, missing two board or committee meetings and engaging in “unprofessional, abusive, disruptive or unseemly conduct.”

Hillcrest is embroiled in a lawsuit against the park board alongside Hastings, Kensington, Kerrisdale, Sunset and Killarney community centre associations. In January, the B.C. Supreme Court halted the attempted eviction of the six associations and the injunction will remain in effect until a full court case can be heard regarding violations of the joint operating agreements alleged by the six associations, which have also filed for damages against the park board.

In light of the court case, there have been suggestions Johl is carrying out a not-so private vendetta against the Vision Vancouver-dominated park board. Johl is a former NPA candidate and founder of a new civic party called Vancouver First.

Bomke added he knows of at least one person who purchased a membership to the association and later found her credit card was billed to a charity called the Way to Give Foundation, which lists Johl as director.

But Johl said that was simply a matter of a computer glitch that took place when the centre’s website was recently redesigned, which has since been rectified.

He explained the code for what had previously been a separate link on the website was accidentally embedded as the association’s.

He also blames the website’s redesign for the lack of available minutes and financial reports.

“Those will go up, but we’re a volunteer board with a lot going on right now,” said Johl.

He said in the last week and a half, the remaining board members have been the subject of a disturbing phone and text campaign, which is now under police investigation. Johl added someone has been including their phone numbers in ads offering sexual services on websites such as Craigslist.

“Even when we were filing our police report, our phones were going off,” said Johl. “It’s created a very dangerous situation.”

On Monday, a group who say they were kicked off the board illegally argued in B.C. Supreme Court for reinstatement, a postponement of the AGM and injunction against changes to the bylaw.

Johl said he decided to settle rather than spend more money in courts and the AGM is being rescheduled for September.

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