A council hopeful has challenged candidate Vince Dimanno over the active status of his Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA), which was officially dissolved more than two years ago.
Dimanno’s biography on the AbbotsfordFirst website – he is one candidate in a slate of five members – states he is currently the president of the ARA. He has also been cited in other media reports this year as being the ARA president.
Gerda Peachey, who previously ran unsuccessfully for the mayor’s seat, has taken issue with the reference, alleging the ARA is a “phantom” organization.
The News contacted BC Registry Services on Aug. 14 to obtain the society summary for the ARA. It states that the society, incorporated on June 24, 2008, was dissolved on April 13, 2012 for failure to file reports, indicating that the last annual report filed is “not available” and the listing under last annual general meeting (AGM) says “no AGM” held.
On Tuesday, a representative from BC Registry Services said the ARA never filed an annual report with the registry.
Dimanno said the last meeting of the association was last year, though he did not know exactly when. He indicated the ARA has a constitution that stipulates the organization must maintain a certain number of directors in order to remain a society. He said no one stepped forward to be a director and he was unable to file papers without a minimum number, according to the Society Act, and as such, he can’t call a meeting.
He said that while the ARA does not have a secretary, a vice-president or the required board members, “I am still the president and I am until such time as I have to step down.”
He said his role as president continues as he maintains records, a bank account, and communicates with about 90 paid members he says the organization has.
Dimanno noted that many associations are not registered as official societies, despite having presidents and executives, and added that if enough directors step forward, the group would reconstitute.
But Peachey, who said she attended meetings when the organization began, but did not become a member, said Dimanno’s reference to his presidency may create a public perception that the ARA is “a current, registered association.”
When asked by The News if he could provide financial statements for the association, Dimanno said “we can talk to some lawyers about that.”
Dimanno said he is considering libel action against Peachey. During an interview, he cautioned The News on several occasions in respect to potential legal action. He said the ARA has nothing to do with the election, and the fact that the society had been dissolved by the registry is irrelevant to its operations.
“To say it has anything to do with that is … a personal attack on me…”
On Oct. 13, a notice posted on the ARA website said that while some individuals had asked for a membership list and financial statements “no member will be (sic) have his or her name revealed to this group, or the media, without your expressed consent.”
In a letter from Dimanno posted on Oct. 11 on the Abbotsford Today – a website of which he is the co-owner – he says the society was dissolved by the provincial registry last year “but not due to a lack of activity.”
A call to the phone number listed on the ARA website led to a message that the number is no longer in use. Dimanno said they stopped paying for the toll-free number a year ago. After The News spoke with Dimanno, the phone number on the website changed.
In addition, a notice on the website stated the ARA “meets regularly and General Meeting notices are posted on this site and sent out to Members by email … We meet at Bethel Reformed Church on Gladwin Road. Doors open at 6:30pm and we convene by 7:00pm.”
A church official told The News that the organization has not met there “for a long time.”
Following The News interview and Peachy’s emails, the website was changed to say the ARA “meets quarterly (based on confirmed attendance) and General Meeting notices are sent out to Members by email.”
The copyright on the webpage was also updated from 2012 to 2014.
Dimanno is running with the AbbotsfordFirst slate along with Sandy Blue, Kelly Chahal, Brenda Falk and Ross Siemens.