Article by Richard Peachey (reposted from Oct. 16)

Today (Oct. 16) election signs started appearing all over Abbotsford. The municipal election will take place on November 15. A new feature this time is that five Abbotsford city council candidates are running jointly as a slate titled “AbbotsfordFirst.” They’re using a three-part slogan: “Leadership. Accountability. Respect.”

The purpose of this article is to raise a question about AbbotsfordFirst’s star candidate, Vince Dimanno. Is he really “accountable”?

As of today, the AbbotsfordFirst website provided this information about Vince:

Vince Dimanno is currently the President of the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association. . . . He has appeared on GlobalTV, CBC, CKNW, CBC Radio and in The Vancouver Sun and The Province where he has been asked to provide the taxpayer’s perspective on nearly every major issue facing Abbotsford in the last 6 years.

Clearly Vince Dimanno’s position in the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association (ARA), and the public exposure it has given him, are central to his campaign advertising as he runs for Abbotsford city council.

Unfortunately for Vince, the ARA — and his involvement in it — have recently come under intense scrutiny. What has been Vince’s response to this scrutiny? How “accountable” has he shown himself to be?

My wife, Gerda Peachey (also an Abbotsford council candidate), has raised several questions about the ARA. This prompted Mike Archer, editor of the online news vehicle Abbotsford Today, to publish an article, “Dimanno Must Come Clean” (Oct. 10). This was perhaps done tongue-in-cheek, since Mike Archer and Vince Dimanno are jointly the co-owners of Abbotsford Today. In any event, the next day Vince produced a column, “Dimanno Responds to ARA Accusations.”

Within a couple of days (I checked on Oct. 13) both of those articles had been removed (along with Gerda Peachey’s critical comments on the first article) from the Abbotsford Today website. But they both (inadvertently?) remained on the ARA website (though without Gerda Peachey’s comments).

The two articles were still missing from the Abbotsford Today site yesterday (Oct. 15), but I see that as of today they have both been restored. It seems to have been necessary for the two articles to be restored on account of an Oct. 13 article appearing on the ARA site — in which “ARA Webmaster” (= Vince Dimanno?) pointed out the presence of criticisms, and alluded to Vince’s response, with a link provided to Abbotsford Today.

Now, in light of the criticisms leveled at ARA and Vince Dimanno, has he shown himself to be accountable? Using Mike Archer’s words, has Dimanno “come clean”? During this episode, has Vince evidenced the sort of transparency we would like to see in a candidate for Abbotsford city council?

Vince Dimanno’s Oct. 13 ARA article, titled “Important Notice to Members,” reads as follows:

Over the past week, a group of individuals (including some past ARA members) have begun a letter writing campaign to the media calling into question the existence of the ARA and its activities. While a response has been issued and published on Abbotsford Today (http://www.abbotsfordtoday.ca), this has not been satisfactory to this group. They demand to see our Membership List and our Financial Statements. Please note that your privacy will be protected. No Member will be have [sic] his or her name revealed to this group, or the media, without your expressed [sic] consent. Our Financial Records will not be revealed without consensus from the Membership. There is no plan to call a General Meeting before November 15th, however, if, as a Member, you would like to hold a meeting, or have questions, please email us at info@abbotsfordratepayers.org.

(Please note: this notice will also be sent to all Members by email.)

Vince’s Oct. 11 column, “Dimanno Responds to ARA Accusations,” referenced in the above notice, says this:

Dear Mike,

The facts in your column are entirely correct, however, there are a couple of items to add that will clarify the situation for you.

The Abbotsford Ratepayers Association currently has 89 paid members and a communication network of more than 500 Abbotsford residents. We maintain bank accounts, a web site, and an email discussion and notification system.

The Society itself was dissolved by the Provincial Registry last year, but not due to a lack of activity. It was due to our inability to meet the minimum requirements of Directors to conform to the Society Act.

According to the Provincial Registry, according to the Canada Revenue Agency, according to our bank and according to our members, I am the President of this Association.

However, it is with a heavy heart that this won’t last for long. According to our Constitution, no elected official can be a Member of the ARA, let alone be a Director or the President. So, feeling confident that I will receive the support on November 15th to try and make changes in our community from the Council table, I will have to resign, in full, shortly after voting day.

At that time, I will once again put out the call for volunteers from our membership to take on the role of Directors, but if those volunteers don’t step forward, the ARA may have to consider becoming even less formal, or dissolving entirely. This matter will be put to the 89 members of the Association for consensus.

To be fully transparent, the ARA does maintain a bank account. That bank account may have funds in it. Should the decision by Members be to dissolve the ARA, any monies in that account will also be dealt with. Historically, we give to local charities and I hope that the membership will agree to donating all of our remaining funds to the local food bank. Should the Association disband, I will publish our final Financial Statement, including disbursement of any remaining funds, on the ARA web site.

To summarize, I am proud of what the ARA has. It has mobilized people and inspired citizens to be more engaged in local politics. I am so proud that, if I am no longer the President, I will continue to identify myself as the Founder of the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association.

Regards,

Vince Dimanno
Founder of the Abbotsford Ratepayers Association

Much of that column is simply self-promotion, but the key statement (which I have bolded) concerns the legal status of the ARA. Vince admits that the BC Registry has dissolved the ARA! He states that this happened last year (2013), and he gives the reason as a shortage of directors. There should be six, according to the ARA’s own constitution — the provincial Society Act requires “at least 3” — but at the moment there are only two. All of this would be questionable enough — but the real situation is worse!

According to information we have received from Victoria, the ARA was actually dissolved in April 2012, not in 2013 — and the reason was the non-filing of legally required annual reports . . . for at least three successive years! Documentation of this is being forwarded to us by the BC Registry, and we expect to make it public shortly. Assuming that the documentation agrees with the verbal information given, this means that Vince was not only wrong about the time, he was also wrong about the reason!

The ARA has not been properly operated since 2009 — but now this President of the ARA wants to help manage your city!

Note: The Society Act of British Columbia requires a society to file an annual report:

Section 68: “A society must, within 30 days after each annual general meeting, file with the registrar an annual report in the form established by the registrar.”

The Society Act also requires a society’s directors to manage the society:

Section 24 Part 2: “Subject to this Act and the constitution and bylaws of the society, the directors (a) must manage, or supervise the management of, the affairs of the society, and (b) may exercise all of the powers of the society.”

The Society Act also requires a society’s directors to be diligent in fulfilling their duties:

Section 25 Part 1: “A director of a society must (a) act honestly and in good faith and in the best interests of the society, and (b) exercise the care, diligence and skill of a reasonably prudent person, in exercising the powers and performing the functions as a director.”

Vince Dimanno and his fellow directors have clearly been derelict in their duties. His/their inattention to BC Registry requirements has put the ARA into legal limbo. Should such a man be asked to run your city?

By the way, it’s noteworthy that 2009 (or perhaps early 2010) is the last date that anything noteworthy appeared on the ARA website, other than a continual (automatic?) stream of news articles, mostly from Abbotsford Today. (Just recently the ARA website has begun to also include a lot of Abbotsford News articles — apparently as a result of Gerda Peachey’s challenge regarding the high degree of overlap between Abbotsford Today and the ARA.)

Vince Dimanno claims the ARA has 89 paid members, financial records, etc., etc., but he can’t or won’t provide details for reasons of confidentiality. But . . . why should anyone believe his claims about things we can’t check, when his statements about things we can check have turned out to be false? Some past ARA members, to whom Vince refers, have testified that in their experience “members” were kept on the list even after they left the organization, and financial records were not produced in a timely fashion even when this omission was loudly protested. For many months under Vince’s presidency, the ARA also existed without a bank account, despite that being a requirement of the Society Act.

It is apparent that Vince Dimanno, as has been alleged, has used the ARA as a vehicle of self-promotion. And his Oct. 11 column’s last few paragraphs show that he is quite ready to abandon the ARA once he achieves his goal of getting onto council! While using the ARA to gain a great deal of self-publicity, Vince has not looked after even the minimal reporting requirements of the BC Registry.

Nor has Vince even taken hold of the opportunity to get the ARA reinstated by the BC Registry — which is in fact not that hard to do — see their website.

To be fully transparent. . . .” Vince wrote in his Oct. 11 column. Do you, the reader, think he is being “fully transparent”?

Accountability,” trumpets the AbbotsfordFirst slate in their three-part slogan. Do you think their star candidate, Vince Dimanno, is truly showing himself to be accountable?

Exercise your vote on November 15. For the sake of our precious gift of democracy, please make your choices wisely.