A major legal battle is brewing between the board of the Niagara Regional Native Centre and board members who were ousted in February.
The former board members of the centre are asking a Superior Court judge to dismantle the current board.
The lawsuit pits former members – president Lacey Lewis and Wanda Griffin, Bobbi Jones Japp and Wendy Wilson – against their successors: Roxanne Buck, Audrey Clark, Fallon Farinacci, Eliana Jones, Brian MacAulay, Doug Paget and Sean Vanderklis.
The native centre, located on Airport Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, provides community support services for the Indigenous community. The centre also is named in the lawsuit.
The former board is represented by Julie Mouris of Ottawa legal firm Conway Baxter Wilson LLP and the new board is represented by Terrence Hill of Daniel & Partners LLP of St. Catharines. Both lawyers decline to comment when contacted by The Lake Report.
Court documents claim the members of the new board violated the centre’s own bylaws and the Not-for-Profit Corporations Act at a meeting Feb. 8.
That meeting was called to fill vacancies on the organization’s board of directors and add a “more precise definition” of Niagara to the centre’s bylaws.
The meeting followed a slew of resignations from the centre, starting in December with Karl Dockstader, the former executive director, who resigned Dec. 8.
Dockstader was walked off the property Dec. 16.
Following the resignations, the court documents say Dockstader and Vanderklis, who co-host the podcast One Dish One Mic together on 610 CKTB, “orchestrated” a plan to remove the board members from their positions.
The documents claim Buck, the former president, began colluding with the two podcasters leading up to the meeting.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Following his resignation, Dockstader and Vanderklis made “false and defamatory statements about the applicants on Facebook,” the lawsuit claims.
At the February meeting, Buck called for the resignation of the board and the immediate appointment of new members.
The court documents say Buck’s motion was improper and contravened the centre’s bylaws, thereby invalidating the new board and everything it has done since February.
The suit says the four former board members should be recognized as the “only properly elected or appointed” directors and officers of the centre.
The applicants also say they were unable to speak to the validity of Buck’s motion at the meeting.
One reason cited was that a staff member “started physically charging” toward Griffin and Lewis as they were attempting to make their case, the suit says.
“As the meeting became unruly, president Lewis began to fear for the safety of herself, her fellow board directors and the (centre’s) members present,” the documents say.
The documents say the board stepped down “under duress.”
Attendees then elected the new board, which proceeded to lock the old board members out of their email accounts.
The documents claim the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres, of which the centre is a member, advised the new board to call a special meeting after the chaotic night to fill the remainder of the board vacancies.
The applicants say the new board has not done that.
The court papers also say Lewis and the other applicants issued a letter on April 26, asking again for a meeting to be called.
The documents also say the former board members had their memberships stripped without notice.
Buck refused to comment when contacted by The Lake Report about the lawsuit.