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Conflict leaves Alberta Soccer Association soaked in 'bad blood'


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This article made front page in the Edmonton Journal...

Former members' attempt to oust president lands in court


The Alberta Soccer Association is in the throes of a divisive and costly internal power struggle.

A group of nine former board members of the 140,000-member association sought president Chris Billings's resignation in late February.

The directors allege Billings committed nine offences, including verbally harassing three board members and failing to obtain board approval for more than $2,000 in soccer-related expenses.

When Billings refused to resign, the directors issued him a letter of suspension.

"We asked Mr. Billings for his resignation because it was a vote of non-confidence from the board," said Edmonton's Mario Charpentier, one of nine board members who signed the petition seeking the suspension.

Billings called some of the allegations baseless and others too vague to address. He refused to accept the suspension, saying due process had not been followed. He also declined to attend a hearing April 23 in Red Deer, arguing the three-member investigation committee charged with looking into the matter had been appointed by the board members trying to have him suspended.

"My legal advice was not to recognize the committee and therefore not to attend the meeting," said Billings.

Billings also reached out to members of the association, suggesting a meeting should be held to resolve the ongoing dispute. That special general meeting (SGM) took place April 24 in Red Deer.

While Alberta lawyer and mediator Alan Beattie served as chair, the nine board members who had signed the suspension petition were removed from office by the unanimous votes of representatives from 16 of the organization's 18 districts. Those directors were Charpentier, director of finance Colin Innes, past-president Fred Kern, Robert Hayne, Christine Chater, Kim Letkemen, Chris Jossy, Jeff DuBerger and Bill Malone. They did not attend that meeting, but held one of their own in an adjoining room later in the day.

Malone subsequently resigned and has decided not to push the case further. The other deposed directors are now seeking a court injunction in Calgary, aiming to have the SGM and its resolutions declared invalid, action they believe would return them to their positions on the board.

"The presence of two competing boards is creating confusion among staff and members of the association and is preventing the association from carrying out its duties and responsibilities," Innes stated in an affidavit filed to support the request for an injunction. "Moreover, it is bringing the game of soccer into disrepute."

One area of particular confusion centres on the association's executive director. Four board members removed Salvi Cammarata from that position in late February, two days after they sought Billings's resignation. Cammarata's replacement, Richard Adams, is not currently working out of the ASA office, which was closed on Monday so Billings could inform staff members of the weekend's proceedings.

"This isn't about power for me. The heart of this matter is the governance of the association," said Billings. "The people who have been removed, they need to realize it's over for them. Clearly the members have spoken."

The deposed directors think otherwise. "We believe that meeting was called illegally," said Charpentier.

A May 7 court date has been set to hear the case, but that may be delayed.

"We're asking the court to decide if the meeting was legal or not. Whatever the court decides, we have to accept," said Charpentier. "If the court decides Mr. Billings is right and we're wrong, we'll go home. If the court decides we're right and Mr. Billings is wrong, I hope he will go home."

The latter seems unlikely. Billings said if the court throws out the results of the SGM, the next course of action would be for the association membership to hold another meeting and vote on the resolutions to remove the nine board members again.

"The case for (the legality of the SGM) is so strong," said Billings. "We followed the constitution to the letter of the law. I have ultimate confidence that the courts of Alberta will find the SGM is valid. The worst-case scenario is they order another SGM. I'm not sure how Mr. Charpentier can possibly think he'll have the SGM results thrown out and win at another SGM."

The results of the April 24 meeting left only two board members standing, Billings and Danny Bowie of Sherwood Park. Bowie had not signed the suspension petition. Three directors were then appointed by the membership -- second vice-president Shauna Aab, director Mike Troke and first vice-president Les Hodges -- leaving five board vacancies.

The new board was scheduled to meet Thursday night in Edmonton.

"We're going to address the (legal) situation, but we're not going to let it dominate the agenda," said Billings.

He said they need to concentrate on moving forward. He is hopeful a resolution can be found before the May 7 court date, but said that would only happen if Charpentier and the other deposed board members withdraw their request for an injunction. That, too, seems unlikely.

"This is an impasse," said Charpentier. "Both sides are strong. Both sides believe they are doing the right thing."

Whatever the result, the association will likely feel the effects of the fight for quite some time. Charpentier said the legal bills incurred by both sides and billed to the ASA might already be in the neighbourhood of $60,000 to $100,000.

"More than the money is the bad blood. That is hard to solve," said Charpentier. " Money is an issue. The main issue is how we stop the bad feelings."

Billings said the ASA is "fiscally OK" but is currently dysfunctional. He said the ASA runs on a budget of $3.4 million and has about $900,000 in the bank.

When he ran for president in January 2009, he did so on a platform of change and transparency, with an eye on distancing the board from day-to-day operations and allowing the staff to run the association. He also wanted to reduce the ASA's legal bills, which had grown to $250,000 during 2007 and 2008.

Billings was elected president when he beat Charpentier by the slimmest of margins, 51 to 49 per cent. At the 2010 annual general meeting, Charpentier was named first vice-president. Billings said the two of them are "diametrically opposed" and it would appear working together has been a challenge, though neither man said the current fight is personal.


© Copyright © The Edmonton Journal

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I know little other than a few articles like this and tend to think the guy is probably right, but it all matters very little. Right and wrong are now simply legal concepts and there can be no winners and losers without baggage, negativity and trust issues. These are all volunteer amateur positions many people can do extremely well and they all need to resign to take the province and its players forward. Anyone who fails to comprehend that cannot see the forest for the trees and needs to be led out, by force if necessary.

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That's a well intentioned thought Vic but wishful thinking won't help here. There are a couple of people that will never rest until they can control ASA. Believe me their ambitions go further than ASA too. When the issue becomes a battle of those who want transparency and fairness from their provincial association and those who crave power for it's own sake (plus financial reasons), you have two choices - either work to change the structure of the organization to ensure that a few cannot overrule the majority or give up and let a couple of the most unsavoury individuals I have ever met run it all. It would take pages to document what we've had to endure in Alberta, the wonder is that our youth and adult clubs have been able to survive this mess and continue to do extremely well at National amateur championships. Kudos to those individuals who refuse to knuckle under.

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Now we've got the CSA executive weighing in on this. Without having any clue other than what Mike Traficante and Mario Charpentier have told him, Maestracci and the Executive have taken it on themselves not to recognize the decision of the ASA members SGM in Red Deer that removed the 9 former Board members on April 24. With absolutely no evidence, he has decided that based on the word of Traficante and Charpentier, proper notification was not given to all members of ASA for the SGM even though a legal opinion from Bennett-Jones came to the conclusion that the SGM followed all the requirements in the ASA Bylaws for a legal SGM. The former Board members brought a court action against the members who removed them but before a judge could rule, they withdrew it, knowing that they would lose and knowing that Maestracci would support them and be willing to interfere in ASA internal affairs. I would say to the other provincial Associations - is this what you want to see as a precedent? It should be noted that CSA Board members were not consulted in this, it was strictly an executive decision. The solution from CSA - take it to the Sport Dispute Resolution Centre of Canada which, of course provides non-binding arbitration to conflicting parties. In the past when Mr. Charpentier has been involved in non-binding arbitration, if he doesn't like the result, he ignores it and carries on. Be forewarned, he has designs on moving himself to a higher level in Canadian Soccer, God help us all if this man can get a foothold at CSA.

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You hear a lot of people calling for elimination of the provincial associations but flashpoint situations like this where the national body basically declares itself irrelevent makes you realize the problem is much grander.

I feel so sorry for everyone in Alberta.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Not that it is earth-shattering news, but the Executive Director hired just before the ASA Board was unceremoniously dumped at the Special AGM has quit.

That makes, umm, I dunno...about 35 ExDir in the past 7 years. I've seen Banana Republics with more stability and credibility.

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