“It is my sincerely held concern that if the Board is left to govern the Lighthouse, any of the good that Lighthouse has done for the community and all that it has built will be destroyed….”
A Saskatoon judge is being asked to appoint a third party to take over The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc., amid an apparent split in the organization’s board over the return of executive director Don Windels.
Documents filed on behalf of Twila Reddekopp and Jerome Hepfner at Saskatoon Court of King’s Bench allege the Lighthouse is in a precarious financial position, and that the board is no longer able to make decisions in the best interest of the organization. None of the claims made in the filings has been tested in court.
Requests for comment from Windels, Reddekopp, Reddekopp’s lawyer, and Hepfner did not receive responses by deadline.
Reddekopp and Hepfner were installed as co-executive directors of the Lighthouse in the wake of a 2021 court decision by Justice David Gerecke. Gerecke ordered Windels removed from the Lighthouse board, and his position as executive director, and barred him from returning for two years. The decision came after an investigation found that Windels benefitted from an improper loan taken from the charity.
Windels has appealed Gerecke’s decision; the orders barring him from serving in leadership roles at the Lighthouse are stayed pending the results of that appeal.
An affidavit from Redekopp included with the latest court filings says the board has “dwindled” to five members, including herself and Hepfner. She wrote that the board voted to remove her and Hepfner as co-executive directors in late January, and that Windels returned earlier this month, identifying himself to staff as the executive director and informing 49 employees they were to be laid off in March.
Reddekopp’s affidavit lists a number of challenges facing the Lighthouse in the aftermath of the Gerecke decision becoming public knowledge with the removal of a publication ban in 2022.
Chief among these difficulties was the decision of the provincial government to cut ties with the Lighthouse. Minister of Social Services Gene Makowsky made the announcement during an interview on a radio talk show in June 2022. Social Services pulled its funding by September, and “substantially all” provincial money supporting Lighthouse operations has since dried up, Reddekopp wrote.
Of the limited provincial funds still available, Reddekopp’s affidavit notes the province has withheld more than $100,000 — due, she says, to “deficient financial reporting.”
Reddekopp’s affidavit goes on to detail various financial irregularities allegedly uncovered while she and Hepfner tried to get the Lighthouse’s affairs in order after Windels’s removal; these include just over $90,000 taken out of a Lighthouse investment account since 2016, with no accounting of who made the withdrawals or why.
Her affidavit also states it has been “extremely difficult” to reconcile payments and expenses related to the system the charity uses for payroll, as no records were kept.
The court documents go on to note that the Lighthouse owes in excess of $2 million to Affinity Credit Union, and that the financial institution has indicated it views the Lighthouse as insolvent, and has stated its own intention to apply to have a receiver appointed “in the near future.”
Reddekopp and Hepfner have asked for accounting company MNP LLP to be appointed as a receiver to take over operations of the Lighthouse. The firm previously conducted the investigation that led to Gerecke’s ruling.
“It is my sincerely held concern that if the Board is left to govern the Lighthouse, any of the good that Lighthouse has done for the community and all that it has built will be destroyed without any potential to ensure that the needs of our vulnerable clients are addressed,” Reddekopp wrote, adding that she also believes ongoing governance by the current board would leave the charity unable to meet its financial obligations.
The application is expected to be addressed this week in Saskatoon Court of King’s Bench.
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