Saskatoon Lighthouse, board members battle in court about financial control

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Saskatoon Lighthouse, board members battle in court about financial control
The lawyer representing Affinity Credit Union confirmed that the Lighthouse only has $43,000 left on its open line of credit, which isn't enough to cover upcoming payments to its employees – Feb 22, 2023

Saskatoon’s Lighthouse representatives are still battling it out in court after two members of the board filed affidavits, asking for an interim receivership.

Jerome Hepfner and Twila Reddekopp have claimed that the Lighthouse board hasn’t been making decisions in the best interest of the organization.

Hepfner and Reddekopp were co-managers of the Lighthouse, replacing executive director Don Windels after he was placed on leave.

The pair were removed from the position last month.

They are now hoping that accounting firm MNP LLP will temporarily take control of the organization’s finances and handle arising issues.

At Court of King’s Bench of Saskatchewan on Tuesday, MNP LLP questioned if they even had the authority to take on such a role and what the firm’s job as interim receiver would be.

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The Lighthouse asked for a supplemental order, which would see the current board step down, including Hepfner and Reddekopp, and an entirely new board be elected.

The Lighthouse has recently suffered funding cuts, fire and building code violations, and board members using Lighthouse funds for personal loans.

According to court documents, it was discovered that between 2008 and 2013, Windels had taken $287,000 in shelter funding for personal loans.

While some of these were recorded and approved by the board, there is very little to no evidence of board approval of a $60,000 loan Windels requested so he could buy a house for his daughter.

Reddekopp claimed that this was concealed from the board. Windels disagreed.

The Lighthouse ended up purchasing the property, paying the utilities, and naming the property as a capital asset.

Windels was temporarily removed from his position and replaced by Hepfner and Reddekopp.

Recently, the Lighthouse was faced with the financial burden of 42 different fire violations identified by the Saskatoon Fire Department.

Last winter, the Lighthouse was dealing with frozen pipes, burst sprinklers, and backed up sewers. The facility experienced smashed sinks and a water heater going down in some of the coldest months of the year.

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If that were to happen again in the future, the struggling shelter would have to battle through cut funds brought on by feelings of distrust from the Saskatchewan government.

In the summer of 2022, the decision was made by Social Services Minister Gene Makowsky, local MLAs and community leaders to discontinue homeless assistance services at the facility after concern was stressed about the Lighthouse’s inability to produce numerous financial records.

Over $100,000 in funding was pulled by the provincial government.

In September 2022, after the government began withholding funds, the Lighthouse officially announced it was shutting down the beds it offered.

The beds have since been transitioned to the Salvation Army and the Wellness Centre.

Wayne Pederson, the lawyer representing Affinity Credit Union confirmed that the Lighthouse only has $43,000 left on its open line of credit, which isn’t enough to cover upcoming payments to its employees.

The Affinity Credit Union said it would step up and help the Lighthouse cover costs, but only if it was in supporting Hepfner and Reddekopp.

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Pederson suggested that one of the only ways to cover the debts would be to sell Lighthouse assets.

Both parties attempted to come to an agreement on Tuesday to satisfy the Credit Union but were unable to do so.

The Lighthouse representatives requested an adjournment to come back with a new agreement.

The judge issued a preservation order, preventing any layoffs, destruction of records or selling of assets before the receivership decision has been made unless four of five board members approved.

The parties are set to appear in court again on Friday.

— with files from Global News’ Ryan Kessler


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