By Kim Stock
Since the beginning of September, confusion has surrounded the activities of the Education Students’ Association. Issues surrounding financial and constitutional matters continue to surface as questions and concerns remain unanswered.
It was discovered recently that $340 of ESA Christmas Party Funds are unaccounted for. Following this discovery, ESA Vice-president Finance Cathy Zander was suspended from her position. The circumstances surrounding this loss of money are questionable at best. Zander had been responsible for depositing the money over the Christmas break. After Zander failed to do so, ESA President Stacey Doikas proceeded to pick up the funds herself from Zander’s home. The cash box was left in the office under the supervision of Doikas and another ESA member. Only later was it discovered that the contents of the cash box did not equal the amount originally tallied after the Christmas party.
Following this discovery, Zander was suspended from her position.
"I was told I was suspended so they would be able to conduct an audit without me influencing in any way," said Zander.
Doikas said that Zander was never actually accused of anything.
Former ESA First-year Representative James Armstrong disagrees with this account of events.
"The President had gone around quite aggressively telling other members she thought the VP Finance was responsible," said Armstrong. "On paper she [Zander] was suspended for seven different points."
According to Armstrong, charges against Zander included the missing $340, not doing her duties as VP Finance, not telling the President that money was missing, failing to make the deposit, and using [ESA] money for her own personal use. The Gauntlet was not able to obtain the minutes of the last ESA meeting, as they had not yet been confirmed.
"She [Zander] has been really helpful. It could be honest mistakes," said ESA Volunteer Co-ordinator Mandy Kinzel.
After discovering that $340 of Christmas party profit was unaccounted for, Doikas and some other ESA council members took it upon themselves to investigate the matter further.
"We went through her desk," conceded Doikas. "We’re pretty naive. We don’t know what’s legal."
This is not the first instance of missing money among the ESA.
On Sept. 18, 1998, another theft of approximately $2,000 of ESA funds occurred at the club office. Again, circumstances surrounding this crime were suspicious.
"We weren’t too sure how much was in there," said Doikas. "I don’t know how much was taken-we have a ballpark figure."
The money, which had been recently collected through ESA membership fees, was stolen from a cabinet within the club office. An ESA membership fee of $7 is paid by students, which gives the students a membership as a Student Teacher in the Alberta Teacher’s Association.
Campus Security took a report of the incident, relaying that there were no forcible signs of entry. The money was kept in a cabinet which, despite having a lock in place, could still be opened due to damage previously accrued. Only three people had access to the inner office, including Doikas, Zander, and the former Executive Secretary.
"We all volunteered for lie detector tests," said Doikas, even though the Calgary Police never pursued this option.
To this date, neither council nor the general body has been told how much ESA money has been lost in total.
In addition, there has been speculation over whether ESA funds were used inappropriately. According to Armstrong, ESA money was used to pay for food and alcohol at a team-building event outside of Calgary.
"We never spent it [ESA funds] on alcohol. We all brought our own alcohol," said Doikas.
Furthermore, there are questions concerning a supervisor’s behaviour during the ESA Hallowe’en party, held at an off-campus community hall. Liquor Board Policy demands that the supervisor for such an event must remain sober throughout the event.
"He [the supervisor] was intoxicated," said Doikas.
She also indicated that the supervisor of the ESA party had consumed "dope" and offered it to her.
"He knew better than that," said Doikas. "I talked to him afterwards and told him that his behaviour was inappropriate."
Party problems continued for the ESA when the issue of the Christmas party came up at council. The idea of watering down drinks was brought up and discussed.
"My understanding is the idea was brought up because we didn’t want people becoming inebriated. A large number of bars and clubs do this," said Zander.
The idea was later abandoned by council after objections from former Vice-president Activities Walter Tiley.
"The whole council agreed that this [the watering down of the drinks] would be off the records," said Doikas.
Since the idea was never implemented, council saw no reason to include it in the minutes. Tiley resigned over this and other issues, after fighting to get the drink discussion included in council meeting records.
As a side note, Armstrong also resigned from the ESA council last Friday.
"I have nothing against the ESA," he said. "I just question ethically some things that took place."
At this time, the ESA is planning an external audit of its financial records. Doikas said that the ATA has offered to conduct the audit if the ESA can’t afford to hire an external organization. She also indicated that the ATA isn’t forthcoming on releasing this kind of information and it is unlikely that the public will ever be privy to the findings of an ATA audit. The ATA could not be reached for comment.