2023-09-18: Alberta Star Party:
The ASP is operated by the Calgary Centre, so I made no effort to sign up for the Star Party itself, but the Centre has no control over the campsite, so as long as I paid the County’s camping fee, I could park anywhere I wanted to.
Susan Yeo was already there, so I camped next to her setup. Since I was only going there for Saturday night, I only took my smaller tripod, the 105mm refractor, and the 60mm Coronado.
I was able to chat with several Calgary members, and had a surprisingly civil conversation with Roland Dechesne. The last time we had spoken he berated me for daring to appear at a Calgary Centre General Meeting, as a member of the public, back in 2022. Perhaps his attitude is softening.
I had been keeping all the commemorative pins the Centre has created, since 1994. Mostly these are for the ASP, but others commemorate the Wilson Coulee Observatory. I passed on a big bag of pins, most of them sorted in containers, to Jason Nishiyama, though it will be up to the Centre Council to decide what to do with them.
2023-08-20: Saskatchewan Summer Star Party (SSSP)
I have never seen such attitudes of hostility coming from certain members of the Calgary Centre present at the SSSP. Steve Donaldson, Anna Bortolotto, David and Debra Brown, and Larry McNish all took great pains not to come near me, and on occasion would scuttle away at my approach. Yet during last year’s SSSP I had chatted comfortably with several of these folks with no issues.
I did manage to corner David Brown to try to ask him why this year was different. He muttered something about National and about continuing to receive emails from John Kelly, but was not forthcoming with any explanation.
What I can surmise is that those leading members who were involved in orchestrating the move to ban folks from all RASC events (see update of 2023-06-18, below) were greatly disappointed that the targets of their malice (myself, plus Roger and Grace Nelson) were at the Star Party anyway. I do not know if any of them tried to convince the organizers to expel us, but if so they were rebuffed. In any case, their motion and vote at the AGM carried no actual authority, and the Board has yet to decide whether to act on their recommendation.
It seems likely that they felt embarrassed, and probably even humiliated, by the failure of their childish and spiteful vindictiveness to achieve the hoped-for result.
Other Calgary members with whom I spoke, who were not ‘in the loop’ on the issue, were surprised and bewildered by the whole farcical endeavour.
Other than that, and the weather to some extent, it was a most enjoyable time.
2023-08-10: Summer Quietude
Summer Star Parties have started again, and they’re all being held in mid-August for the new moon.
So of the three Parties I typically try to attend (MKSP, SSSP, TMSP) I’ve had to choose just one, and it’s the SSSP.
The last couple of years I’ve been a volunteer at the Red Light Cafe, and I expect to be helping out again this year.
MKSP has been cancelled due to wildfire fears, so a few of the regulars from there I’ll be seeing instead at the SSSP.
2023-07-08: The Board has been finalized:
The RASC website has been updated with the new officers. After many many years on the Council and the executive, as well as more lately on the Board, Michael Watson has become the new President.
Salient by its absence is a new Treasurer, with the website saying that the Treasurer can be from within the Board or from the membership, though this is in contradiction to the RASC’s Bylaw (section 45.5) specifying that the Treasurer shall be a Director.
But this would not be the first time in recent years that the Board has gone off the tracks and put the proverbial cart before the horse. (sorry for the mixed metaphor…).
2023-07-03: More Board election rumours:
Randy Attwood was apparently also successful in being elected, and it seems likely that he will be appointed President by the new Board. He has been Society President before, as well as interim Executive Director, so he has much more experience than a typical first-term Board member.
It is to be hoped he can bring some degree of level-headedness to the situations into which the Society has put itself.
In addition to the serious financial problems, social and governance issues have not been well managed over the past few years, with the Board not merely tolerating, but actively encouraging bullying and harassment of members, and with the Board trying to over-extend its authority over the Centres and their operations.
2023-06-27: Board elections:
Second-hand rumour has it that Brendon Roy was re-elected as a Board member, though the RASC website has not been updated to reflect the new Board.
I assume that the proposed bylaw amendments passed, including confirming the prohibition on Centres allowing participation at any of their events by anyone the Board thinks to be undesirable… though how the Board could hope to enforce the provision is unclear.
The RASC is not, despite the Board’s pretentions, a centralized top-down organization. Individual Centres are independent and operate under the jurisdiction of their respective Provinces, whether incorporated or not.
For example, by permitting the most egregious case of local-only membership (Centre francophone de Montreal has about two thirds or its members local-only) to continue despite insisting that all Centre members must belong to the National RASC deprives the Board of much of its moral authority to impose other arbitrary measures on Centres.
2023-06-18: From the minutes of the AGM of 2022:
7. Other Business
Eric Klaszus of the Calgary Centre of the RASC, move that the RASC creates a bylaw prohibiting any person that has been suspended or expelled by the National Board of the RASC from attending or appearing at any event that is organized by the RASC, including events that are:
a) Organized by National RASC or local RASC centres,
b) Held in spaces that are digital or in-person.
The motion was seconded by Simon Poole, Calgary Centre president.
Brendon Roy raised a point of order that the motion was new and could not be voted on on the present day, and should be added to the agenda of the next Annual Meeting.
Michael Watson responded to the point of order, that these motions were advisory only, and that aside from some exceptions under the Act, the Board was the governing board of the Society and that votes by advisory bodies or the membership should be regarded as a straw poll instead of new rules.
Therefore, he suggested that delaying a vote of this nature by a year would not be responsible.
Mr. Roy stood by his point of order. Mr. Watson indicated that in Robert’s Rules of Order that the chair should make a ruling unless the chair was uncertain…
I have become increasingly disappointed in Michael Watson over the last few years. During the 1990s, before he quit the Council in a fit of pique over the failure of his ‘decoupling’ proposal, we looked upon him as a source of upstanding rectitude.
But this idea that Robert’s Rules can be used to contravene the very clear provisions of the Act under which the Society is supposed to be operating is nonsense. Brendan Roy’s point of order was well taken. Since the motion had not been included in the notice of the meeting sent to members per sections 162 and following, it had no place at the AGM.
Of course advisory motions from the National Council are different, not being subject to the constraints of an AGM. But the Board has proven to be reluctant to actually ask the Council to vote on any substantive issues.
June 05, 2023: AGM motions:
(simplified for clarity)
Amendment No. 1: The chair and vice-chair of the National Council for the forthcoming year will be elected by the National Council Representatives from among their number at the last
meeting of the National Council at the General Assembly before June 30 in each year.
This seems eminently reasonable.
The amended section 5.3 permits the Board to set an appropriate agenda for the AGM, but
also allows the membership to amend that agenda at the outset of the AGM.
This is the amended section 5.3, with the deletions struck out and the additions highlighted
in yellow, which the membership is being asked to approve:
5.3 The order of procedure agenda for at the AGM shall be as follows set by
the Board of Directors, and shall include the following matters, in such order as may be
(a) approval, or amendment and approval, of the agenda for the AGM;
(b) consideration and approval of the minutes of the last AGM and of any
special meeting and meeting by requisition held since the last AGM;
(c) consideration and approval of the reports of the Board, the officers of the
Society, and any committees and presentation of the audited financial
(d) presentation of the audited financial statements;
(e) consideration of any matter, including any amendment to this By-Law,
proposed to be adopted by special resolution of the Society;
(f) election of Directors of the Society;
(g) election of the auditor of the Society;
(h) consideration of any member proposal made under section 163 of the Act
and section 5.2 of this By-Law; and
(i) other business.
The Canada Not For Profit Corporations Act, section 162 parts 9-10, and 163, parts 1-6, makes it clear that ALL business at an AGM (other than elections and some finances exceptions) must be preceded by adequate notice. No motion or proposal may be entertained without such notice having been given to the membership. These restrictions should be clarified, since section (h), above, implies otherwise.
At the 2022 AGM, a member proposal was considered and allowed to be voted on despite it being obviously illegitimate under the CNFPCA.
The Chair of the meeting, and even the attendees, cannot vote their way around clear provisions of the Act to render legitimacy to a fraudulent procedure.
3.6.3 Any member who has been expelled or suspended from membership in the
Society is prohibited from attending any meeting or event that is organized or held by the
Society or by any Centre of the Society, including the Society’s General Assembly and
Annual General Meeting, whether the meeting or event is held in person or virtually and
whether or not the event is open to the public.
In the total absence of disruption caused by any of the members suspended or expelled over the past decade, this provision is simply spiteful vindictiveness… an extension of the evils of ‘cancel culture’.
The Treasurer shall be a member of the Society, but who shall need not be a Director.
This, too, seems eminently reasonable, except for the minor grammatical error.
June 04, 2023: RASC AGM information:
At last some information has appeared regarding the upcoming RASC AGM, Board elections, and more Bylaw amendments.
I still have numerous friends within the Society who like to keep me updated on how things are going.
Today, the election information:
Four positions are open, and the Board has managed to dig up five candidates, so an actual election may well occur.
Brendon Roy, incumbent Second VP, is running for another three year term.
Randy Attwood seeks to join his wife, Betty Robinson, who is already on the Board.
Andrew Bennet, Stuart Heggie, and Shay Pomeroy round out the aspirants.
Brendon Roy: Greetings fellow RASCals, I would like to take this opportunity to announce my candidacy for a second term on the Board of Directors in our upcoming Annual General Meeting. I am hoping that I can count on your support during our next election day, I would be honored to continue working for the Society, as astronomy is a fundamental part of my
My love for astronomy began in my childhood and has continued to grow throughout the years. As a young member, I joined the society in the early 1990’s, where I cannot express my appreciation to my many mentors who only helped flourish my love of astronomy
further. It is because of passionate members that every RASC meeting is an educational and
It is devoted members that make our society a success. As I grew, both in the hobby and in the Society, I wanted to give back to the society and the community. Over the course of the years, I have played many different roles, including joining as the executive as the centre newsletter editor, participated, as well has hosted multiple outreach events, inevitably having the honour serving as the centre president for nearly eight years.
With experience and knowledge, I am eager to return to the Board and find solutions to the
challenges that face us.
I look forward to helping create a new era of cooperation and communication between all
members and Centres across the RASC. With your support, I am ready to listen to both the
concerns and ideas of all members and future members to lead our Society in positive direction.
I would like to thank you in advance for your support time and consideration of my candidacy. I encourage anyone to please contact me with any questions or concerns you may have, as I believe communication is essential for our Society’s success.
Randy Attwood: I have been a member of the RASC for over 50 years, and I have been involved with Society governance at both the Centre and National levels for over 40 years.
I served as President and National Council representative of two Centres, National President from 1998 to 2000, and I was employed as the Executive Director from 2014 to 2019. I stepped in as the interim Executive Director for March and April 2023 until Jenna Hinds was hired in early May.
I continue to spend time in the National Office but as a volunteer to assist Jenna with the hiring of an Office Manager and various other tasks as the National Office stabilizes.
As a Board member, I see my role as a liaison between the Board and the National Office. I hope that my knowledge of the workings of the National Office will continue to support the new Executive Director as she runs the National Office.
Andrew Bennet: • I am a results-oriented engineer with 21 years of oil and gas experience in both technical and business development roles.
• I am active in the community with current or past board-level experience with the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), Society of Petroleum Evaluation Engineers (SPEE), Society of Decision Professionals (SDP), University of Alberta Petroleum Industry Advisory Committee (PIAC), Foothills County Dunbow Recreation Board (DRB), Artesia Homeowners Association and the RASC Calgary Centre.
• When not working or volunteering on various boards, I enjoy taking great vacations, photography, reading and, most importantly, amateur astronomy. I live 15 minutes from the RASC Calgary Wilson Coulee observatory, where you will find me on many evenings, observing or supporting the Centre librarian maintaining our Centre library collection.
My Commitment to You if Elected
• I will provide an independent perspective, leveraging my range of prior experience from other organizations and the RASC Calgary Centre.
• My “North Star” on all decisions will be RASC’s current vision and mission statements.
• A no-nonsense approach focused on delivering results, responsible financial management
AND holding myself and others, particularly management, accountable to the members of
the society and our collective vision. I look forward to your support at the next AGM. Please feel free to reach out to me to discuss your concerns and how I will work for you in the coming years.
Stuart Heggie: I currently serve the RASC in three capacities: First, I am the Chair of the Astroimaging Certificates Committee. I have also given many impromptu lectures to various RASC Centres on the subject of Astro Imaging. Second, I have been a key member of the Remote Telescope project team having served as the Ops Team Lead and as a key member of the Photography Team (as back-up to that team’s Lead). Lastly, during a recent Editorial Board meeting, I presented an argument for a new publication focused on Astro Imaging and won approval to begin that work. I have been networking with key people across the RASC, explaining the project and readying the work plan. The bulk of my professional career was with a very large transnational science company. I held a wide array of roles in my 25 years there. Supply Chain Manager, Customer Service Manager, Business leader, IT Project Team Leader, Intellectual Property negotiator with Technology companies in the Alberta Oil Sands to name some of the key roles. I was regularly recognized for my results being achieved through leadership, mentorship, engagement and process improvement.
In my post-corporate life I run a Business Improvement consultancy with a close friend
from the same company. Our firm is called Sigma Done Simply and teaches process improvement methods based on the Six Sigma methodology.
My education is:
• B.Sc. in Astronomy & Astrophysics from the University of Toronto
• MBA from York University – Emphasis in Operations Research and Marketing
My goals for the RASC, in the capacity of Director, would be to:
• Assist the Executive Director in decision making that maximizes impact and
manages costs effectively.
• Promote Astro Imaging as a worthy pursuit within the Society and help to organize showcase events that celebrate those who have taken on this challenging part
of the hobby.
• Support all initiatives that enhance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. I have First
Nations family and feel keenly sensitive to the degree to which our Settler culture has
marginalized First Nations peoples. I was a champion of gender equity in my corporate
roles. I think about these issues in every action I take in my personal life.
Shay Pomeroy: I’m excited to put forward my candidacy for an upcoming at large Director position with the RASC Board of Directors. I understand and meet the eligibility requirements outlined in the application process and agree to abide by the RASC Directors and Officers Code of Conduct.
I’ve been a member of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada since early 2020, and have been an at-large Vancouver council member for the last 2 years. In that capacity, I’ve supported the council with guidance on day-to-day events and operations and overarching strategic frameworks, largely based on my professional background. As a marketing leader with extensive experience in the technology sector, I’ve worked to apply that mindset to how we engage with RASC members and the general public. This approach has led to the creation of new digital channels for RASC Vancouver, and a formalized strategic framework for 2023.
Outside of my role with RASC Vancouver, I lead a marketing team at Unity Technologies, the world’s largest platform for real-time 3D development. In that capacity I manage p personnel, day-to-day marketing process, and ongoing operational budgets. Alongside Unity, I’ve founded and actively manage an astronomy-focused content channel called Perseus. This includes several social handles, a website, and a YouTube channel where I create educational material on astronomy and space sciences.
If elected, my goal for RASC would be to leverage my experience in the technology space to
help RASC scale our offerings and public-facing presence in a digital landscape. I believe we
need to build and maintain scalable modern infrastructure to support our channels like web,
email, membership management, and content publishing. We should also examine and
understand how to best reach our current and prospective members in the digital age, and ensure our RASC chapters are equipped with the right tools to enable this approach. Particularly, I’d like to focus on how we can grow our membership among younger segments, and create value that resonates with the next generation of stargazers.
May 20, 2023: RASC Elections.
Thus far there appears to be no information about the upcoming elections to the Board. In years past we have seen Candidates’ Statements from each nominee in good time prior to the AGM so that people could get some idea of whom they wanted to favour.
Perhaps the Board, which has officially taken over the tasks of the former Nominating Committee, intends to have no election, essentially choosing just enough candidates to fill the expected vacant positions.
As democratic processes go, this procedure ranks pretty low on the democracy scale, effectively having the existing Board appoint replacements to its ranks… thus maintaining ideological bias and excluding any voices that might counsel restraint or moderate the Board’s agendas.
May 4, 2023: Spiteful vindictiveness emphasized:
The Dear Leader of the RASC has expanded on yesterday’s email (in blue, below)
The Board of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada unanimously passed the following resolution:
MOTION: That in light of Glenn Hawley’s expulsion in August 2022 as a member of the Society, the Society prohibits Mr. Hawley from attending any portion of the 2023 General Assembly.
I was actually de facto expelled in 2021, since there was never any method available to lift the so-called “suspension” inflicted on me.
Therefore you will not be permitted to attend the General Assembly of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.
Normally “therefore” expresses a consequence that follows a reasoned argument, but in this case he simply repeats the same assertion: I’m “prohibited” therefore I’m “not permitted”. This can be found in any thesaurus.
Regards, Charles Ennis, he/him
May the fourth be with you, Charles, for the RASC clearly needs all the help it can get.
May 3, 2023: Spiteful vindictiveness confirmed.
LOL… I do not know if it took almost a week for the 2023 GA organizers to notice me, or whether some regular reader of this webpage alerted them in a panic, but I received an email today saying they’re cancelling my admission to the event.
And, perhaps surprisingly in view of their desperate need for money, they claim they’re going to refund my $40 admission fee.
Had the RASC been spending more time on managing the Society and less time bullying and harassing people like myself, then there likely would not be such a fiscal fiasco.
April 28, 2023: Checking for spiteful vindictiveness.
I just signed up for the 2023 General Assembly, to be held remotely on May 5th – 7th. Of course I can no longer qualify for the cheap member rate, and had to pay my $40 as a non-member.
It will be interesting to see if the Board’s attitude of spiteful vindictiveness against me is still strong enough to reject my money in these fiscally difficult times for the Society.
April 17, 2023: More from Lisa Di Veto
For those I haven’t met or spoken with, my name is Lisa Di Veto. I was hired as a part-time Fund Development Consultant for the Society in September 2017 when donations were $20K a year. I’ve raised a total of $4.325 million dollars since then with a $1.1 million dollar surplus in 2021. Unfortunately, a $650K deficit was revealed in December 2022. The board and executive director met with National Council and Centre officials and primarily assigned the shortfall to fundraising and SkyNews with little mention of expenditure made without the earned income needed to cover costs. On April 6th, the board gave me notice of the termination of my contract due to the deficit. Given my understanding of the situation, I shared facts that the board did not in an April 6th communication. A week later, the board messaged RASC members in response. They did not explain any of the statements of fact about the $650K deficit they are responsible for. Instead, they personally maligned me, announced my part-time fee (quite a breach of confidentiality) and I’m afraid, lied. Inaccuracies were identified in an email I sent April 13th. Both of my communications are below and attached as a pdf.
I have as yet not seen the Board’s apologia… but I imagine it to be interesting.
Even though I’m a member in good standing, RASC revoked my access to member forums.
This sort of action is typical of the “cancel culture” movement that has taken hold of the Society of late.
I’m asking Centre officials to share this information with your members. I believe RASC membership is primarily composed of individuals who know what’s right and wrong, have strong ethics, moral integrity and of course, love astronomy. They should know how their beloved Society has been run into the ground by those in charge. Let the members assess factual information and make their own decisions. I trust that members will do the right thing and hold the board accountable for the loss of SkyNews, the robotic telescope, fee increases and authorizing the expenditure of hundreds of thousands of dollars the Society didn’t have. None of that is right and should be addressed.
I suspect the problems have been driven by a small core of Board members. Not all of the Board has been happy about the way things have been going… but there are risks involved in speaking out when “cancel culture” is rife.
The board is not being honest or forthright and members deserve to know the truth. Thank you for your consideration. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I may provide further information.
April 11, 2023: Lisa Di Veto, RASC fundraising manager, has few kind words to say about Robyn Foret, Charles Ennis, Randy Attwood, Phil Groff and others.
The situation at the National Office has been even more catastrophic than I would have anticipated, and has been quite dire for some time.
Lisa’s email message (forwarded to me by one of the current members) is in blue, and some remarks of mine are in black.
It’s disappointing to share with RASC members that Charles Ennis and Randy Attwood terminated my Fund Development contract citing RASC’s challenging financial situation. I’ve been strengthening operations and raising revenue for the Society since September 2017 when donations totalled $20K per annum. I’ve generated $4.325 million dollars since then including a pending $500K donation payment and $1.5 million dollar bequest agreement with the late Rudolph Dorner that’s now in probate.
Unfortunately, I was not responsible for spending. Nor does it appear, was anyone else other than executive director Phil Groff who revealed his $650K operating deficit last December. That’s when the board looked at 2022 financials to discover an extraordinary $1 million dollar donation had been spent in ten months. The board of directors, finance committee and treasurer were unaware of the significant shortfall until that time.
It seems a dereliction of duty for the Treasurer and Finance Committee to be so unaware of the finances. It’s kind of their JOB to look after such things.
It’s important to note that then president Robyn Foret directed me to stop fundraising early in 2022.
Why on Earth would the fundraiser be directed to ‘stop fundraising’. This defies all logic. What (if anything) would Robyn have been thinking?
A $250K application with phase one approval from the funder had to be withdrawn. It was to deliver astronomy camps to kids, an exciting initiative that would fund a new coordinator for three years and generate significant fees. The excuse given to stop seeking financial support was to not increase a new employee’s workload. That was not at all a factor in a proposal to hire new program staff, a request approved by the executive director and one I fully expected to be awarded based on past experience. Foret also cancelled member donation requests given the magnitude of unresolved problems staff had processing database donations, renewals and publication orders. The abrupt disruption to fundraising was said to give the board an opportunity to provide direction on programming and operations. That didn’t happen. Other than cease and desist orders, all that was accomplished was an ill planned interruption and resulting shortfall of $200K in projected 2022 donation and grant revenue. A major blow indeed, 100% engineered by the board of directors.
That knee jerk management style continues in other areas. SkyNews Editor-in-Chief Carina Ockedahl was notified of her termination February 1 and not given alternative publishing options. Office Manager Renata Koziol left and was replaced with a firm charging up to $150 an hour that billed $90K last year. That expense plus the salary for a replacement office manager cost nearly three times Renata’s wage and the three appointees do not deliver half of what Renata professionally managed: administration, HR supervision, publication and merchandise oversight in addition to all of RASC and SkyNews accounts receivable and payable. Office rent, janitorial and storage fees are almost twice the expense of the prior location and Groff signed a ten year lease. He also completely failed to manage the database conversion, a responsibility he took on rather than hire an IT expert as recommended by Renata and I.
I strongly suspect that if Robyn Foret and the Board had not expelled Roger Nelson from the Society that we would have had Roger’s extensive programming expertise available… and no disaster.
Both of us had conversion experience and knew the senior project management skills required. Groff did not have them. Driven continues to be fraught with costly errors and malfunctions, most not even recognized by untrained or missing staff. Shipping also continues to be problematic. The website has not been updated despite having received funding to do so.
Once again, the skills and dedication of Roger Nelson would have been most welcome had Robyn not turfed him out.
Staff failed to develop robotic telescope programming on any scale and its $25K annual site rental can’t be sustained.
That whole idea was flawed from the start. Astrophotographers these days require fast graphics cards in computers with substantial disk and memory, the software for image processing, and the skills needed to use those. People who have invested so much in their processing equipment generally have their own telescopes and imaging systems as well, and no real need for an extra telescope.
This was an initiative that the National Council would probably have voted against, had the Board offered them an opportunity to do so.
As a result of so many missteps and his devastating financial shortfall, Groff and the six employees he and the board hired all chose to jump ship including the last one engaged a few months ago who’s returning to school.
The impact of my termination on operations and revenue will be felt although income already generated will be received in the short term. A member advised they’ve changed their will and a third large bequest has been lost due to serious concerns about mismanagement. I would also anticipate a negative impact on revenue once GST is added to member fees and potential government directives are implemented following a CRA audit.
The decision to convert the Society from a predominantly member-oriented organization to a predominantly charitable one was something I have never supported, but saying “I told you so” bears a bitter taste.
It’s possible that bringing ideas to the National Council and only proceeding when the Council was in favour might have offered some moderation to restrain the Board from its more extremist ideas. My advocacy of that sort of process was consistently rejected by the Board while I was still a member of both the Council and the Society.
There are numerous other examples of incompetence but enough. I respect the organization’s mandate and the impressive work of its members. I’m very proud of what I was able to achieve with virtually no support and in fact, dealing with deliberate attempts by governance to derail successful fundraising strategies. I wish members well in the struggle to recover from poor management and bad decisions. Good luck.
Most of the work of the Society, including the vast majority of the volunteer time, is done at the local Centre level rather than at the National level.
Even if the Society’s National Office collapses completely, Centres might still be able to come together and, phoenix-like, recreate a more member-oriented federation akin to what the once-proud Society used to be.
March 30, 2023:
As of this writing, there seems to be some confusion at the RASC, for the society’s elections look to be planned for some as-yet unspecified date in late June, whereas the General Assembly looks to be planned for May 5-7.
Either the Board has decided to split the elections and AGM away from the GA, or maybe it’s just that no one has yet synchronized the details on the Society’s different web pages.
There also seem to be no Minutes available for the 2022 AGM, and despite his departure, Phil Groff’s name still appears as Executive Director in many places on the website.
Perhaps with the departure of most of the National Office staff, members of the Board need to step up and start doing some of this work, and perhaps not all of them are up to the required tasks.
March 22, 2023:
Were I to be a member and able to attend an AGM, I’d like to see a detailed breakdown of our costs, with budgets for individual committees, staff costs separated by staff dedicated to ‘charitable’ as well as staff doing actual ‘core member services’ (payments, membership list, arranging shipping of publications, etc). Remembering, of course, that these tasks used to be done by one person with little or no computer support and automation.
Robyn Foret’s first budget effort, for a bad example, was allocating cost of some staff as 50% to member services, even though they were already paid 100% by charitable grants.
I’d also ask which of those committees was being defunded (or even disbanded) under today’s circumstances.
And there needs to be a solid justification for maintaining funding to any surviving committees, such as some return on investment. We can’t afford to be spending money today, money that we don’t actually have, based on some vague ideological ideas or future prospects. (eg- IED and NexGen)
What steps are being taken to find smaller, cheaper, office space?
How much money do we actually have left? (usable money, not counting grants already allocated to specific programs)
What plan does the Society have to return to in-person General Assemblies, whose costs are membership based rather than involved in charitable or publication expenditures?
I also noticed that though Phil Groff has already found a new job as seen on Linkedin (good for him) his name is still scattered everywhere on our website.
The obvious solution would have been to set up all the names in a table, and have the website use pointers to pull out the names. But no progress was ever made.
March 12, 2023: The Board has sent a communication out to all members, (finally) explaining the horrendous deficit for the 2022 fiscal year, and the efforts being made to stop the haemorrhaging. Some highlights are remarked upon, below, with pertinent extracts of the Board’s communication in blue.
“… deficit of about $640,000 in the year ended December 31, 2022. This past December we analyzed the causes of this deficit, and we presented our findings to the National Council at its January 2023 meeting.”
With the problems being evident starting much earlier in the year, waiting until December seems a bit tardy for trying to analyze them.
“The Society retained a professional fundraiser in 2018, with the result that grants and donations increased from an average of about $21,000 to between $190,000 and $344,000…”
As a rule of thumb, overhead should make up around 5% of fundraising. Since in 2018 we were paying the consultant $60,000 a year, it would take annual new grants of $1.2 million just to break even. After the budget was announced in 2018 to the National Council, with a projected deficit of some $80,000, some discussion on the Council email list followed, and the obvious solution offered to such a deficit was to NOT hire the consultant. This suggestion was ignored by the Board.
“The number of head office staff servicing membership, various programs run by the Society, and SkyNews magazine has increased substantially.”
Most of these extra staff, over and above what is needed for membership services, should probably not have been hired in the first place. The RASC has moved away from serving its membership into a realm of serving pet projects of the Board.
“After consultation with the National Council, the Centres, and the SkyNews board of directors, the Board has created an action plan…”
In the past, ‘consultation’ with the National Council has been trivial, with the Board sometimes not even deigning to discuss important aspects such as finances in the ‘updates from the Board’ segment of NC meetings. Perhaps this has improved with the crisis now being faced.
“… SkyNews is no longer sustainable.” [followed by an extensive list of efforts made by the Board to force it to become sustainable]
This has been quite evident for some time, but like a lot of changes it has required an utterly obvious disaster for the necessary action to be taken. On the bright side, this also means we will be avoiding transgressing CRA rules that augur against charities owning for-profit entities.
“One of the important areas in which the Society can reduce expenses is by reducing the number of head office staff.”
The core membership services used to be managed in the 1960s by Marie Fidler, alone and with no computer support. She was followed by Rosemary Freeman, who also worked alone and with trivial computer assistance. They would update the membership list manually as the cheques came in, balance the bank statements, deposit the cheques, ship the Handbooks and Journals to the members, and much more.
While the membership was smaller back then, most of these tasks have been taken over by computers, with online payments and membership database being automatically updated, and the shipping of our main publications offloaded onto third parties.
Core membership services should be doable by two people at most, using the software systems we have available. Additional personnel are not needed to cover those core services, but we have them anyway.
“The RASC Board has also decided, again after consultation with the National Council and the Centres, to divest the Society of the robotic telescope, which is also a money-losing operation.”
Had the Board actively consulted with the National Council, and followed the voting advice of the NC, this would probably never have been purchased in the first place.
Getting rid of it also allows us to escape CRA rules that augur against using charitable money for member-only services… and access to the Robotic Telescope was ever only offered to members.
“… the Board is of the view that we need to concentrate less on new programs, which can be expensive and often non-revenue generating, and more on the core services that the Society needs to provide to Centres and the membership.”
It’s certainly taken the Board long enough to realize this, some four years, but better late than never. And better to move in this direction prior to exhausting all of the Society’s financial reserves.
“The Board intends to continue its communication with the National Council and the Centres…”
We can only hope that this ‘communication’ includes actual consultation, such as presenting issues to the NC, having the NC vote on those issues, and then abiding by the advice of the NC.
It has been suggested that following the advice of the NC would be illegal, since full responsibility for the operation of the Society lies with the Board, and the NC cannot force the Board to adhere to any recommendation. However, the Board is fully within its rights to obtain advice from the NC and to freely choose to act on that advice.
Doing so would give the NC a meaningful role in the governance of the Society, and provide the Centres with representation and a reason not to leave the Society.
February 3, 2023: Rumour has reached me from a RASC Member that the ill-fated SkyNews acquisition is finally being abandoned.
The magazine has been an albatross around the neck of the Society since it was first purchased, and the predictable declines in the magazine business in general have at last been recognized.
I eagerly await any indications of how this will affect the RASC’s enormous budgetary shortfall, apparently in excess of half a million dollars for this year.
January 21, 2023: This past Thursday, January 19th, was the regular Calgary RASC meeting. I had a more important one to attend at the Legion, so I didn’t go.
However, I spoke to someone who was there who said they saw both Robyn Foret and Roland Dechesne keeping a sharp lookout for me, in case I should appear anywhere at the Library.
It’s nice to know they’re still thinking of me… quite touching in fact.
January 5, 2023: I’m sending an Email to Robyn Foret, Simon Poole, and Roland Dechesne:
I trust you have all had as merry and as happy a Christmas and New Year as you believe you deserve.
The Calgary Public Library has apologized to me for their part in the events of October 20th, 2022.
Their security members were acting in good faith, based on information from you (and possibly others) that in reality was, to put it charitably, erroneous.
The Library has since also been informed that there has never been a ‘restraining order’ filed against me.
Should another public presentation, at the Calgary Public Library, be of interest to me, I expect to be treated as any other member of the public would be, and not be the target of continued harassment.