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FOCB helped fund OMB appeal

Friends of Crystal Beach $5,000 donation.

Photocopy of cheque of the $5,000 donation made to help FEWPA overturn the decision to rezone the Bay Beach lands for a condominium development.

Published Dec. 7, 2011 — When the Friends of Crystal Beach “drew the line” — as described by its president — at removing comments about the group’s position on the Bay Beach condominium project, there was no option but to revoke its bingo licence, said the manager of the town’s bingo authority.

Community Gaming Development Corporation manager Russ Wilson said the website and other evidence showed the group was acting in a political manner which the province forbids in its lottery licensing policy.

Although the group was a “stellar organization” as far as its record keeping and bingo management were concerned, its attempt to “persuade public opinion on a political issue” disqualified it from having a bingo licence.

Screen capture of one of the offending statements on the FOCB website.

Screen capture of one of the offending statements on the FOCB website. Click to enlarge. Click here to see the web page which is still active.

The FOCB encouraged people to donate to the Fort Erie Waterfront Preservation Association and even gave $5,000 to FEWPA to finance its Ontario Municipal Board Appeal against the condo project.

The group was authorized in the spring to raise up to $5,000 from bingo.

Wilson said a formal complaint came to the CGDC this summer through two board members and one directly to him.

The complaint alleged the FOCB used its waterfront concerts, which are funded by bingo revenue, to help FEWPA solicit money for its cause.

The allegation was never proven, and FOCB president Bob Lund said it was not true and any fundraising was for FOCB projects.

He and treasurer Hans Schonewille pointed out the $5,000 donation to FEWPA came from the group’s general account which is kept separate from its bingo account.

Lund said the donation was made prior to council’s decision to rezone the Bay Beach land in March 2010, the group’s records show the cheque was written on Dec. 9, 2010 — about three weeks after the OMB hearing had concluded — when FEWPA’s fundraising efforts intensified.

Marcia Carlyn, the FOCB’s membership chairman, used numerous mass emails to solicit donations to FEWPA and encourage people to attend FOCB meetings.

Lund himself is one of seven people who are suing the Town of Fort Erie to stop the project.

Schonewille said the donation was a unanimous decision of the full membership, not just the board.

“We were aware of what FEWPA wanted to do,” he said. “They asked for donations and a donation was given.”

Wilson said the donation was discovered during the investigation of the complaints.

The refusal of the FOCB to remove statements from its website about the Bay Beach project triggered the revocation of the group’s licence.

Lund and another FOCB member, Jerry Pequeen, were warned that the statements would have to be removed or the licence would be revoked.

Schonewille told the appeal committee that changes were made in late August but some unexplained error allowed the offending statements to be viewed when found through a Google search.

Wilson and CGDC staff member Al Stouffer met with the FOCB on August 31. The next day Lund told Wilson the board refused to change the website. Wilson sent a letter Sept. 2 advising the group it was no longer eligible to have a lottery licence.

Wilson said the FOCB is free to engage in all the political activities and fundraising it wants.

“If you choose that one of your fundraising methods is going to be charitable gaming in the province of Ontario, the legislation around charitable gaming precludes them from doing it,” he said.

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