By Julianna Cummins
Campus radio station CKLN is suing the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) and Ryerson University for over $500,000 in damages for withholding the station’s membership fees for the past two years.
The statement of claim, served to the RSU less than two weeks ago, is asking the union and the university for $400,000 in damages for breach of contract, and another $150,000 for punitive damages.
“It shouldn’t have come to this. The RSU has no business involving itself in what is basically a hostile takeover of a federal corporation, which is what we are,” said Daibhid James, a staff member at CKLN.
Ryerson collects the membership fees that pay for the operating budget of the radio station through students’ tuition fees, and then hands it over to the RSU to give to CKLN.
“Ryerson was informed that they were going to withhold it, and they gave it to them anyways,” said James. CKLN is calling a breach of contract dated in the early 1980s and is the reason why the university is included in the lawsuit.
There are currently two separate boards of directors struggling for power. This has prohibited the RSU from giving CKLN their funds, said RSU president Muhammad Ali Jabbar.
“Our lawyers are holding them (the funds) in trust until we can know who to give the money to,” said Jabbar. “Right now, there are two people who are coming to me and saying, ‘I’m the right CKLN’, well, no ‘I’m the legal CKLN.'”
James said the multiple-board argument may not stand up well in court because of what he saw in the preliminary hearing in another lawsuit.
Ron Nelson, a former radio show host at CKLN and a member on one of the board of directors, had sold advertisements on his show and pocketed the money, said James. Nelson owed CKLN about $6,000, which the station sued him for.
“They tried to argue the same thing that the RSU is arguing… and it got brushed right off,” said James, referring to the argument that the existence of two boards stops the money from going anywhere.
James also said that when he had spoken to members of the RSU’s board of directors, none of them had been informed of the lawsuit.
“They didn’t want it, one would assume, coming out during the election,” said James, referring to the executives originally served with the statement of claim.
The RSU refrained from speaking much about the lawsuit under the advice of their lawyers, but the board and executive are always updated on CKLN developments, said Jabbar.
“The executives have been informed, as well as the board, of the CKLN situation from day one,” said Jabbar. Contractual agreements are generally dealt with at the executive level, he said. Osman Hamid, student groups director and member of the executive committee, said he had not heard about the legal troubles the RSU was facing with CKLN.
“When I heard about this, I was shocked,” said Hamid. He said he had heard nothing about the lawsuit until the statement of claim became available to media on Monday.
“This is amazing, because we might be liable for more than $500,000 when we are already under a deficit,” said Hamid.