By Raneem Alozzi, Sherina Harris and Emma Sandri
A board member alleged the current Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) executive team has spent over $250,000 using the union’s credit cards during a discussion at the RSU January board meeting, and a director resigned following the allegation.
RSU president Ram Ganesh said during the meeting that the cards could be used by any part-time or full-time RSU staff member. Towards the end of the meeting, Niall Hickey, a director from the Faculty of Ted Rogers School of Management resigned, saying he was disappointed with the union.
Maklane deWever said he saw RSU bank statements totalling a collective amount of $250,000. James Fotak, a Faculty of Arts director, said he saw the statements with deWever, and called them “disappointing.”
“What did you think was going to happen? Do you think we were just going to sit here and let you break financial policies?” asked deWever, student group director. “I email you every month…it’s really not that hard if you just follow the rules and you show up to meetings.”
The Eye previously reported Ganesh decided to divide the $20,000 typically held by the RSU’s general manager (GM) into two $10,000 credit cards, which he and vice-president operations Savreen Gosal had. He said that both cards would be streamlined into financial controller Dharshini Jay’s card in January.
Jay said that the decision to give two executives credit cards should have been brought to the board. In response, Ganesh said he had a “difference of opinion” with Jay.
“[Policies] aren’t about opinions,” said Chelsea Davenport, Faculty of Community Services director. “As a board we are concerned because you made a change to the [policies]…we want to know why you don’t respect our position.”
DeWever brought forward a motion which, if passed, would require Jay to meet with board directors and members and share financial information at her discretion.
The Board of Directors (BoD) meeting did not meet quorum, which prevented the board members from voting on any of the motions.
DeWever said he had seen the credit card statements and could confirm they were “not OK.” He said purchases were made at Nick’s Sports Shop and LCBO.
According to Jay, the RSU needs to get approval for purchasing alcohol, which she said they did not receive. A purchase of over $5,000 on alcohol would have needed to get approval from the board, she said. Board members said they were not consulted about these purchases.
“I know it’s illegal to sell alcohol in Ontario without a liquor license,” said deWever. “So what events are you having where you are giving away liquor to students for free?”
DeWever also said the statement included a purchase to Credit Risk Management Canada in Stratford, Ont. for $3,000 in October. According to their website, the company provides debt recovery solution and credit investigations, among other services like financial care contact management.
“Finances are public information,” said former vice-president student life & events Lauren Emberson, adding that this is the case unless the information in the statements could have legal repercussions.
Jay said the RSU has not submitted receipts for any of their purchases since they came into office in May. She set a deadline of February 1 for the exec team to submit the receipts.
According to Ganesh, the financial statements were not yet reconciled and that he could not provide explanations for the purchases until they were, meaning the receipts are still needed to confirm transactions are accurate. He cited high turnover at the union as one of the reasons for the delay. He did not respond to comment as of publication.
“The board is above the executive,” said Cristal Hines, a Faculty of Community Services Director. “You owe us answers.”
Ganesh said that the executive would provide the “right answers” for the board after the statements are reconciled with Jay by Feb. 1.