Questions remain as to whether a potential Lighthouse receivership will serve Saskatoon’s homeless population
Adeel Salman is no stranger to the finger-pointing and finger-pointing that characterize The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc.’s public proclamations these days.
Just this week, Salman, a board member at the non-profit organization Saskatoon, filed an affidavit in the Court of King’s Bench alleging that two other board members — Twila Reddekopp and Jerome Hepfner — paid $1 mismanaged a million dollars.
Salman submitted his affidavit as part of an ongoing court hearing initiated earlier this month by Reddekopp and Hepfner, who want to see an interim liquidator appointed over alleged mismanagement by Salman and other board members.
Judge Allisen Rothery will rule on that request on Friday. Your decision has the potential to fundamentally change how the Lighthouse works, or if it even still exists.
Salman joined the Lighthouse board in 2019. He said in a recent interview that despite years of allegations and affidavits, what worries him most is that nobody seems to care about the homeless people who depend on the lighthouse tower for shelter.
“Here’s a resident, her name is Joan. She was in court yesterday and at recess she came up to us and said, ‘Am I losing my home?’ It was a difficult question to understand,” Salman said.
“Regardless of the governance issues – which, as I said, is the case with all organizations – there are people who still need support. There are people who are affected and have no say in it.”
It’s been a tough two years for an organization that has dedicated more than two decades to helping the city’s vulnerable. Salman said he’s watched it transition from a range of addiction, alcohol, mental health and shelter services to today, where it primarily offers supported living.
In 2021, a report by Judge David Gerecke ordered then-executive director Don Windels to be removed for questionable financial dealings.
That report was subject to a six-month publication ban that was lifted in the summer of 2022. It revealed that Windels asked the Lighthouse for a loan in 2017 so he could buy a house for his recently divorced daughter. Instead, the lighthouse itself bought the property for $60,000. The lighthouse paid for insurance, utilities, and property taxes.
The amount was not recorded as a loan. It entered the Lighthouse’s books as a $60,000 investment.
The judge found that “Don Windels had sole and exclusive possession of the Walmer house for the entirety of the time it was owned by the lighthouse.” The deal was approved by the Lighthouse board in a closed session.
Reddekopp said in an affidavit filed for the final court hearing that she and Hepfner continued to investigate the Lighthouse books after the organization’s problems became public and that other irregularities surfaced, including the following:
The lighthouse had used a service called Telpay for payroll and other expenses. Reddekopp wrote that no documentation was kept for payments made through Telpay, “so we had an extremely difficult time reconciling payments and actual spend.”
Someone had withdrawn $91,299 from a Lighthouse investment account since 2016 with no record of where the money went.
On Jan. 26, the Department of Human Services told the Lighthouse that it was withholding $101,570 “because the Lighthouse is unable to provide the Department with required financial reports,” Reddekopp wrote.
Reddekopp said Lighthouse employees reached out to them with concerns about upcoming layoffs.
“On or about February 6, 2023, he has [an unnamed staffer] received a notice of termination stating that Lighthouse is conducting a bulk termination of 49 employees effective March 6, 2023,” she wrote.
Attorney Wayne Pederson appeared by phone at the hearing last week to speak for Affinity Credit Union, which Lighthouse owes $2.3 million. The nonprofit also has a line of credit with Affinity. According to Pederson, the Lighthouse now has $43,000 left on its line of credit — not enough to pay off its next paycheck.
Pederson suggested that “assets must be sold to pay off debts.”
The court also heard how employees at Blue Mountain Adventure Park Inc., a related Lighthouse company near Battleford, were not paid.
Rothery will choose between two bankruptcy versions on Friday.
Reddekopp and Hepfner are applying for temporary receivership, with MNP taking over operations for a fixed period of time with clear parameters.
Salman’s attorneys and board members Don Windels and Lisa McCallum also suggest it goes into receivership, but with MNP playing a reduced role. One difference is that the members would elect a new board to manage day-to-day activities, while the recipient would take care of the finances.
Salman said he was willing to accept Lighthouse going into receivership “if receivership is the best course for the organization.”
“Is it the best course and why are we doing it? Without discussing the legitimacy of all of the claims in the affidavits, do all of these claims actually add up to what it takes?”
Salman warns against discarding all the good that the lighthouse has done in order to reach a tight end. He said staff had developed the infrastructure — the records, manuals and program data — over 19 years and that still has a place.
“How can we do better than before so as not to make the same mistakes again,” he said.