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LETTER: YMCA 'disappointed' with group's stance on legal fees

YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka agreed to accept half of legal costs incurred after lawsuit filed over Geneva Park sale, official says
YMCA Geneva Park
YMCA Geneva Park

BarrieToday welcomes letters to the editor at raymond@barrietoday.com. Please include your daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a news release from the Friends of Geneva Park, published May 11. 
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We were surprised and disappointed to hear of the recent news release by the Friends of Geneva Park (FOGP) related to our charity’s request to be compensated for legal costs incurred by our YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka in legal proceedings that were initiated against us by the FOGP.

During the Geneva Park real estate process, we sought a solution that balances the need to protect the long-term sustainability of our YMCA with the best community use of the property and the preservation of its legacy.

This best possible outcome was achieved with the sale to a buyer who has a demonstrated track record of breathing new life into important regional destinations and who has publicly shared his intention to undertake the work needed on site to ensure many safe and fun experiences at Geneva Park for years to come.

When the lawsuit was filed, which was a completely unforeseen and distressing development for our YMCA, we participated fully and respectfully in the process, in the same manner we do in all of our work. That is, with our regional community, and our YMCA values of caring, honesty, inclusiveness, respect and responsibility, at the forefront.

In dismissing the case, Justice Christie cited as part of the ruling that: “Charities are entitled to a presumption that they are complying with the law and should not be subjected to an unnecessary inquiry. No inquiry is required here. The YMCA has done everything in their power to keep this property operating for many years despite challenges. It would no longer be responsible for them to continue to put money back into this property. If they chose to do so, and created substantial unnecessary expense, then it might be said that they were doing something improper. This sale, while unfortunate, is a reasonable solution to the problem. Any funds received as a result of this sale will be used in furtherance of the YMCA’s charitable purposes.”

That is precisely what the $16.5 million in proceeds from the sale will be used for — towards the recovery and sustainability of our association and an investment into the charitable activities of our association, whether that is ensuring more children can experience the magic of day camp, more youth can hone their leadership skills, more isolated community members can achieve renewed health, or more new Canadians can find belonging and success in their new home country.

The plan, to be determined by our board of directors over the next few months, will consider every individual and family we serve, be developed in accordance with our new strategic plan, and put our YMCA values at the forefront. 

We believe that it is unfair for a charitable organization, responsible for serving 100,000 individuals across the region and already under pressure from the significant negative impacts of a global pandemic, to be asked to shoulder the financial burden of legal costs incurred as a result of defending a lawsuit on a case that was ultimately deemed to be without merit by the Superior Court.

Further, the full amount of costs incurred by our YMCA were not accurately represented in the group’s communication. However, our YMCA, in an effort to bring this matter to a final conclusion, had already made a concession to the group and agreed to accept less than half of the costs incurred by the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka in these proceedings, at $20,000, which all parties agreed to and the court has endorsed.

While we have always appreciated and respected the great passion that many stakeholder groups have for Geneva Park, the property has been sold to a caring and visionary new owner, and we are now looking to the future, focused on the great potential and possibility for our YMCA.

As our communities emerge from the pandemic and we begin on the road to recovery, our YMCA will be there, every step of the way, helping to build strong, healthy and inclusive communities across the region.

Karen Pulla
YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka, vice-president

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