Details on Hossein Lawsuit Revealed Following KPIRG AGM

Past and present members of KPIRG, as well as representatives from the KSA, discuss the alleged fraud

From left to right: KPIRG Directors Jagdeep Mangat, Simon Massey, and Raqiya Khan at KPIRG’s annual general meeting. (Tristan Johnston)

with files from Tristan Johnston, Contributor 

While the case between the Kwantlen Public Interest Research Group and Richard Hossein remains in its earliest stages, some affiliated with KPIRG are opening up about what happened with approximately $112,000 in allegedly misappropriated funds collected from its membership. They have also divulged what they are doing now to address the issue.

When KPIRG first began to suspect that their former administrative coordinator had allegedly committed fraud against them, one of the society’s directors, Simon Massey, phoned the police about the incident and later met with them to give a statement. The RCMP are currently investigating the case.

Response from KPIRG

Following the society’s annual general meeting on March 28, the directors of KPIRG are Jagdeep Mangat, Simon Massey, and the newly elected Yasmin Ullah. Former director Raqiya Khan did not choose to seek re-election at the meeting. KPIRG’s staff members are Outreach & Communications Coordinator Idil Isse, Research & CARPP Coordinator PJ Lilley, and Administrative Coordinator Dana Kagis.

The only member of this team who worked alongside Hossein during his time at KPIRG is Massey, though he only did so as a volunteer while working officially with the Kwantlen Student Association. By the time that he was signed on as a director in June 2017, the alleged misappropriation of funds had already begun.

Massey says he was not aware of how the funds were allegedly removed from the society until after the investigation began. He explains that KPIRG has a legal obligation not to disclose confidential information related to the case.

“We should not disclose the parts of a potential litigation before they’re made public,” he says. “We wish so strongly that we were able to, but it’s our fiduciary duty that prevents us from doing that.”

Two of KPIRG’s directors who were on the board during Hossein’s time as administrative coordinator, Russel Liu and Lincey Amora, were asked to resign after an in-camera session during a meeting on Feb. 15, 2018. Both Liu and Amora were signing authorities while the alleged fraud took place.

The most recent bookkeeper for KPIRG, Monita Naicker, gave her two-weeks notice within a few days of the organization’s AGM. In her email alerting Massey of her resignation, she wrote that she is unable “to give the full attention that someone needs to provide to the organization.”

As a result, the group is currently seeking a new bookkeeper. Massey says that KPIRG is “looking for someone to provide more frequent updates and tighter controls to keep the board more informed of what’s going on all the time.”

When asked who signed the cheques for the expenses listed on the notice of civil claim, Massey replied, “As the legal proceedings go on, all of our documents will become public record, so all of the information will be available to the public.”

After his departure from KPIRG in the fall of 2017, Hossein was replaced as administrative coordinator by Dana Kagis, a long-time activist with an undergraduate degree in cultural anthropology and several years of administrative experience.

Kagis had no involvement with KPIRG until she was hired last September. She says that she spends a typical work day taking minutes, coordinating with other staff, providing office supplies and event support, and filing paperwork for processing and signing cheques, timesheets, payroll, bills, and rent payments.

“Everything that I’ve done in terms of my work with cheque-signing and writing has been clear and transparent,” says Kagis. “When I present cheques, I’m recording paperwork to directors for signatures. I take the time to let them look everything over very thoroughly and ask me any questions they need to. I ensure that everybody understands which cheque is being signed for what and that the appropriate amount is being signed.”

She feels that, because of what supposedly took place last year, having her work heavily overseen by directors is important.

“I want to put that legacy behind us. I want to move forward with a new and positive face for this organization,” she says. “I care deeply about social and environmental justice and I don’t want to put that at risk. I think it’s important to be accountable because that’s part of what being an activist is.”

Comments from Kim McMartin

Kimberley McMartin, a former outreach coordinator for KPIRG, was one of the few people involved in the organization with Hossein during 2017. She remains a KPU student but is leaving the university after she completes her final semester this summer. In her time with the university, McMartin has occupied several roles in KPIRG, the Kwantlen Student Association, and the KPU Senate.

McMartin first became involved with KPIRG as its board organizer in 2016 and resigned during the summertime of 2017 due to mental health issues. She was also a signing officer for the organization.

While she only learned about the notice of civil claim between KPIRG and Hossein on March 27, she was made aware of the “questioning of where things went” during the early stages of the research group’s investigation into the issue.

“The last I heard, they were looking into some of the claims …. That was a few months ago that they were looking into it,” she says. “They were doing their due diligence. They were working together, as any good board should.”

When McMartin was KPIRG’s board organizer, she spent a majority of her time creating the society’s strategic plans, reviewing the activities of other directors, planning events, conducting outreach and communication, and tracking grants and spending. She was performing these duties—as well as managing the organization’s policy committee—while Hossein was the administrative coordinator.

McMartin says that, during this time, she “may have signed one or two” cheques that were stated in KPIRG’s notice of civil claim against Hossein. Still, she believes that she “didn’t sign anything without associated paperwork and minutes involved within that.”

“I know that they were not, like, the $8,000 [cheque]. It may have been $1,000 to $2,000, but it was with associated paperwork at all times,” she says. The associated paperwork, according to McMartin, includes minutes from board meetings that were approved by directors, as well as all associated bills and records.

When asked how she and the other signing authorities in KPIRG could have overseen the alleged misallocation of funds, McMartin responds that they “didn’t really get the entire history of the [society]” while they were working there.

“At that point we thought it was only a few missed deadlines. We thought it was only a few missed other things,” she says. “It was very much, I felt, guarded. It was in [Hossein’s] sort of area. We weren’t really privy to a lot of stuff. It was on his hard drive.”

McMartin says that, had she known the cheques written to Hossein were purportedly fraudulent, she “never would have signed them.”

“I would have called the cops within the first second,” she says. “That should never have happened. It is incredibly saddening that a person who built such an organization as KPIRG would take advantage of KPIRG’s generosity and its love of inclusion, and just become the thing that KPIRG is fighting against.”

When she was working with KPIRG, McMartin says that she saw Hossein as “a person in trust” and “a person who people looked up to, not within KPIRG but within the KPU community.”

Now, according to McMartin, Hossein is in Vietnam and no one is able to make contact with him. Addressing her former colleague directly, McMartin tells Hossein to return to KPU in order to tell his side of the story.

“Just come back,” she says. “This can all be fixed if we work together to fix it. This whole thing can bring down KPIRG when this isn’t what KPIRG stands for.”

KSA General Manager Jeremy McElroy and KSA President Tanvir Singh at the KPRIG AGM. Singh specified that he was attending the meeting more as a student than in his capacity as KSA President. (Braden Klassen)

Comment from the Kwantlen Student Association

The Kwantlen Student Association is responsible for collecting the fees that fund KPIRG. However, the president of the Kwantlen Student Association, Tanvir Singh, only heard about the allegedly misappropriated funds during a meeting with Simon Massey and Jagdeep Mangat in mid-March.

Although he says that he is “disappointed in them for not coming to [the KSA] sooner,” and feels that “a week before filing civil notice isn’t necessarily the most appropriate thing to do,” Singh also acknowledges that their decision to inform the KSA was an act of good faith.

In his capacity as KSA President, Singh has been reviewing KPIRG’s minutes for years. Throughout the last year, he says that he felt “concerned about how their money has been going,” but didn’t have the evidence to support an investigation into the group’s finances.

Still, the executive director of the KSA, Jeremy McElroy, maintains that “the KSA as an entity doesn’t actively engage with KPIRG’s governance.” He adds that the student association will be having a discussion with the research group’s new board in the near future to discuss how to move forward.

Singh claims that, despite asking members of KPIRG to meet with him and the KSA VP Finance to discuss the research group’s spending, the two parties were unable to collaboratively examine KPIRG’s financial operations.

The notice of civil claim filed by KPIRG against Hossein alleges that Hossein forged documents in order to secure funds. Singh says that, if this is true, it is “deceit of the highest level, especially when you’re deceiving young individuals who might be inexperienced on a board.”

“I think it’s absolutely disgusting for an individual like that to do that,” says Singh. “There aren’t a lot of safety measures you can put in place in that regard, other than to ensure that everybody is super informed of what they’re signing.”

Singh encourages students at KPU to “take a hard look and decide whether they want to continue funding KPIRG or not” now that the lawsuit has gone public.

“We have an agreement with them where, as long as they abide by their own rules, their own constitution, and the Societies Act, we will continue funding them,” he says. “If they happen to break any of those parts, we have the ability to go into a meeting and have a discussion about their funding.”

According to McElroy, the process of the KSA defunding another student organization is complicated and should be avoided if possible.

“There’s a process with all contracts. Usually there’s some level of arbitration, so there’s a notice requirement of an infraction, and depending on the severity of that infraction, we can either jump straight to the end or work in good faith on trying to remedy the situation,” he says. “If we notice that something was going awry we would write a letter and then move forward from there.”

Singh explains that the KSA executive committee and the executive director have met to discuss the issue and are currently awaiting the advice of their legal counsel on what to do next. McElroy says that it will be discussed further at an executive committee meeting next week.

“On a personal level, I’m always disappointed to hear when student funds are used improperly, and when the allegations are of a high level of deceit,” says McElroy. “That’s something that the KSA dealt with a long time ago, and something we really hoped to keep KPU out of the news for, so it’s always disappointing when these things happens. Nobody wins when these situations come up.”

The Future of KPIRG’s Financial Transparency and Spending

A series of preventative measures are being put in place by KPIRG in order to ensure that its funds are not misallocated in the future.

According to Massey, one of these changes is that the administrative coordinator will no longer be the only point of contact for—nor the only person able to access documents pertaining to—financial matters of the society. Closely following the organization’s policies and contracts regarding necessary oversight is another standard being set by the current members of KPIRG.

A forensic audit is also being conducted to “go back and examine everything,” says Massey.

While KPIRG has stated its plans to recover the funds it allegedly lost to Hossein, there is a possibility that the price of pursuing legal action could be higher than the total dollars allegedly misappropriated. This situation may have been what led the KSA, in 2012, to drop a highly publicized lawsuit against several of its former directors.

“I think it’s a lose-lose [scenario],” says Singh. “If you go after him for the funds, you’re wasting a lot of money. You might even spend more money [than was lost] to get that money back. If you let the case go, you let someone go with defrauding you, allegedly.”

Massey says that KPIRG will be continually in consultation with its lawyers about how to effectively navigate taking legal action against Hossein.

“We don’t have a plan to just run wild and spend all of our students’ money chasing, potentially, less money than we spend doing it,” he says. “But since this is early on in the claim process, it’s going to be through careful consultation with our legal counsel.”

As of March 29, Hossein has stated to The Runner that he has “no comment” on the civil claim against him.

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