Prince George's chapter of Habitat For Humanity was given ample opportunity to meet the standards of the national organization but refused to comply, said a former board member.
She described a relationship that involved many attempts, including at least one trip from head office to Prince George, trying to bring Prince George's group into the fold but eventually ran out of options. Last week, the charitable organization that builds greatly discounted homes for families in need opted to pull the Prince George chapter's charter - something done only once before in the history of Habitat Canada.
"They sent a team, as they do for all affiliates, as part of the audit process," said Terri Lube, a three-year board member and former vice-president until early 2013.
"They found numerous things that were noncompliant: policies and procedures stuff. There wasn't money missing but they wanted better accounting practices. They gave us a list of things we needed to fix. They were time-consuming but not impossible. There was dissension in the board at that point because some wanted to bring our operation up to code and some felt national was bullying our affiliate. But we were given fair warning at that point that if we did not become compliant they could conceivably pull our affiliation rights. Plenty of warning, lots of dialogue, lots of instructions, everything was laid out and easy to understand. I was just heartbroken to see all this happen."
Attempts to obtain comment from recent leaders of the Prince George chapter were unsuccessful by deadline.
Habitat For Humanity officials concurred with Lube that the attempts to bring Prince George into equal alignment with the other 65 chapters across Canada went on for a prolonged length of time.
"Im not able to share specifics, but I can tell you that we have been working with the affiliate since September 2012," said Antonietta Mirabelli, Habitat's vice-president of marketing and communications.
"We have had ongoing discussions and in-person meetings to get them up to speed regarding our national standards program."
Lube said it was not a matter of anyone on the board misunderstanding the directives. It was a deliberate act by the voting majority of board members to do things their own way because they liked their systems better than the national ones, and didn't like the transparency Habitat For Humanity headquarters insisted on.
"It doesn't matter what we think, we are a franchise, we signed up with a respected organization in order to use their good name and their good standards to accomplish something wonderful for our community," Lube said.
"Like any other franchise, you have to follow the rules of national body. None of their [national] requests were difficult to accomplish and were not unrealistic - standards that are in place for sound reasons, accountability reasons, sustainability reasons.
There was a real lack of communication from our end to their end, and what makes me sad is our affiliate was warned and warned and warned. I think their heart was in the right place, but they just refused to be in compliance because it took control away from their own hands."
The parcel of land purchased by the affiliate on which to build their next home, the store (building and contents) that housed the ReStore thrift building supplies shop, the truck that serviced the store, and all other assets are the sole property of the national body, according to those involved.
"It is our understanding that the store is now closed," said Mirabelli.
"All net assets are to be returned to Habitat Canada for distribution to other affiliates."
The exception, she said, would be if another set of volunteers comes together and comes forward with an offer to take over the Prince George chapter. That would be welcomed by the national body, according to Mirabelli.