Squamish Chamber elects new board 

Old membership challenge remains, with lawyers now involved

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The future looks brighter for the Squamish Chamber of Commerce following a year many chamber members might like to forget.

Jasmine Henczel will serve as the organization's president for the next year, picking up where she left off as the interim chair last year.

Henczel moved into the chamber's top job after Mo Freitag stepped down to run for the position of Squamish-Lillooet Regional District (SLRD) Representative in Area D. Frietag won the election and he didn't return to the chamber executive.

Henczel won the support of the executive at a board meeting held on Jan. 17.

The new executive team will continue to deal with a dispute with former chamber member John Jervis, who was removed as a director and tossed out of the organization late last year.

Lawyers are now involved so Jervis and the board of directors have chosen to remain silent about the particulars of the situation.

Last week, Jervis issued a news release indicating that on the advice of his lawyer he will not be speaking publicly about the situation. When asked about the situation this week, Henczel said she was prepared to talk about how the new board is off to a good start following a daylong strategic planning session.

"The group worked really well together and I think we're going to have a really good year in 2012," she said after the planning meeting. "Moving forward, I think it is going to be a really productive year."

Michael Quesnel, a new executive member who has been vocal in the past about the dismissal of Jervis, also said the strategic planning meeting was productive.

"We have a great board," Quesnel said. "I'm stoked on a couple of the new members coming onto the board."

Now that Quesnel is a board member he isn't able to speak as freely as he did late last year when he criticized the old board for, in his opinion, not following the organization's bylaws in the process of dismissing Jervis.

Jervis has maintained that the allegations levelled against him by the previous board are unfounded and he has brought a lawyer into the dispute to protect his reputation. At a tension-filled general meeting of membership on Dec. 5 a number of people vouched for Jervis, indicating the allegations against him weren't consistent with his character.

At the Jan. 17 meeting of the executive, the first public meeting of the new chamber executive, Quesnel stated that he wants the current board to deal with the lingering questions around the member dismissal.

For former chamber president Margo Dent the division within the organization is nothing new. She contemplated stepping down from her position as president in March of 2010 over concerns around disregard for the chamber bylaws.

"There is a palpable division in the group," she wrote before Jervis became a member.

According to Dent, the nastiness at that time could only be classified as bullying and she said there was a lack of cohesion along with a general feeling of distrust amongst the directors.

The current chamber executive voted new executive member Patrick Stafford-Smith into the position of first vice president and Gina Ball is the new second vice president. Sameer Kajani is the organization's past president while Denise Jimmo is the secretary and Mark Stephens is taking on the role of treasurer.

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