Questions remain about whether possible Lighthouse receivership will serve Saskatoon homeless population

Adeel Salman joined the Lighthouse board in 2019. (Travis Reddaway/CBC - image credit)
Adeel Salman joined the Lighthouse board in 2019. (Travis Reddaway/CBC - image credit)

Adeel Salman is no stranger to the finger-pointing and blame-laying that's come to characterize the public proclamations from The Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. these days.

Just this week Salman, a board member for the Saskatoon non-profit, filed an affidavit at Court of King's Bench alleging that two other board members — Twila Reddekopp and Jerome Hepfner — mismanaged $1 million in facility money between January 2022 and January 2023.

Salman filed his affidavit as part of an ongoing court hearing initiated earlier this month by Reddekopp and Hepfner, who want to see an interim receiver appointed because of alleged mismanagement by Salman and other board members.

Justice Allisen Rothery will decide on that application Friday. Her ruling has the potential to fundamentally change how the Lighthouse operates, or whether it continues to exist at all.

Salman joined the Lighthouse board in 2019. He said in a recent interview that what troubles him most, even with the years of allegations and affidavits, is that no one seems to be looking out for the homeless who rely on the Lighthouse tower for shelter.

"There's a resident here, her name is Joan. She was yesterday at the court and during the break she came up to us and said, 'Am I going to lose my home?' It was a tough question to comprehend," Salman said.

"Regardless of the governance issues — which, like I said, that's the case with all organizations — there are people who still need the support. There are people who are getting affected and have zero say in this."

It has been a hard two years for an organization that has aimed to help the vulnerable in the city for upwards of two decades. Salman said he has watched it go from offering a range of addiction, alcohol, mental health and shelter services to now, where it primarily offers supported living.

In 2021, a report by Justice David Gerecke ordered that then-executive director Don Windels be removed because of 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 went on the Lighthouse's books as a capital asset worth $60,000.

Yasmine Ghania/CBC
Yasmine Ghania/CBC

The judge found that, "Don Windels had sole and exclusive possession of the Walmer house for the entire time it was owned by the Lighthouse." The deal was approved by the Lighthouse board in a closed-door meeting.

Reddekopp said in an affidavit filed for the latest court hearing that she and Hepfner continued to examine the Lighthouse books after the organization's woes went public, and that more irregularities emerged, including the following:

  • The Lighthouse had used a service called Telpay for payroll and other expenses. Reddekopp wrote that there had been no documentation kept for payments through Telpay, "so we have been having an extremely difficult time reconciling payments and actual expenses."

  • Someone had withdrawn $91,299 since 2016 from a Lighthouse investment account, with no record left of where the money went.

  • On Jan. 26, the Ministry of Social Services told the Lighthouse it was withholding $101,570, "because of the Lighthouse's inability to provide the required financial reporting to the ministry," Reddekopp wrote.

Reddekopp said that Lighthouse staff have reached out to her with concerns of pending layoffs.

"On or about Feb. 6, 2023, he [an unnamed staffer] received a notice of layoff of his employment which indicated that the Lighthouse was undertaking a group termination of 49 employees effective March 6, 2023," she wrote.

Lawyer Wayne Pederson appeared at the hearing last week by phone to speak for Affinity Credit Union, to which the Lighthouse owes $2.3 million. The non-profit 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 meet its next payroll.

Pederson suggested that "assets will have to be sold to resolve debts."

Court also heard how staff at Blue Mountain Adventure Park Inc., a related Lighthouse company near Battleford, have not been paid.

On Friday, Rothery will choose between two versions of receivership.

Reddekopp and Hepfner are requesting it be placed in a limited form of receivership, with MNP taking over its operations for a set period of time with clear parameters.

Lawyers for Salman and board members Don Windels and Lisa McCallum are also proposing that it go into receivership, but with MNP taking a reduced role. A difference is that the membership would elect a new board to manage day-to-day activities while the receiver would look at the finances.

Salman said he's prepared to accept the 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 the claims in the affidavits — do all these claims actually add up to what it needs?"

Salman cautions against throwing out all the good done by the Lighthouse to achieve a narrow end. He said staff developed the infrastructure — the records, manuals and program data — over 19 years and this still has a place.

"How can we make this better than what it was before, not to repeat the same mistakes again," he said.