Saskatoon judge appoints accounting firm to manage Lighthouse, audit supported living facility's books
The accounting firm MNP is taking over operations of the Lighthouse Supported Living Inc. in Saskatoon and will audit its books to figure out how the organization ended up in its current dire financial straits.
This means the downtown building will remain open and house more than 100 low-income tenants. But its long-term future remains uncertain.
Court of King's Bench Justice Allisen Rothery accepted a joint proposal Friday to appoint MNP. The ruling ends a fractious month for the troubled facility, which has been plagued by board infighting, a long legal battle and mass firings and resignations.
Two board members, Jerome Hepfner and Twila Reddekopp, applied earlier this month to have the court appoint MNP as a receiver with limited powers and set a time frame to come up with a report.
The three remaining members — Don Windels, Lisa McCallum and Adeel Salman — initially opposed the application, but later changed their minds.
"I think today's agreement is a testament that we came together to agree on something," Salman said outside court Friday. "Both sides understood that the corporation, the people — we have to put them first."
The order gives MNP the power to market three Lighthouse properties in North Battleford, which includes a shelter and two homes.
Lawyer Travis Kusch, who represents Hepfner and Reddekopp, said MNP "will not have the power to sell … [the properties], pending further court approval, but simply list them and market them and receive and solicit offers."
Salman said this is the best way forward.
"By selling some assets, we can deal with some of the debt, help with the cash flow," he said.
During a court hearing last week, Wayne Pederson, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Affinity Credit Union, said the Lighthouse owes the credit union $2.3 million. The non-profit also has a line of credit with Affinity.
Pederson said last week the Lighthouse had $43,000 left on its line of credit — not enough to meet its next payroll.
"My hope is that with the court order in place the goal would be to uncover what went wrong, and where," Salman said Friday.
"Once we are to identify that, I think as a board we would be able to proceed forward with the governance measures we had, we were looking forward to in the first session."
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.
MNP is expected to submit its report to the court in April.