ANOTHER standoff involving the South Australian Harness Racing Club committee has begun.
Already in the middle of a dispute with Harness Racing SA, the club is now under pressure from a group of its members.
To add a degree of background, HRSA gave the committee an ultimatum – either they stood down by April 5 or racing would cease at Globe Derby.
The committee elected to stand its ground which saw the governing body transfer meetings to other venues as of April 9.
Earlier today HRSA released its May programming, which has seen race cards moved to different tracks, including the Southern Cross Final which will be conducted in Port Pirie on May 18.
In July 2015 it was the club which issued HRSA with a list of demands via its lawyer threatening to block races from being conducted at the venue.
Club officials stated the main issue was the lack of funding to cover the race day expenses.
In reaction to the legal document, HRSA switched the Southern Cross program – the most important local event of the season – to Port Pirie just two days before its scheduled time.
Ironically, the latest rift between the two parties includes HRSA’s “significant concerns regarding the formidable operating losses reported by the club over the past decade”.
As for the members’ issue with the committee, the group led by Tony Copeland also believe it is time for a change in direction for the club.
The Copeland crew has provided the committee with a letter requesting a Special General Meeting.
Having followed clause 35.5 of the club’s constitution by delivering the correspondence to the club’s office yesterday, Copeland explained the committee has a legal obligation to host the meeting within 21 days.
During the meeting the members will call upon the committee to temporarily hand the ‘reins’ to HRSA while an independent auditor investigates the club’s finances and management.
“Basically from where I sit, and speaking on behalf of concerned members, the club is in dire need of an overhaul,” Copeland said. “We’ve filed a request for Special General Meeting and at that time will be voting for certain actions to be taken.
“Principally we want the club’s constitution amended to allow control of club to be in HRSA’s control for short time.
“The HRSA will then have to obtain an independent forensic audit of the financial situation at the club and an independent evaluation on how it should be managed moving forward.
“At the last count the club has 175 members and I’ve got 40 signatures on the request for a Special General Meeting.
“The constitution says the request must be by not less than 10 per cent of the members, it is signed by 23 per cent, and once that is done the committee has to call a meeting within 21 clear days.”
Copeland was also quick to point out HRSA cannot take control of the club’s assets as some participants appear to believe.
“HRSA can take over control of the club’s day-to-day operation, but cannot assume the assets of the club under its constitution,” Copeland said. “For HRSA to try to sell anything or take over an asset they would need support of 75 per cent of the members.
“Even a change in the constitution in attempt to give themselves that power again requires a vote and support of the club’s members, so realistically HRSA cannot own or sell any of the club’s assets.”
Acknowledging receipt of the request for a Special General Meeting, club President Richard Miller stated the committee will provide an answer in due course.
Before it can respond the committee has to ensure the request does in fact meet the requirements of the constitution in order to be following all required rules.
As can be the case, clauses and conditions can be misinterpreted meaning Copeland’s request may fall short in certain areas.
“The committee will consider the request after verifying that everything has been done in accordance to the constitution,” Miller said.
“With Easter upon us we will make the determination next week and will address the matter in due course as the constitution demands us to do.
“If a special general meeting is required we will notify members and set a date.”