Slipping & sliding to a resignation

Wooden boards: the only sign of a $7,000 investment in an unfinished ice rink on Leonard field.
Wooden boards: the only sign of a $7,000 investment in an unfinished ice rink on Leonard field.

The facts surrounding Louis Plamondon’s resignation as campus activities commissioner are so conflicting, even the commission’s website doesn’t seem to have its story straight.

Plamondon resigned from his post on Feb. 9, but the commission’s website says he is still in charge. The website also says the ice rink on Leonard Field—a lightning rod for the conflicting events surrounding Plamondon’s departure—is “open all winter.”

But the rink was never completed: partially constructed wooden boards continue to lean against the Gordon-Brockington Hall residence building.

Perhaps the only thing known for certain is Plamondon’s resignation—and the $22,000 loss he left in his wake—but that’s where the ball drops.

After taking a leave of absence during the recent AMS election campaign to help orchestrate Team MBT’s eventual win, Plamondon returned to his job on Feb. 9.

That morning, he said, he met with AMS Information Officer Greg McKellar, AMS VP (University Affairs) Shiva Mayer and AMS President Ethan Rabidoux.

Plamondon said they offered him a choice: to serve a one-month suspension or to resign his position.

“We didn’t talk about the issues,” said Plamondon of the fact that McKellar, Mayer and Rabidoux didn’t discuss with him the circumstances related to the rink’s incompletion.

Rabidoux said he could only comment on the parts of the disciplinary hearing about which Plamondon spoke to the Journal, because all discipline measures are confidential.

“The rink wasn’t the only thing,” Rabidoux said of the reason to offer Plamondon a one-month suspension or allow him to resign. He added that the discipline “may” have had something to do with Plamondon’s budget running more than $22,000 over its predictions—but he wouldn’t comment further. Mayer said the rink project was cancelled because it was more than 100 per cent over budget. He also said the process of hiring the students who would build the rink didn’t follow AMS hiring policy, and there were concerns with the process by which Plamondon acquired permission to construct the rink on campus—a process that Mayer said involves gaining permission from Physical Plant Services.

But AMS General Manager Claude Sherren said that in hindsight, the only problem was the project’s financial overrun.

In September, AMS Assembly approved the rink’s budget: $3,000 was allotted for expenses and $1,000 was allotted for profit.

Plamondon said he wanted to improve the rink built by last year’s campus activities commissioner, Dave Homuth.

Homuth created the rink project last year after receiving a $5,000 grant from the University’s Cold Beverage Exclusivity Fund. He built the rink by placing a tarp down on the field and watering the field so it would freeze over.

Plamondon said that because this method eventually damaged the grass, he wanted to build a rink that would prevent this from happening. But Homuth said the tarp was the best way to construct the rink, which was operational for about a month last year.

“The tarp was supposed to stop damage and encourage grass growth,” Homuth said, adding that it was news to him that---according to Plamondon—Residence Life, the University administration in charge of residences, wasn’t happy with the project because it made the field look unattractive for youth campers who stayed there in the summer.

“Leonard field only looks great during the month of August,” Homuth said. “It’s always a mess.”

Plamondon said that by October he, CAC deputy commissioner Meghan Teuber—now VP (University Affairs)-elect—and Fanny Leung, rink committee chair, had decided to build a rink with boards and offer a skate-rental service to students who didn’t bring their skates to Queen’s.

“We said, ‘Let’s do the right things in the fall so that once January comes, we’re ready to go,’” Plamondon said.

Early calls to a Montreal rink-building firm found the new rink construction would come at a $5,000 cost.

Plamondon said he decided to pursue advertising within the AMS’s services to offset the $5,000 cost to build the rink.

He said he spoke to AMS Services Director Ashik Bhat, who told him that $5,000 in advertising revenue was too steep. The services could afford a few hundred dollars’ worth of advertising, Bhat told Plamondon.

Rabidoux said Plamondon wouldn’t have reached his original $1,000 revenue plateau, even with the services’ advertising.

Mayer agreed, saying he wasn’t aware of any firm commitment from any advertisers by December.

In January, Plamondon called the Montreal rink contractor, who told him that he had spoken with the builders and found that the rink would actually cost $35,000. He said the contractor suggested ordering a rink-building kit from Home Depot, because the contractor’s company was out of his league.

Plamondon said he took the advice and ordered, according to the commission’s budget, a rink that cost $3,000.

But Mayer said Plamondon told him he was seeking other options.

“My assumption was that Louis would contract the work out to a firm,” Mayer said.

Instead, Plamondon hired two students and promised to pay them $2,000 each to construct the rink.

Lesley Liu, ArtSci ’06 and the commission’s Charity Ball chair, suggested to Plamondon two students whom she knew who had construction experience on campus: Alex Denike, ArtSci ’06, and Ryan Shoemaker, Sci ’08.

Liu added that Denike had construction experience on campus, and Shoemaker was originally going to help construct a pirate ship for the Charity Ball’s “Neverland” theme, but the committee ran out of time to build it.

Liu said that Shoemaker and Denike weren’t going to do the job for free.

“[The pay] was an incentive to build a good rink,” she said.

Plamondon said they decided to offer a flat rate of $2,000 each, an amount slightly less than what the Montreal contractor suggested charging his workers. He also said they agreed that if the rink project was somehow cancelled part-way through, Shoemaker and Denike would be paid at a rate of $50 per hour for the work they had already completed.

Mayer said the first time he or Rabidoux knew of Plamondon’s plans was when Mayer received vouchers first for the rink construction kit, and then for the labour to pay the workers.

“The amount of money being spent was already out of line,” Mayer said, adding that he withheld the $2,000 cheques from Denike and Shoemaker because it was “generally not accepted” that a commissioner would sign a contract with outside workers without the executive’s approval.

When the $4,000 in labour was added to the $3,000 rink expense, the project’s total came in at $7,000—more than 100 per cent over budget.

On the Monday before the AMS election began, Plamondon said he went to Mayer and told him of his intentions to let Liu oversee the rink process and Teuber’s other committees, while the other two deputy commissioners, Terry Hong and Talia Radcliffe, would maintain their positions.

Plamondon said he foresaw a potential conflict because he had been dating Liu since the summer and he had agreed to hire the two people she suggested.

Plamondon alleges that Mayer told him that Mayer would be the acting-head of the campus activities commission, and Liu could help oversee the rink. Plamondon also said that Mayer allegedly told him not to tell Rabidoux about the decision Mayer made.

Mayer said Plamondon had misunderstood an earlier conversation they had, where Mayer said it was okay for Liu to help out in the commission by answering phone calls in the office.

“I do have a problem with her [taking on the roles of] commissioner,” Mayer said.

Rabidoux said that after he and Mayer spoke with Michael Hickey, the AMS’s lawyer, they decided to break the contract Plamondon signed with Denike and Shoemaker midway through the election period on the grounds of unseasonably warm weather and possible liability issues relating to construction.

Mayer said the mild weather was a circumstance nobody could control.

“But precedent says that we have to pay people [for their labour] up until the time a contract was frustrated,” Mayer said.

Shoemaker was paid $1,350 for 27 hours of work, and Denike was paid $750 for 15 hours of work.

Mayer said he’s not opposed to the idea of continuing the rink next year, despite the problems over the past two years.

“I would strongly encourage them to investigate all of the avenues before they make a decision about building a new rink,” Mayer said, adding that next year’s staff would have this year’s partially constructed rink boards to use.

Last night at AMS Assembly, Mayer presented a modified budget for the campus activities commission to follow for the remainder of the academic year. The commission’s end-of-year projection is a $29,200.69 loss.

Rabidoux said Plamondon began several new activities in CAC this year, but there were budget shortfalls in the amount of profit each event generated. Assembly also ratified Talia Radcliffe as the campus activities commissioner for the remainder of this year.

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