After a year of resignations, moves, non-events, financial woes and falling member numbers, the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Business Association has voted for a change in leadership.

Accusations and aggression marked the 22-year-old Association’s annual general meeting last week -“ much of it directed towards outgoing president Joseph Mifsud.

Most of the members who crowded into the Association’s run-down offices in King Street, Newtown, for Thursday night’s meeting voted to re-elect former president Vicki Brackenreg and her team.

Brackenreg told the Star she stood for presidency again to regain some of the lost momentum of the organisation, which had gone from six functions per year to two.

The members were unable to sign off on the Association’s yearly financial report, voting instead to appoint an independent auditor to determine whether they faced a potentially crippling tax debt of up to $20,000.

Advice from accountant Stephen Drinkwater suggested the Association could not prove it was a not-for-profit organisation, and was therefore not eligible for the GST and income tax exemptions it had been claiming since its inception.

Brackenreg told the Star after the meeting if the auditor found the Association had to repay the tax, they had enough funds in the bank to pay -“ but she doubted the debt would be as much as $20,000.

One of the things that we have always been able to do in the past years -“ except for last year I think -“ is to raise substantial funds. That’s just a matter of our community pulling together and making it happen, Brackenreg said.

Brackenreg was elected president at the 2002 annual general meeting, but had to resign mid-year to take a job in Tasmania. Of the nine board members elected at the 2002 AGM, only Mifsud remained last week.

The instability of the past year was due to a number of things, Brackenreg said, including the change of venue for the association’s networking drinks Fruits In Suits, the lack of member’s events and the high turnover of board members since her resignation.

They held a debate [featuring candidates for the state seat of Bligh], but that’s been the only one in the past year. It seemed the board got bogged down in things, but at the end of that they really needed to move forwards, and I couldn’t see that was happening. Our business directory wasn’t launched until very late -“ it’s been a very unsettled time.

Brackenreg said the new board would close the Newtown offices (currently rented for $600 per month), try to attract more young members, and negotiate a return to the popular W Hotel, where Fruits In Suits was held until recently.

Outgoing president Joseph Mifsud told the meeting the past year had been the most difficult time in [his] life.

There’s a lot of people in this room who at this time last year I was friends with, and now I wouldn’t say we’re on each other’s Christmas card lists, he said.

Mifsud claimed sloppy accounting practices by past board members had led to the Association’s current financial problems. However, Brackenreg denied the claims.

Mifsud told the Star he stood by his record as a fair and decent president and said the achievements that had been made during his term -“ including the first Gay and Lesbian Business Awards evening -“ had set the Association up for the future.

The 2002/2003 financial year was a profitable one for the association. We did a lot of things and we still had a few bucks in the bank, he said.

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