A leaked draft document outlining a proposed purchase of Mardi Gras’ assets and liabilities by an interim community organisation is already shaping up to be a controversial axis of this Saturday’s community forum.

The document, titled Our Mardi Gras, was obtained by Sydney Star Observer yesterday and describes arrangements which could see the assets of Mardi Gras -“ including its trademark and membership lists -“ transferred to an interim organisation.

This interim organisation would be established jointly by Pride, ACON, the Bobby Goldsmith Foundation (BGF), the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (GLRL) and Queer Screen.

An amended version of the plan will be put forward at the Mardi Gras community forum, to be held at the Seymour Centre this Saturday at 2pm. It is understood that the draft plan was circulated to a number of community leaders on Tuesday evening.

Talking to the Star last night, Pride co-president Lou-Anne Lind asserted that the document represents community groups that have come together to discuss the impact of Mardi Gras’ situation on the community and other community organisations.

The goals of the plan are to purchase the assets and liabilities of Mardi Gras using sponsorship and donations. Sponsorship and donations would also support the operating cash flow and activities of the new organisation.

While sponsorship arrangements are not detailed in the draft document, the Star understands that the current Mardi Gras board has already secured pledges from all its existing and three new sponsors. Such sponsorship would be available to finance any new legal entity that is set up as a result of the Mardi Gras administration process and could be allocated to fund the proposed consortium of community organisations.

The draft proposal suggests that a board be nominated for the new entity consisting of two nominees from each organisation and that the board could co-opt additional members to fill any gaps in skills and capabilities.

However, former Mardi Gras president Richard Cobden told the Star that he was outraged at a final draft agenda circulated for Saturday’s community meeting -“ a timetable that he describes as an agenda that is run like Caucescu’s Romania.

It will be a parade of community organisations strolling on stage in front of us, telling us what to do and putting on pretty smiles. There is not any room for there to be any real debate about the future of Mardi Gras, Cobden said.

Cobden was also incensed that the plan had been circulated to him on the unenforceable proviso of confidentiality.

The plan I received by email said that the information will be disseminated to the community on Saturday. That’s not good enough. People deserve to know about a plan like this before they come to the meeting, he said.

This is a pivotal meeting -“ every option and idea should have equal time. To find that there was an agenda structured towards one proposal that is dropped on us on the day is not acceptable.

ACON president Adrian Lovney told the Star that he agreed with Cobden about the need for vigorous debate on Mardi Gras’ future at the meeting, but asserted that the leaked documents were still drafts.

Why shouldn’t we have a proposal that includes a group of community organisations getting Mardi Gras on its feet this year while the community has a broader conversation about what should be done for the future? Lovney said.

Mardi Gras doesn’t belong to ACON, it doesn’t belong to the BGF and it doesn’t belong to Richard Cobden either.

The announcement comes as administrators Sims Lockwood yesterday mailed out a report to Mardi Gras creditors detailing the current financial position of Mardi Gras.

It is understood that the report will include a Deed of Company Arrangement proposed by the current Mardi Gras board to retain control of the organisation.

If a Deed is proposed, [the creditors report] will include details of the Deed and a comparison and analysis of that Deed to the option of liquidation. It would give a recommendation to the creditors on the best path to pick, administrator Scott Pascoe told the Star.

While Pascoe could only reveal that there was also significant interest from private consortiums in buying Mardi Gras’ assets, he would not reveal how many private bids were on the table.

However, Michael Squire, director of Executive Marketing Pty Ltd approached the Star with details of a proposal he has put to administrators to manage Mardi Gras.

Squire, who is openly gay, said that under his proposal he would become the CEO of Mardi Gras, with a board appointed that would represent the community.

I want to get my sponsors and Mardi Gras together, but it has to be done in such a way that we are not just throwing money at the situation. We would be structuring the organisation so that it can put any profits back into the organisation for future events, Squire said.

It is not funded from my own pocket. I am putting in the energy and ideas with a committee of motivated community members that I am putting together. The financing will be secured by my sponsors. I have around $400,000 available, Squire said.

Meanwhile, a Save Mardi Gras targeted telethon will be launched on 6 September, with the aim of raising $500,000 to pull Mardi Gras out of debt.

Organisers are asking for volunteers to operate the phones for the telethon by contacting fragilefredafree@ ihug.com.au

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