SEVERAL 78ers are fuming over what they allege is mismanagement by the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras board and administration resulting in many being ineligible to vote in this year’s annual general meeting (AGM), which they claim also cost 78er Steve Warren a place on the board.

A motion was passed at the 2014 Mardi Gras AGM which would grant the 78ers – the people who founded and marched in the city’s first Mardi Gras in 1978 – lifetime membership

According to Warren, a list of 78ers who wanted lifetime membership was given to Mardi Gras in early 2015. After a long period of silence, the list was resubmitted in June 2016.

The 78ers committee asked if there was a reason for the delay and multiple 78ers emailed and called Mardi Gras during this period to inquire about the status of their membership.

There was the suggestion that a constitutional question – whether the list needed to be presented at an AGM to confirm membership – had caused the delay. But as Warren explained, the motion that passed at the 2014 AGM outlined the process, which simply involved the membership list being submitted to the board for approval.

The list was then filed a third time two weeks before the election, and again at the request of Mardi Gras staff on November 5, a week before the AGM.

On November 5, the 78ers were told that they needed to provide addresses and dates of birth for new 78er members, and they were also told that they would be informed about the status of their membership on November 9.

Online and proxy voting for the board election closed on November 8, meaning those 78ers who were unable to attend the AGM would be unable to vote or assign a proxy to vote for them.

One member of the 78ers committee contacted Mardi Gras the day before the election and was informed their membership was active and they could indeed vote, but the only option was in person at the AGM.

Roughly 20 of the group were affected by this processing delay.

Warren was reluctant to criticise Mardi Gras as he preferred to “try and work in a positive way for the SGLMG to produce good outcomes” but explained that there was undoubtedly a feeling of great disappointment “that despite many steps over several months, Mardi Gras was unable to fulfill the 2014 AGM Motion on Life Membership to the 78ers who chose to take up that option”.

Other 78ers – who asked not to be named – shared their disappointment at the lack of a permanent board position for a 78er.

The board has the ability to consider a 78er for the position of ‘Board Associate’, and according to the committee, have been promised this twice in the past with no follow through.

A Mardi Gras spokesperson told Star Observer it was sorry to hear of any 78ers whose memberships were not verified in time to vote prior to the 2016 AGM.

“The Board met a few days before our Annual General Meeting with the purpose of approving new memberships, unfortunately some applications had yet to be verified so some new members missed the online voting,” the spokesperson said.

“Over a hundred people who marched in the first Mardi Gras in 1978 are now offered Life Membership of Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, meaning they stay active, vital and informed members of our organisation without ever having to pay an annual fee.

Mardi Gras said the process for approving life memberships was as follows: when new members contact them wanting to join the list of 78er life members, they need to verify their names with the 78ers group. Once applications are verified by the 78ers group, as with all memberships, the SGLMG Constitution requires membership applications to be approved by the SGLMG Board during one of its monthly meetings. All members must agree to uphold the objects of the Constitution and to provide their address so that SGLMG can contact them with news and updates.

“We want all our 78ers to stay informed and be able to have their say about the organisation. Any outstanding eligible 78ers who have applied for Life Membership will be presented to the Board for approval at an upcoming meeting. As permanent members, they’ll stay informed about SGLMG’s news, events and activities, and will be able to vote at all future  AGMs and SGMs,” the spokesperson said.

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