By Mars Cavestany
The response of Fair Trading to the two warring camps in APCO is loud and clear: that it is none of their business to interfere in an intrinsically internal dispute that must be resolved following the constitutional provisions by the parties involved if not raised to the level of the Supreme Court.
NOT WITHIN THE DOMAIN OF DFT
Jodie Matheson, Team Manager, Case Management of the Department of Fair Trading wrote more explicitly of Fair Tradings’ non-involvement in matters not within their domain.
“The Association is registered under the Associations Incorporation Act 2009, which is administered by NSW Fair Trading. The Act is designed to find a balance between freedom and flexibility for associations to establish themselves and to operate while ensuring there are sufficient safeguards in place to ensure an appropriate level of governance and financial responsibility. It follows that the legislation does not provide the Registry with the authority to intervene in matters relating to the internal administration of an association.
For your information I have attached information on Fair Trading’s powers to enquire and investigate and areas for which Fair Trading does not have responsibilities.
The committee is charged with the responsibility of ensuring the association is operating in accordance with the legislation generally and the association’s constitution specifically. Fair Trading has no jurisdiction to determine the facts at the base of an internal dispute or an alleged breach of an association’s constitution, the only body with this jurisdiction is the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
It would appear the Association may be subject to an internal dispute regarding the validity regarding the identity of the validly appointed public officer and those responsible for the management of the Association. This is not a matter Fair Trading can determine, in such cases where such a dispute arises the association must resolve it by agreement, through the dispute resolution provisions in the Association’s constitution or ultimately by order of the Supreme Court.”
DOCUMENTS NOT ACCEPTED ANYMORE
As a result of the two different sets of protest letters with matching evidential documents being presented by two camps to Fair Trading, they ruled no to accept anymore documents lodged from both parties. Ms. Jamison further explains:
“In such cases, until Fair Trading has evidence of either an agreement or an order by the Court determining the matter the Association may be noted as being ‘in dispute’ on the Register of Incorporated Associations. In these circumstances Fair Trading will inform all parties to the dispute that no documents will be accepted for lodgement on behalf of the association.
Accordingly, whilst it is regrettable a small organisation such as this finds itself in a situation of conflict, I encourage all of the parties to make every endeavour to resolve the internal dispute as soon as possible.”
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The internal dispute within APCO grounds began when the appointed and not duly elected President Violetta Escultura was removed from her post following a vote of no confidence from the Board and general membership.
Consequently Cora Paras won in the new elections to replace Escultura but the latter refuse d to step down and thus caused a rift and a split between two camps,
Trouble further ensued when the Escultura camp was quick enough to lodge their own documents to the Department of Fair Trading. They submitted a list of new Elected Board of Officers and even replaced the Public Officer to one of their own.
The documentation Escultura’s group received from Fair Trading effectively gave them further access to withdraw 12 thousand of APCO funds reportedly deposited in a new account for safeguarding.
THE BATTLE CONTINUES AS BANK ACCOUNTS AND DOCUMENT MOVEMENTS ARE FROZEN
Cora Paras’ camp which, from all legal indications and implications, appear to be the real legitimate APCO Board, did not take the Escultura group’s legerdemain sitting down.
Complaint/protest letters were filed to both the Fair Trading and Commonwealth Bank where proper investigations are ongoing.
Meanwhile, the final resolution to the seemingly never ending conflict has been offered by Fair Trading to let the Supreme Court rule over matters that cannot be resolved internally and amicably between the two-in-one APCO.
Needless to say, there are costs involved for lawyers’ fees and all other expenses. The big asks remain: Who shall make the first move? When and where will all these end?