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Habitat Kamloops a target of civil lawsuits

But the non-profit’s executive director said the civil court cases are not connected to the closure, relocation of the ReStore in Kamloops
Habitat ReStore closed
Due to various reasons, Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore has been moved from Kamloops to Salmon Arm.

Habitat for Humanity Kamloops is involved in multiple civil suits, with some $400,000 being sought between three launched this year.

However, according to the organization’s executive director, Bill Miller, those cases have had no bearing on the decision to shutter the Kamloops ReStore, the home and building supply store that accepts and resells new and used building materials.

The store in North Kamloops closed not long after it opened and has been moved to Salmon Arm.

Miller added that Habitat for Humanity Kamloops is not in financial trouble.

According to online court documents, the society is currently being sued for $19,000 for an outstanding bill by A&R Site Services, for another $12,000 by a former employee and for $375,000 in connection with unpaid monies in an asset purchase agreement.

“I’m not going to debate what our legal issues are in the news,” Miller told KTW, adding the decision to close and relocate the Kamloops ReStore is not related to any of their ongoing legal proceedings.

As an organization that undertakes millions of dollars worth of construction, Miller said, there are bound to be some disputes with contractors and suppliers.

“And that’s exactly what’s going on,” he said. “And we will prevail. I have no concerns about that at all.”

According to court documents, A&R Site Services filed a notice of claim against Habitat Kamloops on July 13 for $19,020.76 in connection with an alleged unpaid bill in Blind Bay, where A&R said it was hired to prepare a number of construction sites for homes for Habitat Kamloops.

A certificate of judgment was issued on Aug. 10, enforcing the judgment to receive payment against the debtor as there was no response to the notice of claim.

Habitat Kamloops was also issued a notice of claim by Angler’s Distribution in April, seeking a remaining $375,000 owing, and other legal costs, stemming from a December 2020 asset purchase agreement.

The documents stated Habitat bought fishing and other miscellaneous inventory from Angler’s Distribution of Vernon for more than $1.2 million — $743,560 in the form of a charitable donation tax receipt and $485,000 in cash via an $85,000 deposit and four quarterly $100,000 payments.

The claim stated Habitat Kamloops paid the initial deposit, but just one $25,000 instalment since May 2021.

In a June response, Habitat Kamloops admitted it had only paid those amounts, but claimed that over the spring and summer of 2021, it had been in discussions with Frank Roy, Angler’s Distribution’s former chief executive officer, regarding amending the agreement, but he died in October 2021.

The response stated Habitat Kamloops promised to repay the agreed amount, but that it has an oral forbearance agreement postponing payments, which precludes the plaintiff’s ability to enforce the original agreement.

Another notice of claim filed against Habitat Kamloops, from July 14, has the society’s former chief financial officer Jennifer Pace, seeking more than $12,000 in remuneration and a reimbursed raffle prize deposit.

Her claim stated she was contracted on Feb. 4, 2021, but Habitat Kamloops became delinquent on payment as of June 30 of that year, with the plaintiff billing for services until Oct. 29, totalling $12,300, plus a $2,000 raffle deposit.

As of April 2022, Pace said, she had only been paid the $2,000, despite numerous requests for payment.

On Aug. 12, Habitat Kamloops responded with a counterclaim and, on Aug. 15, a notice of settlement conference was issued.

The counterclaim sought $35,000 and denied Pace is owed compensation, stating she resigned her position with Habitat Kamloops on June 30, 2021, at which time Habitat said she became unresponsive to communications from management and the board of directors, of which she was a member.

Habitat Kamloops claimed she was not instructed or authorized to carry out any work for the society after June 30, 2021, and failed to train someone in the internal fiscal position.

That person, Habitat stated, received no oversight and made many mistakes in carrying out her job duties, which the organization said caused “significant financial repercussions for Habitat Kamloops,” forcing the non-profit to hire two new employees to rectify financial issues that arose.

Habitat added it incurred another $7,500 in audit costs to reconcile financial statements.

Prior to these civil suits, Habitat Kamloops has just two other legal proceedings listed on court services online — a pair of foreclosure files: one out of Prince George that was settled in January and another out of Kamloops dating back to 2012.

In a interview with KTW earlier this month, Miller said ReStore was closed and moved to Salmon Arm due to a downturn in donations and revenue, problems with break-ins and vagrancy, staff and volunteer turnover and desire to find a permanent location with an adapted ReStore business model.

Miller said Habitat Kamloops is in a period of transition, noting limited land supply and high costs are posing challenges, including limiting opportunities to do projects in Kamloops.

Habitat for Humanity builds homes for those in need, with the eventual owners chipping in with sweat equity.

The organization’s office remains in the former Penny Pinchers building at Tranquille Road and Eighth Street for now.

Miller reiterated that Habitat Kamloops is not in financial trouble, noting the organization has substantial more assets than liabilities.

The non-profit is headquartered in Kamloops, but its coverage area includes Princeton, Lytton, Lillooet, Merritt, Prince George, McBride, Lumby, Enderby, Armstrong, Salmon Arm and Revelstoke.