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  Fix 4-H Ontario now

When, oh when, is somebody going to fix 4-H Ontario? How many complaints against senior management have to pile up before desperately needed action is taken? If the organization can't fix itself, then a higher authority must step in.

It all goes back 18 months when two veteran Frontenac County volunteers were dismissed from their beloved positions after unproven charges that they contravened the 4-H Code of Conduct. Apparently, the no-nonsense volunteers offended a sensitive new field rep attached to 4-H headquarters in Guelph.

The rep's two friends in high places sprung to her defense and, in an unprecedented action, the volunteers were booted. The field rep and her supportive volunteer coordinator have since departed 4-H, leaving their pal executive director Wraychel Horne to carry on the fight against outspoken volunteers all by her lonesome.

Horne soon learned Ruth Shannon and Harriet Corkey are hard as nails. They're simply not the type to shut their mouths and crawl away when unfairly treated. They've been seeking reinstatement ever since they were barred, determined that no other volunteers should ever be subjected to the same indignity.

A big step forward occurred recently when the ladies were reinstated at the local level by the Frontenac association in clear defiance of the dismissal action taken by central command. Horne continues to steadfastly stick by her original misguided decision and here's the astounding thing... she's backed by the elected 4-H council, her collective boss.

Two 4-H annual conferences have come and gone and the bizarre case of Shannon and Corkey has never made the agenda, two annual meetings when council members by their inaction have endorsed the shabby treatment of two respected volunteers.

At the most recent meeting held in Waterloo March 23-24, a new controversy hit the fan. Region 4 delegates criticized a decision undertaken by Horne backed by council to buy and renovate a new headquarters building near Guelph at a cost of $525,000. It seems approval was never sought from the membership, something Horne insists wasn't required under 4-H council consolidated bylaws.

Region 4 also cited staffing issues and lack of transparency as reasons for "a high level of unhappiness amongst volunteers". That unhappiness became obvious when five council members up for reelection were voted out; two other members who resigned prior to the meeting were also replaced, putting a total of seven out of 10 newcomers on the board.

Hopefully this fresh new council will finally take charge and implement the necessary action to restore the credibility and accountability of 4-H Ontario.



Eastern Ontario AgriNews is published on the third Monday of each month. The printed version is distributed free by postal mail to farms in Eastern Ontario, Canada.

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