The board of the McMaster Association of Part-time Students will meet with its members on Feb. 5 for an annual general meeting. And at this year’s gathering, they’ll have a little more to answer for.
McMaster University launched a probe of MAPS last summer following allegations of irresponsible spending. It has been withholding a portion of part-time student fees collected for the organization while the investigation is ongoing.
The University made the decision “in light of significant concerns that were raised regarding MAPS’ business practices,” it said in a December public statement.
The 2011 earnings of MAPS executive director Sam Minniti appeared on Ontario’s 2012 public salary disclosure list at $126,152. It was the first time since he became executive director in 2005 that his salary has shown up on the ‘sunshine’ list, which discloses the salaries of all employees on public sector payroll making more than $100,000 annually.
UPDATE: The Hamilton Spectator reported this week that Minniti was also given $101,116 in retroactive pay in 2011.
Although MAPS is not a public organization, Minniti’s earnings were listed because McMaster University processes MAPS’ payroll.
The retroactive pay, though, was not processed through McMaster.
“Any salary that comes in [through McMaster], anything that’s issued on a T4, shows up on a ‘sunshine’ list,” said Andrea Farquhar, McMaster’s assistant vice-president of public and government relations, to the Silhouette.
Minniti and MAPS president Jeanette Hunter have declined interviews with the Silhouette on multiple occasions.
MAPS represents all McMaster students taking fewer than 18 units in an academic session, as well as continuing education students. Although it is incorporated separately from McMaster, the University charges fees on the Association’s behalf.
“McMaster took this extraordinary measure to protect the interests of part-time students,” read a December statement from the University.
MAPS currently charges part-time students membership fees of $7 per unit. The Association requested an increase to $10 per unit last year, but was denied by McMaster’s Board of Governors at an April meeting. The Board pointed out that the fee had risen from $5 per unit three years prior, and felt that there was insufficient evidence presented for the need of this second increase.
“That’s not usual,” said Farquhar of the denied fee increase. “There are some times, certainly, when requests for fee increases are sent back; it’s not that it never happens. But it doesn’t tend to be the norm. I think that probably began with some people starting to ask questions.”
MAPS bylaws last approved in 2008, which are absent from the Association’s website but were obtained by the Silhouette, say that MAPS must present finan- cial statements to its members at an annual general meeting each February.
“Several months ago con- cerns were raised about some of MAPS’ spending practices over a period of time including, salaries, expenses and reimbursements, travel and office costs,” read a Dec. 21 statement from MAPS.
“The Board reviewed these significant and serious concerns, identified means to ensure it adheres to best business prac- tices and committed itself to an enhanced governance structure for consideration by the member- ship at its next [annual general meeting].”
When contacted in late No- vember 2012, Minniti and Hunter declined to share financial statements with The Silhouette. The MAPS bylaws also say that a new board of directors must be elected at the general meeting.
The board, it adds, must be made up of “not less than 10 and not more than 16 directors.” The board currently has five members.
The Hamilton Spectator spoke with former MAPS presi- dent Elaine Marion earlier this month about allegations that she used part-time student fees for a trip to Italy.
“This was not a vacation; this was a course and I was a student,” Marion told the Spectator.
She explained that a bursary allowed her to take art theory classes in Italy.
“The board was looking for ways to support [the program] … this was an investment in art his- tory at McMaster,” she added.
There is not yet a definitive timeline for when the Univer- sity’s investigation of MAPS will conclude.