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Media blackout at Ak Pride Centre

Sun 4 Apr 2004 In: New Zealand Daily News

Auckland's Pride Centre has stopped making public statements or granting media interviews regarding allegations and counter-allegations of deceit and possible fraud swirling around it, citing legal advice. Pride Centre board spokesperson Angus Stutter says a lawyer advising the board of trustees has recommended they make no further public comment until the situation is clarified. "We've been advised by our lawyer not to give interviews, we're waiting for the outcome of the investigation," he says. The Centre's own investigation is separate from one being undertaken by the Police fraud squad. There has been no indication so far of when either investigation will come to a head, or if any formal charges are likely to be laid. Stutter says the financial records of the Centre are "fairly well intact" and are currently being asessed by an accountant. Before instituting the media blackout the Centre claimed that it was out pocket by up to $30,000 and might have to close. An ex-employee of the Centre, Martin van der Reit, has publicly confirmed that he is the focus of the allegations but denies any wrong-doing and has parried with allegations of deceitful dealings by the Pride Centre itself. Despite its dire financial situation the Centre's board believes it can continue to operate and currently has volunteers staffing the Karangahape Road premises. It is trying to solicit donations from the gay community. "The intention is to keep the centre open and every little bit helps," says Stutter. "It's used a lot, we're a drop in centre where people use the library or just drop in for a cup of coffee and talk. We also give out information... we get quite a few phone calls each day for people wanting information about venues, numbers for counselling, adn the like." The Centre also operates as a venue for some Auckland GLBT community groups. "We have about thirteen community groups meeting here, weekly, fortnightly or monthly. If the centre closes those groups will have nowhere to go," Stutter says.    

Credit: News Staff

First published: Sunday, 4th April 2004 - 12:00pm

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