Golwg reports on Tribunal findings

Welsh language magazine Golwg has printed an article about the Tribunal findings in its 6 October issue.

In addition to material covered in previous press reports, the article includes the following (translated):

An Assembly Member is requesting an independent inquiry to the issues raised by the judgment of the Employment Tribunal in a case dealing with a body responsible for administering Community First monies in the Wrexham area. Mark Isherwood also wants to know why the Welsh Government asked AVOW to administer the money after the member of staff, Genny Bove, had already won her case in March…

At the beginning of the week, the charity confirmed that it will not be appealing against the judgment of discrimination against the disabled worker… the charity did not make ‘reasonable adjustments’ in order to meet her needs. The Chief Officer, John Gallanders behaved unreasonably towards her by insisting that the meeting to hear her complaints was held in a room with the exact lighting that would cause the migraines…

The Trustees were under the thumb of John Gallanders…

…In a letter seen by Golwg, Carl Sargeant has stated, ‘…if the original judgment of the Tribunal stands the Welsh Assembly Government will be asking AVOW to confirm what steps they are taking to deal with the management issues…’

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What the Tribunal said about AVOW Trustees

Read this page to find out exactly what the Tribunal had to say about AVOW Trustees.

Links to some of the original documents will be added later.

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What this blog is about…

This blog is a record of my experiences as an employee of the Association of Voluntary Services in Wrexham (AVOW) told largely through the words of the Employment Tribunal that found against AVOW in the case I brought.

See the about section for a bit of background.

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What the Tribunal said about John Gallanders

Read this page to find out exactly what the Tribunal had to say about AVOW Chief Officer John Gallanders.

Links to some of the original documents will be added later.

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Gross Misconduct at AVOW

AVOW has announced that it will not be appealing against the tribunal findings, which now stand in their entirety. It has further announced that ZERO charitable funds have been used in paying out the award ordered by the tribunal, as this has been covered by insurers. Well, that’s something.

Nevertheless, the fact that the tribunal award was paid by insurers rather than AVOW does not let Trustees and the chief officer off the hook. It changes nothing about the tribunal’s findings of abuse of power, reprehensible behaviour, victimisation, discrimination, sham grievance processes and so on. Mervyn Rosenberg, Chair of AVOW, has said that:

“the entire matter took place more than two years ago and many changes have taken place within and around AVOW in the intervening time.”

However, we heard at the tribunal that some things are very much the same. One of the findings of the tribunal was that the Trustees deferred all decisions to officers, with the Judge commenting:

“They failed in their duties to oversee the conduct of the officers. The fact that they are unpaid volunteers is no excuse.”

We know this was still the case as of March 2011 because Trustee Moira Jones testified under oath at the tribunal that:

“Instead of dealing with issues now, Mr Rosenberg refers back to the chief officer Mr Gallanders.”

This is an inversion of the proper relationship between officers and Trustees. Clearly, any employee in the same position I found myself, with a grievance against the chief officer, would have the same problems now as I had then.

I am interested to know what sort of behaviour might lead to the chief officer being suspended or sacked for gross misconduct. It seems he has set himself up in an unassailable position, when he can continue to work at AVOW even after a tribunal has found him guilty of such serious breaches of trust and abuses of his position.

AVOW’s Employee Handbook refers to examples of gross misconduct, stating “Such behaviour may result in dismissal without notice”. These examples include no fewer than four which one might reasonably conclude John Gallanders is guilty of, in view of the Tribunal’s findings of fact, which we now know AVOW will not be appealing against:

* theft, dishonesty or fraud
* bringing the charity into disrepute
* unlawful discrimination
* gambling, bribery or corruption

John Gallanders is an employee of AVOW, but it seems that AVOW’s own rules don’t apply to him. Shame on AVOW!

Announcing a review of the tribunal findings with two AVOW Trustees (not involved with AVOW at the time of my employment) and an ‘independent chair’ is all very well, but should not preclude AVOW from taking immediate action to restore confidence in its operations, in which regard suspending the Chief Officer would seem to me to be a prerequisite.

Likewise, it is shocking to me that the Trustees of a body like AVOW – that is supposed to act as mentor and set an example for smaller voluntary organisations – can fail so comprehensively to carry out their duties yet feel no obligation to step down when their failings are exposed.

If other organisations and bodies, statutory and non-statutory, believe that the way AVOW has dealt with the tribunal findings to date is acceptable, then that speaks volumes about the extent and depth of corruption in our bureaucratic institutions, while those who don’t believe it is acceptable are surely under a moral obligation to speak out. To remain silent in the face of wrongdoing amounts to complicity.

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AVOW and Communities First

Back in March, in fact on the exact day that John Gallanders and AVOW’s employment adviser Sky Bibi of RBS Mentor Services sat in the Employment Tribunal and heard the judge deliver the unanimous and damning verdict of the Tribunal Panel on John Gallanders’ own misconduct and that of the Trustees in the case of Bove v AVOW (which was much the same as the written judgment – they didn’t pull any punches), the Daily Post reported that AVOW bosses were going to meet with Plas Madoc Communities First Board members the following day to discuss taking over the monitoring of the troubled project:

Carl Sargeant, Wales’ minister for social justice, said: “AVOW could support the new governance arrangement for the troubled Communities First project, regarding how best to deal with the cash from the Welsh Assembly Government.”

AVOW’s own serious governance failings were being detailed point by point in the Tribunal on the same day this was reported.

Three days later, the Daily Post again reported on the plan:

Further discussions have taken place for a voluntary organisation to take over the running of a troubled anti-poverty scheme.

AVOW (Association of Voluntary Organisations in Wrexham), Welsh Assembly Government and Plas Madoc Communities First have been in talks to find a way of safeguarding the funding coming into Plas Madoc.

Following the recent scandal which hit the scheme, AVOW officials said it was essential to ensure robust arrangements were in place: “To be certain that public money is used in the right way to benefit the community”.

AVOW made this comment and went ahead with the take-over KNOWING that its own governance had been condemned by the Tribunal: its Chief Officer John Gallanders was found to have usurped the role of Trustees, for example by writing letters in the name of the Chair of Trustees without his knowledge, to have abused his position, to have victimised and discriminated against the claimant and otherwise to have acted in bad faith; Trustees were slated for conducting grievance processes which were a sham from start to finish, for failing to monitor the conduct of their officers and for failing to investigate the claimant’s complaint against the Chief Officer.

Given that AVOW is quoted as saying that it was essential to ensure robust arrangements were in place “to be certain that public money is used in the right way to benefit the community” at a time when it KNEW it was in no position to guarantee any such thing (but presumably did not make this fact known to the Welsh Government or the board of Plas Madoc Communities First who would surely not have gone ahead with the arrangement if they had been aware of the facts), the only logical conclusion is that AVOW took on the PMCF contract under false pretences.

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Private Eye Letters page

The current issue of Private Eye, No. 1298, contains a letter in response to an article in the last issue about the Tribunal findings. It reads:

Sir –

In the Charity News section you quote the cost of replacing a light bulb at £20 (In the back, Eye 1297). The small blue bulb that warns the owners of electric AGAs that the oven extractor fan is on is within the control box and cannot really be replaced by the average punter. The quote from a local dealer for replacing this little blue bulb… £92!! When I pointed this out to AGA, their reply was, in effect, ‘that’s jolly interesting’. Why not start a contest to see whose light bulb is the most expensive to replace?

Yours etc.

Roderick Mather

Of course, the story lends itself to various lightbulb changing comments and jokes, witness this cartoon.

Nevertheless, it is probably worth clarifying that the £20 referred to was the estimated cost of providing an uplighter and a couple of desk lamps in my previous place of work so that the fluorescent strips could be switched off, as explained to the Judge during the tribunal hearing by my manager at the time. My recollection is that we bought a second uplighter when I moved to work in the Wrexham office. Funnily enough, I found out the other day that these lights, or at least the uplighters, have been sitting around unused ever since I was transferred to AVOW under TUPE regs. and that had AVOW simply made enquiries and asked for them, they could probably have effected the necessary lightbulb change for free!

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