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.