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EGM – Vote of No Confidence Passed

July 22, 2011

A vote of no confidence was passed at the EGM: 302 for, 69 against, 11 abstentions.

The current Board announced at the beginning of the meeting their intention to resign, with a view to a new Board being in place for the AGM which has been moved from November to the beginning of September.

The current Board expressed an unanimous wish that the Society should emerge from this meeting as a stronger, more transparent and more stable institution, to the benefit of the Society.

In the interim, and following the vote of no confidence, it was agreed that three new Members of the Board suggested by the meeting will be co-opted to the Board in order to fill currently available seats.

Though it would be constitutional for the Board to resign one after another in order to co-opt all five of the Members earlier recommended by the requisitioners, of whom three were submitted for consideration by the Board along the one Member nominated in the meeting, the Board insisted that it wished to remain in place as a collective Board with unity of responsibility.

In the intervening period before the AGM, nominations for the new Board, to be appointed in September at the AGM, are invited. Present and co-opted members will then have the opportunity to stand again.

Minutes, notes and a dramatic, professionally mixed but extremely long and tedious audio recording will be posted soon.

Anyone who listens to the whole thing will do so at his or her own peril.

Infinitely more promptly and palatably served is Phil Brown’s distillation of the twitter feed that didn’t make out of the hall because of lack of signal. Here’s what survived.

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24 Comments leave one →
  1. Sandy Lake permalink
    July 25, 2011 1:27 am

    Clearly, the Board must reinstate the Director (and the Finance Director) and the Board must also reassert the Poetry Society’s authority over the Poetry Review through the management structures prevailing in April. The Board should take these actions NOW, before they themselves leave office. If the Arts Council is reevaluating its grant, the fastest way to win their trust is to work towards the status quo ante. All that would be different, after September, therefore, would be the composition of the Board itself and the level of energy and interest in the Poetry Society among its membership. Not a bad outcome.

  2. July 24, 2011 10:14 pm

    I was at the meeting, and have written a report on it – which you can find here:

    http://fortnightlyreview.co.uk/2011/07/pret-a-poetry-in-the-surgeons-hall/

    Michelene Wandor

  3. Lindy Barbour permalink
    July 23, 2011 11:25 pm

    I found the tone of the above report rather odd. As someone who couldn’t attend I might well wish to read a balanced account or listen to a recording without having it pre-judged as long, dramatic or tedious. There has been enough embarrassing and unnecessary trouble already without adding tendentious comments into the mix.

    Much of the trouble might have been avoided if good employment practice had been followed by all concerned.

    The report in The Guardian was pretty annoyingly dismissive.

  4. Martina Evans permalink
    July 23, 2011 1:02 pm

    Really disappointed with the Guardian article which left the last word with the trustees. ‘Bloody unbalanced’ was what I would call the Board. Why are poets blamed for their mess? The whole tone of the article was that of someone who had come already prepared to write about the poets’ behaviour.

  5. July 23, 2011 11:05 am

    I too have blogged about this today on Raw Light in some detail and with quotations where I had taken notes. (It got very fast-moving and heated after the first few speakers, so I didn’t take notes throughout.)

    http://rawlightblog.blogspot.com

  6. Desmond Swords permalink
    July 23, 2011 10:47 am

    So, if I have it right, there were five board members present? I would be very grateful if some kind soul could satiate my curiosity by answering a few – if you know the answers – simple questions, please.

    1 – Are the ‘trustees’ the same as the ‘directors’ listed in the company house documents posted on the board section of this site, please?

    2 – What are the names of the board members who were present at the egm, please?

    Thanks very much.

  7. Sibyl permalink
    July 23, 2011 7:09 am

    Shouldn’t there be minutes of the meetings at which there was discussion about and at which decisions were made re expenditure on lawyers etc? And of the meeting at which the Director was not present? I should have thought that it was the Society’s duty to make such documents available to members…?
    And there must be rules (the Charity Commission would have them) about the legal duties of Trustees. What is the position if current Trustees have breached those duties. Are they personally liable? Or is the Society as a whole liable?

    • Eva Salzman permalink
      July 23, 2011 11:21 am

      Sibyl,

      Good point. We should ask for the minutes for meetings re: decistion to employ lawyers and when Director wasn’t present. Or ask the Charity Commission if they’ll be asking for these.

      Here’s what I fear might happen: continuing embargo for legal reasons while they fudge things long enough so that onus is put on Palmer to protect herself at expense of society and then hey presto sympathy leaks away at thought of this bringing down society with all thoughts of Board’s expenditure put on back burner.

      There’s no way to even know if they’re even making efforts to bring her back and even if they do, she’d be working again in what certainly appears to be a a classic bullying environment. And there’s nothing more to do about this?! That’s the limits of what can be done?

      A disagreement between Palmer and Sampson? Could this not be the environment Ranford explains (and by the sound of it his going is another huge loss and we’ve now got, more and more, a staff put together by this outgoing board!) in his letter and is it really okay to name Palmer and Sampson but not he Board members whose behaviour is described there? Why is this? Anyway, sorry folks but I’m angry and anyway minutes for meetings is a good place to start but maybe Kate’s had enough and everyone has so there’s nothing more to do…

  8. July 23, 2011 7:05 am

    “I find blaming some argument between Sampson and Palmer unconvincing and a neat deflection of responsibility.”

    Totally agree – and presents it as a “catfight” to the press. Was it the fault of some personality clash that the Board is so ignorant as not to know they couldf have got free legal advice from ACAS rather than spedning the members’ money?

  9. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 23, 2011 2:08 am

    ‘…..because this was regarded as evidence of these concerns being in the public domain, Mr Murdoch’s lawyers were subsequently engaged at a cost of at least £24000.”

    So let me get this right: an overhead remark at a party justified 24,000 expenditure on lawyers and that’s considered legitimate?

    Come to think of it, the meeting’s done, the Board’s in place for another month (am I the only one uneasy as to why they insisted on this?), administering more funds and, best of all, there’s no comeback for anything, including costs, so clearly the lawyers are well worth the money and have done their job well. No reason not to bring them in if and when. I’d no idea one could get away with so much.

  10. Eva Salzman permalink
    July 22, 2011 10:28 pm

    Why couldn’t they resign on the spot? I’m uneasy as to why they’d wish to stay on when others could ably take over. No interim arrangements were necessary for Palmer’s departure. So they’ll be stewarding the obtaining of the Arts Council grant?

    I find blaming some argument between Sampson and Palmer unconvincing and a neat deflection of responsibility. I don’t like that one bit. What about the legal costs in fictional case? They can just spend it and that’s that?

    However, many thanks to Kate, Martin et al for their work on behalf of so many of us and thanks to all proxies and voters (this from the other side of the ocean). Nevertheless I find myself concerned and depressed….in spite of the overwhelming No Confidence vote.

    • July 23, 2011 1:10 am

      Not legally possible for them all to resign there and then. There needs to be 5 at least in post at any one time. We suggested a staggered retirement & co-option but the pro-bono independent lawyer present said it was not enforceable by the meeting.

      The Board said it would not resign immediately en masse because it was not ‘in the interest of the Society’, though there were enough potential nominations to replace them if they were to stand down. The Acting Chair of the Board said they were a single group and would act as one. A separate requisition would be needed to unseat the entire Board and this was not legally possible at this meeting.

      When they were challenged with the request that one of them should resign to make it possible for all 4 nominations from the floor to take the three empty seats and one other, the Acting Chair, eventually, rose – to some applause. However, she had risen to say hat they had all resigned in anticipation of the AGB but would remain in post, with the three new members, until then.

      • Eva Salzman permalink
        July 23, 2011 1:34 am

        “Not in the interest of the society.” Fine words. Acting as a unit? One supposes several trustees as a sort of balance-and-check not a job lot.

        I still don’t see that they’ve explained the legal expenditure. The only acknowledged problem was a Sampson/Palmer cat-fight. What about the behavior and treatment of staff in Ranford’s letter? And they’re shepherding through the newest grant and that’s okay?! Palmer should be brought back too.

        I served on Poetry Soc Board for a year at another’s request, then bailed out, having too short a fuse when it comes to bureacracy trumping common sense. I’m allergic to Boards. But, hell, if you can push your weight around, boss everyone around, use members’ money willy-nilly without any comeback and institute whatever changes you see fit without consultation. perhaps I should re-think my position.

    • Anne Vinden permalink
      July 23, 2011 7:13 am

      I’d like to join in here, from my Andalusian backwater, because I too feel concerned and depressed. Our sense of ‘something rotten’ has received terrifying confirmation but because of ‘legal restraints’ we are not allowed to have anything properly clarified. Though at least the outgoing board didn’t get away with merely resigning – that was no small achievement, as it sounds. I presume they were asked to give chapter and verse for these restraints they are hiding behind? Is Judith Palmer prevented by them from telling her side of the story? As things stand, she comes over as having been demonised by the outgoing board; who rallied round Fiona Sampson and, panic-stricken, proceeded to run up £24,000 in legal fees, in anticipation of heaven knows what. Without real clarification, imaginations – not just mine – are bound to run riot.

      But Paul Ranford’s brave statement – and above all its tone – does a lot to restore hope of eventual sanity. And I want to say my own very big thank you to Kate and Martin and all the other unknowns (to me) who have worked so hard – bringing in warmth and humour whenever possible – on our behalf. They too inspire much confidence in the future of the Poetry Society.

  11. July 22, 2011 9:38 pm

    Otherwise, where there’s smoke, there is surely fire to be found… why would they be behave so evasively, unless they had something to hide…? Perhaps they should have been forced to stay and explain themselves. Someone, somewhere is not telling us the whole truth!

    • July 23, 2011 1:24 am

      There were admissions of numerous significant mistakes made by the Board. A confession that the Board neither knew of nor consulted numerous well-known organisations specifically dedicated to dealing with employment issues in charities, was met with some derision.

      It was conceded by the Acting Chair that concerns about tensions between the Director and the Editor had been expressed by concerned people ‘at a function’ and because this was regarded as evidence of these concerns being in the public domain, Mr Murdoch’s lawyers were subsequently engaged at a cost of at least £24000. Ms Palmer, incidentally, is not seeking legal redress and no grievance procedure has bee initiated.

      The Acting Chair confirned that Mr Murdoch had not been present at the function.

  12. July 22, 2011 9:35 pm

    Any indication from any of the outgoing Board members, or anyone for that fact, as to why they behaved as they did; so secretly; in such an underhand way. Surely there has to be an explanation and some redress, because I suspect we as members will end up paying the cost of their actions…???

    • July 23, 2011 1:37 am

      Their reason given is that they were under legal constraints. However, these legal constraints did not exclude an admission to members of these legal constraints, or any attempt to reassure Members – an attempt which would have been perfectly legal under the law and, needless to say, might have reassured members that the Board might by planning to remedy the mess in which tthey’d found themselves.

      Yes, we members will pay 24000 for legal advice in a case that has not and may not be brought.

  13. July 22, 2011 8:17 pm

    Have left a fairly lengthy breakdown here:

    http://silkwormsink.blogspot.com/2011/07/poetry-society-egm-commentary.html

    Let me know what I missed!

  14. Duncan McGibbon permalink
    July 22, 2011 5:47 pm

    who is staying on out of the Trustees, the employees and the editorial team?

  15. July 22, 2011 5:30 pm

    Good. After the statement from the finance officer, there was no other proper outcome.

  16. Angela France permalink
    July 22, 2011 5:11 pm

    as someone who couldn’t be there, I’d like to thank all of you who went and stood up for the rest of us.

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