Comments from Rus Bowden
A number of posts were deleted from the site at the discretion of the moderator, Martin Alexander. Others remain as posted. For those interested, the deleted posts are collected here.
If you really want an unfiltered picture of what is going on from the perspective of Rus Bowden, I’ve added links to his Facebook and blog pages. I hope he and other readers will appreciate the value of what Rus has to say, and I wish him well in his efforts as a writer and commentator.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 7:35 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
I should add that I am not associated with the politics involved either, as you who are posting from the UK as members and hopeful candidates are. In other words, I am objective and warning that if you don’t want these things to happen any more, then don’t do things the way they have been done. These were all intelligent, loving, caring people on the board. They are not investment banker with millions in bonusses on the line. They accoml[pished things in life and decided to serve the greater culture by being trustees of hte Poetry Society.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 7:31 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
I am not defending the Board, though. I am looking at what happened and saying that it happened, calling it for what it is.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 4:21 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
You are the one who responded wih the exclamation point, that I could call the Commission up. Yes, I have no probem talking to people, so if I feel it would serve purposes, I may call them to find some information out. At this point, that is your train of thought, to call them. If you think I am turning things around, thiink instead that I come to this with an outside perspective, so that I am seeing things differently.
So let me now get back to the pertinent points, ones that you may think are less important than what I think, or even than what may ultimately matter.
The question keeps returning as to why the Trustees did not get the free services, why they spent the money. You say that it is incumbent upon the Board to know about ACAS. If no one ever told them it was incumbent upon them, then how would they know? We often need big signs to let people know what the lawas are, for instance, speed limit signs, or even “Fines Doubled in Work Zones.” Here in the US, when you go from one state to another, you get a greeting sign, and often one that will tell people entering about some difference in the law.
If someone told the Board that it was incumbent upon them to know about free legal services, then they knew and did not follow procedure, one conclusion that is being jumped to. However, neither knowing or not knowing make them incompetent. The latter makes them ignorant, and therefore they and all future boards should be availed as to what the ACAS can offer them with a big sign as they enter. The other side holds two loomng possibilities, and one is a slippery slope for those who would like them impeached, which is that they recklessly spent the Society’s money, knowing that there was pro bono legal services avauilable, that would have accomplished all they were setting out to do. The second thread here is that they knew about ACAS, but also knew or assumed that the services that ACAS could provide were insufficient for the Society’s needs at the time.
The response at the ECM as I recall is that they did not know about ACAS. That means all of them. No one brought it up, so no one knew. That is what needs to be addressed. The rules and by laws that you linked to do not address this issue sufficiently. If the Commission did indeed apprise all board members of how the ACAS could have helped them with their legal services, the Commission did not do well at it. And here, of course, I am take the trustee’s statement at face value.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 3:48 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
And so you are confident, that even if such a procedure is not in the rules and by laws, that the Charity Commission certainly informed each one of the Trustees that the particular case that the Board faced, came under a catgory of pro bono work. Now that’s news. Apparently you know this to be so.
An investigative reporter could call the Charity Commission to find out whether the Commission discussed this matter with the Board, couldn’t they. The specific issue, as we know, is the specific issue that faced the board when they hired Harbottle & Lewis, no? Of course, the Commission should have been contacted before the Trustees were labelled “incompetent” on this score! As I’ve asked a couple times in what may be deleted posts: How could they know? I may phone them/
Could you point out where the free legal advise is indicated in what you posted, please?
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 3:07 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
Yes, precisely. Yours is the first post to carry on with the urgent train of thought I have been trying to put forth, that mechanisms need to be in place, which weren’t, so that unusual processes can be handled with alacrity.
Whatever the new board, whoever is the next director, these procedures which have never been in place apparently, need to be written. So my thoughts have gone to documentation. Your thoughts go to training. Yes, yes, and more yessing to come, hopefully. “You’re a new Trustee, congratulations. Now here’s the volumes we have for you to go over, and here’s book that constitutes the short version to get you going. Take these to heart, and no one will ever call you incompetent.”
Without these mechanisms in place, every board has been “incompetent.” We just never got to see it so glaringly as this spring and summer.
Part of a discussion going on in the thread called “Discussion” has to do with the near imperative that some of the old board members should constitue such a significant part of the new Board, that a smooth transition can take place. Good idea. But we have to do better than that. If the Board were to suffer a calamity, and all members were to die or get brain injured in a plane crash or what have you, then a new board needs to be able to go in and keep the Society running, people like you, for instance. As far as I can see right now, all the Board has is an outline of what constitutes being a Trustee on such a board, rules and by laws and such, that seem very general, and they would have an empty room to meet in. They need more.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 2:46 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
You’re addressing me on this matter, the person who spearheaded the motion to keep Fiona Sampson and the editor’s position out of it? But I see you deleted my posts. I was the first one to object to Kate Clanchy and Judith Palmer’s focus on Fiona in the articles they wrote to begin two of the largest discussion threads you have had here at your blog, which you named after the Poetry Society. Hmmm, sort of like rewriting history.
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 1:55 pm | In reply to Ira Lightman.
Good morning from here.
I should begin, however, by noting with you that I sent an e-mail to Martin after reading your post where you begin “This is not about Fiona Sampson.” I thought it was excellent. I said in the e-mail, “Did you see that beautiful post by Ira Lightman?”
There had to be a point when Judith decided to quit instead of stay on. At some point in time, according to how the conversation has been going here, there came a point when she felt she would have been culpable by staying on. Culpable in what? Well, as you point out, she says the flash point of her quitting was that she would have been culpable of misrepresenting what was going on at the office to the Arts Council.
We can all feel for this situation.
What she says the Board told her was that if she did not go along with at least what she perceived to be underhanded shenanigans, lying for the sake of funding, as it were, then she would be subject to “disciplinary action”. She then quits. In such a scenario, she should have said, “No, I won’t” and stayed on. It would have been the Board’s move to fire her or whatever disciplinary action they had in mind, or would have come to mind. I can tell you that I would not have quit, nor would I have lied to the Arts Council. But, if the Board were to then fire her, then there could have been a no-confidence movement, then the fundning at risk, then a re-instatement.
That was the flash point. And you are right, it has nothing to do with Fiona Sampson. Judith expended far too much ink in talking about the alignment of the Editor’s job on the organizational chart (as did Kate Clanchy). I read this more as a thorn in Judith’s side, giving her just too much aggravation to then handle the Board with alacrity. It made for an emotional time to kick the dog. Here’s what Alison Flood said (http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jul/27/poetry-society-funding-withheld):
“The troubles began last month, when president Jo Shapcott, chairman of the board Peter Carpenter, director Judith Palmer and financial officer Paul Ranford all resigned.”
Submitted on 2011/08/02 at 1:53 am | In reply to Lindy Barbour.
I am not saying that there are haloes over the heads of the trustees. I myself probably would have gone along with separating the Editor’s job from the Director’s job, which becomes more operational with allt he funding and managerial issues involved. That’s not the type of oversight that ought to be in place for the Editor of one of the world’s finest, well, poetry reviews.
Given that, we have the case of the Director quittng and the Board getting the brunt of a no-confiidence vote from the members. I believe the latter happened to quickly, without enough insight. That leaves us today with the movements in place to reinstate Judith as Director. I must point out that I am not opposed to this at this point. I have been saying that everyone needs to stop talking about the Editor’s position and where she is on the organizational chart, and just get back to work. Judith Palmer may have been competent in all she has done, remarkably so as well. I take this at face value. She made a terrible mistake when she quit, however. Just as the Board made a terrible mistake when they did not follow proper procedures or act under the proper conditions in what they did do. This does not subtract that each was trying to address an issue of importance, and there are sub branches and communications that we may never know about. But both Judith and the Board should have acted differently. I would laugh and be very pleased if by some miracle, Judith was back and the new baord was made up of just about all the old board members. That would probably work. No one is “disgraced” in my eyes, and no one is “incompetent” in my eyes. They are all competent people who wer giving of themselves in one way or another, who made bad choices this springtime.
What need to be done now, is to retrieve the money from the attorneys, as they should not have accepted the money with pro bono service available. And to get everyone back to work who will go back to work, and work. It is not a matter of blame. Let’s look at it this way. England has a soccer team, or what you call football. Each and every player does not play spactacularly each game. Some have slumps. But for the most part, we forgive these periods. I have mentioned the mob mentality in the past. The mob will not allow such forgiveness to take place. Suddenly, the Board becomes a Them instead of an Esteemed Us. We build people up, sometimes unfairly, and then we knock them down.
Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 10:32 pm
I contacted Harbottle & Lewis though their contact page, expressing my concerns over their accepting money from the board:
Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 9:46 pm | In reply to Sally Evans.
I just sent Harbottle & Lewis a message through their contact page (http://www.harbottle.com/hnl/pages/hnl_contact.php). I should have copied the entire message and posted it here, but I didn’t. I ended by saying that if it was wrong to give the money to them, then it was wrong for them to accept it.
Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 4:45 pm | In reply to rusbowden.
Something may be lost in the culture change from here in the USA to there in the UK, but lawyers cannot act unethically. I believe there is a case to get the money back on ethics, and if not, then there should be–unless, that is, the board was hiring them for reason that would not be covered under the pro bono arrangements available. But as I understand it, the trustees did not know of the resources. Again, that’s a problem either way, that they did not know. How could they have, at the time? There is no way. Once the Murdoch attorneys were on the case, it should have been clear to all. Then it would be a matter of documenting procedure so that any future trustees would know how to handle such a situation.
I will submit over and over again that yes, Judith Palmer could have and should have stayed on. This would not have meant she was endorsing anything. That’s what’s faulty logic. I have been at the same place, working for 13 years. I definitely don’t agree with everything everyone has ever put into place, nor at any other job I have ever had. At times, I would object. But if I ever felt that things were to be permanently unethical or untenable here where I work, then I would have to resign. In this situation we know that this is not the case. She could have stayed on and not only made her feelings known, but taken whatever she thought would be appropriate action. Unless, of course, she did not know what her resources were either, and she thought that an untenable situation had developed. Either way, as we have seen is the case, she put very important funding at risk.
Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 3:02 pm | In reply to Sally Evans.
I oppose you, and I don’t think the hundred or thousands of poets out there that you are referring to ought not to get their good poems published, nor would the board, and certainly nor would the present Editor. Nor do I have reason for wanting to only put forth the work of ten or twenty poets. But I oppose what has become the status quo on this issue.
On Judith Palmer’s actions put the funding at risk, which it still is. She could have stayed on and dealt with matter from the position of being Director. If she cared so much, that is how to take care of the matter. If “no confidence” truly was the way to go, and if it should have happened, then she could have spearheaded such a movement herself, at the right time. She could have gone on record that she was not in cahoots with anything she perceived as wrong doings. If she then got let go, which is a hypothetical, then we would have needed to follow the path we now find ourselves on.
If it was unethical for the trustees to spend the money on legal fees, then it was unethical for the lawyers to accept it. Without a procedure in place that the board would follow, they can only make the moves that seem right for the Society, which it seems they tried to do. This makes my “no confidence” to be in the procedures that have been put in place throughout the years that the board would follow, which include this board and all in the past. They should know what to do like anyone else, especially when unusual situations come about.
I also object to bandying around words like “disgraceful” when it comes to people who have given their time out of love, no matter what the outcome.
Submitted on 2011/08/01 at 2:04 am | In reply to Leah Fritz.
Thanks very much for your thoughtfulness and your time.
The breadth of poetry that the Society fosters and supports makes it singular as a remarkable organization. My hunch becomes that the Review editor should not answer to the director of the other operations. Even if their personalities would not clash, there would have to be a clash of professional approaches, sort of like having a pianist answer to the branch manager of a local bank. George Szirtes seems close to being able to switch hats, with the mind and focus for it, but I wonder, and so I wonder the feasibility. A 3-month trial period seemed wonderfully insightful of whomever thought it up, such a stroke that others would immediately see its value. Too bad this trial never got tried for what it was worth.
On the legal matters, the odd thing is that Murdoch’s lawyers should have said something to the board to the effect that they did not need to spend the Society’s money. Unless, as you point out, there were other issues. It seems that the real incompetence may have been with the hired lawyers if there were no other issues, either that or ethical misconduct in accepting the money. I prefer to believe there were other issues, but am holding onto the desk here lest other news comes through. Yet why don’t we know at this point what those other issues are? How could this be part of the case of no confidence if we don’t know what is behind it in full? So anyway, there is no need for a lawyer to be on the board, not that they should not be, as hiring a lawyer would be impossible if all acted ethically–again, unless there were other considerations.
Now it looks like the petition has gone through, which further handicaps an already handcuffed board, one which we don’t know what they know, and whatever they know they cannot act on any longer.
Submitted on 2011/07/31 at 9:38 pm | In reply to JB.
Who are you insulting? I asked that you look in the mirror.
Accept the feedback or not. To have so many people at this time looking to the poetry editor’s job for whatever it should or should not be, and then to have people insulting or belittling, making motions to silence those who disagree, indicates a mob mentality. Who cannot see that?
There are serious problems with the actions that have been taken up until now on these matters, and serious problems with issues that have been put on the table at this forum. The mob mentality is not serving matters. It indicates closed minds that do not want discussion, but want to put people down and then to silence them. You just hopped on board to follow up JB’s insult. There is no need for that.
Submitted on 2011/07/31 at 5:31 pm | In reply to Jon.
Yes, Anne, “ousted” was technically the incorrect word. Their functional abilities, however, have been considerably reduced. But also, the sense now is that many will need to remain for continuity. You will find a discussion of this elsewhere on this site in the topic called “Discussion.”.
Mob mentality is what I am detecting, so I am noting it in this discussion. Someone has to tell the good folks here about the spots on their ties. It should be accepted as coming from a concerned and informed observer of the situation.
more to come……
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