Thursday 23 October 2008

The Shaw Trust

Chairing a session at the Social Enterprise London conference on Wednesday I am collared by a member who says thank you for being such a staunch defender of Ian Charlesworth , the CEO of the Shaw Trust , who was removed by the trustees of that charity despite having led the organisation to such great success . She says it is important that trustees know that when they act to remove CEOs then that may well have consequences and therefore trustees generally must act fully in line with good governance . I agree with her. That is one reason why acevo has been clear in its defence of Ian .

And then today I get a phone call from a former employee of the Trust who tells me how , in his words , he was "shabbily treated" when he was removed from his post . Indeed this is the second such cold call I have had from a former employee who wanted me to khow how he had been treated . I have already passed on the previous call to the Charity Commission .

This ongoing problem needs resolution , not least for the benefit of the staff and the beneficiaries of the charity . Good governance requires , in my opinion , a clear line to be drawn between the executive and non executive function . In this case there appears to be confusion between the role of the Director General , occupied by the person who founded the Charity , and the actual Chief Executive . In this case I understand that some staff report to the DG post although most report to the CEO position . The roles vis a vis the trustee board therefore appear unclear .

This is not a model I know of in any other acevo member charity , though you never know! it is not one I would recommend .

The trustees will need to review this whatever happens with the position of Ian who remains as the existing CEO , even if they have put him on what they charmingly describe as " gardening leave " . At many functions I go to people ask me about Ian . He is clearly well liked and respected . One person tells me that she thinks it is unbelievable that the Trust could think of removing one of the country's most successful CEOs.

The Charity Commission are reviewing . I trust this will conclude soon. In the meantime the FD has resigned . I wonder if the Trsut will be publishing her resignation letter ? We should be told I think? Perhaps the new PR firm that have been hired to represent the Trust will be letting us know. They are specialists in brand management I read in Third Sector. We must hope that the charity's money is being spent wisely in such matters and I am sure the expenditure will be fully recorded in their annual report ; indeed along with the legal costs also being spent at the moment .Transparency requires such disclosure so a view can be taken and I hope this is also under review by the Charity Commission .Clearly charities must make arrangements in these areas . What must be open to debate however is whether this is proportionate and whether a resolution of the problem is better than spending money in this way ? I shall be very happy to publish the details here as with any response from said PR company. Lets ensure we have the full picture so proper judgments can be made.

We must all hope that the situation here will be resolved quickly and that Ian's position is sorted in the best interests on him and the charity. The wider lessons need to be learnt . It should be very difficult for any Trustee board to remove a CEO , unless of course there is serious negligence or gross misconduct . Good governance should mean an effective executive and non executive relationship , where the respective roles are understood and respected . I also think the role of the Charity Commission may need reviewing in respect of powers of direction . We shall see what happens in this case .Overall it leaves me feeling , and not for the first time , that our governance needs review and strengthening.

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