Toilet Paper Gate – Gem A update.
On the 29 July we were told by the Chairman of the Board of Gem A, that the reason Gem A fired the human resources manager from the Association at the end of April, was because there was a breach of confidentiality over a staff members comments about the quality of the toilet paper at Ely Road. Given the seriousness of such issues, let’s be honest the quality of the paper we wipe our bottoms on is of national significance (what would happen if the Queen visited), and requires staff members heads to roll if it is not soft enough. Such are the issues that preoccupy certain sections of the current Gem A board.
What is significant though, is the Board continues to live in the fantasy realm of the Emperor whose vanity blinded him from seeing the truth of his own embarrassing nakedness. According to the Chairman of the Board, in the face of an employment issue over expenses, they were so out of their depth professionally they had to recruit a London based legal firm to assist them in the dismissal of the CEO, suspend the published AGM date and postpone elections. It was confirmed to members that the charities first legal bill was in excess of £50k ($75k USD). It will be much higher than this when all the accounts are published. Gem A is a public charity and will have to publish its accounts, so the idea that they can keep the figure hidden is nonsense.
The Social Media.
Also there is a malicious campaign by ‘The Social Media’ that means they have had to hire more lawyers. No doubt this blog article will be counted as a part of The Social Media campaign that has led to four Board members resigning their posts in the last three months. When asked by a member at the AGM whether there had been grievances against board members from staff, the political obfuscations around the issue was finally brought to an honest affirmative answer. Yes it is true. Apparently though this is because of the social media campaign against the board, it forced the board member to behave in a dishonourable way. A separate Board member resigned very publicly, citing internal issues with how the Board was being and managed. It is clear the Board of Gem A simply refuse to take responsibility for their conduct.
The Gem A commentariat has been broad-based, vocal and not always judicial in some of the information that has been presented as facts. What is worth noting is the Board is guilty of deliberate mis-information, leaking confidential information and selective presentation of the truth. Does this mean that the Gem A Board are now part of the ill-informed social media?
My own case is an example of this. Incorrect information was published about me to the entire membership stating I had written and was teaching CSR courses for Gem A. It was presented as if I had a financial self-interest in seeing CSR maintained in the organisation. The subsequent apology was welcome, but the accompanying distribution of my contractual details to the membership was a breach of confidence, as well as deliberately obfuscating what has been going on in Gem A for years, namely Board members and other nominees also have their own financial contracts with the Association. The Board should of course publish who else of the nominees and incumbent Board members receive payments and remuneration from Gem A, but they will not because it is not in their interests to be honest with members. This kind of selective presentation of the truth, illuminates all of us, how the Board behaves. My belief in ethics, CSR and ‘mine to market traceability’ according to the Board’s weird worldview could not possible be a position of principle that I have consistently advocated over the last 20 years, whether in diamonds, gold or gemstones. The Board are guilty of judging other people by their own myopic double standards. We need a progressive 21st century Gemmology agenda and Gem A really could recapture that optimism of earlier in the year with the right Board in place.
The Election Process.
The recent poor communication over the election is another very serious concern. Poorly drafted ballot papers, confusion over whether it is a proxy vote, a postal vote or both. I have received two lots of ballot papers in the post. But what about international voters who make up 50% of the people eligible to vote? Given the time squeeze on these elections, international voters are marginalised from the process due to language, time zones, bad administration of the election process and the lack of any designated person who is over seeing this election. Badly laid out ballot papers means they are printed over two separate pieces of paper and compromises one of the candidates as their election box is split over the two papers. Also we learn that the Chairman will vote for you if you do not fill in any of the boxes. Given that the vote closes on the 24th, the ballots will be given to the Board who will count them and then announce the winners on the 26th. I will be frank here. I do not trust the Board or The Chairman to act with integrity, there is nothing in their recent behaviour which gives me any confidence in their openness, accountability and professionalism. Lets trust that the announcement on the 26th tallies with the auditors count of the 24th. What we have is a Board who in their own hubris, believed they are qualified to run an election without any experience, and it shows. They should have gone to the Electoral Reform Society, who manage elections for hundreds of organisations ever year and have a simple clear and un-corruptible process in place.
- What we now know is that when faced with an internal employment issue, the Board panicked, removed the HR manager and replaced them with an external consultant.
- When faced with questions from members about their governance behaviour, they panicked and refused to talk, assuming being questioned as to their actions was a breach of confidence. What they failed to realise is that details of accusations and transparency over their impartiality and processes are not one and the same thing.
- When faced with an EGM motion, they panicked and censored the motion through their lawyer.
- When faced with the understandable social media backlash to their aloofness, they panicked, striped the communications manager of his duties and then hired an external PR consultant to manage their communication ineptitude.They subsequently fired the PR consultant, once they found out that PR was not a magic wand that waves away genuine critique of their behaviour. An apology to the offended staff member was requested, I hope the Board will recognise their mistake and apologise.
- When questioned by members over the conduct of individual board member and accusations of bullying and harassing staff, they panicked and tried to cover it up, eventually conceding to a formal process that led to the resignation of that Board member.
- When the press ran public interest stories on the behaviour of the Board, they panicked and threatened the press with legal action.
- When presented with compelling arguments as to why the censorship of ethics and CSR in the organisation was a really bad idea, they ignored it, justifying their stance with ‘We only do the science of gemmology’, in complete contradiction to their previous position on the issue. On this point, Nigel Israel at the AGM backed tracked and made up policy on the spot in saying that this needs to be reviewed. He also admitted the constitution of the Association was out of date and needed strengthening. The Gem A board are doing so many u-turns on CSR they must be feeling sick with dizziness.
On the constitutional change the Chair is correct. Gem A does need strengthening, the question is, who is best placed to strengthen it? The current bunch of incumbents who have exploited its loop holes and who remain aloof and unaccountable to the membership and publish one-sided and incorrect justifications for their behaviour, or a fresh group of qualified nominees who are not tainted with, censorship, prolific and unaccountable spending, double mindedness, internal division and the arrogance to assume they are above being questioned.
If our group of candidates are elected we will have to act quickly and decisively according to our Manifesto pledges. Additionally,
- We will need to institute an immediate review of the loss of control of the budget by the Board. This kind of unaccountable expenditure has brought the organisation to the bottom of the financial reserves and professional ridicule. It may be that Gem A is not liable for all this expenditure.
- We will institute robust financial management protocols that will include appointing a Treasurer, the signing off of monthly management accounts and the publishing of quarterly statements to the membership.
- Will instantly build trust back up with the staff, who have been systematically overlooked and ignored by the Board. The staff and members are Gem A. The board are the servants of Gem A, not the dictatorial overlords. The staff are brilliant.
Nigel Israel, the current Chair wants it all to go away. To summarise his closing comments at the AGM, he simply wants the members to be silent and conform to the Board’s will. Whatever side of the debate on the governance of Gem A the members are on, the one thing they must never do, is conform and remain silent. Gem A is not a Victorian workhouse where Oliver must do as he is told by Mr. Bumble. To do so would ensure that the memberships become the servants to the unaccountable will of a petty fiefdom. We no longer live in a Victorian society where people have the right to rule. The colonial era is over. Good leadership recognises mistakes, apologises and is accountable. The dumbing down of debate, discussion, and the commitment to censorship through legal channels by this Board, should be a clear indicator to members of the calibre of the Board when faced with its first real test of its governance credentials. It would seem that the qualities of good leadership are not present in the current Board.
Lets hope that the quality of the toilet paper at Gem A will improve with the announcement of a new board on the 26 August.
How to Vote for change.
To vote in the Gem A election you need to be a member. Please visit the Gem A website [see below] and download the voting paper and choose your candidates. Ensure you tick a box next to every candidate, for, against or abstain. Sign and date your voting form and send to; Gem A Elections, Hazlems Fenton, 3rd Floor Palladium House, 1-4 Argyll Street, London. W1F 7RD. UK. You can also vote via email, download the voting form from http://www.gem-a.com/membership/agm-2015.aspx#elections.
Email your SIGNED and dated form to: firstname.lastname@example.org
It is important that you vote for and against.
Vote FOR: Ronnie Bauer, Kathryn Bonnano, Alan Hodgkinson, Alberto Scarani, Christopher Smith, Michael Hoare, John Bradshaw, Guy Clutterbuck, Greg Valerio
Vote AGAINST: Jessica Cadzow-Collins, Paul Greer, Alan Hart, Richard Slater, Justine Carmody, Kerry Gregory, Jack Ogden.
Also you can get all the latest up to date information via the dedicated Facebook page Friends of Gem A