Message from the Director of Public Relations

I found it odd that the President chose to post his thoughts on the validity of the recent request for an EGM on this website without consulting me.  I am the Director of Public Relations and an Executive Committee (EC) member of equal standing to the President yet the President sees it fit to post his views without consultation.

I also feel that the President is imposing his view on me without giving me the chance to discuss it with him and put forward my own thoughts.  This is not how the EC should run and I believe it is in everyone’s interests to know how the President has sought to run the WPA following recent events.

I thought therefore that it is only fair and transparent that I post my response to his post as well as my own thoughts on the best way forward for the WPA.  I have also set out why I believe that the President’s conclusion on whether an EGM or AGM is appropriate is wrong. Perhaps then the members can decide which approach they prefer.

This is a long post so I have split it into three sections to make my views as clear as possible, namely:

  1. The effectiveness of the current EC
  2. My proposed way forward
  3. My response to the President

The effectiveness of the current EC

The Constitution states that the EC is the managing body of the WPA.  The EC must be comprised of 5 named positions – the National President, National Secretary, National Treasurer, Director of Development and Director of Public Relations.  For some time now the EC has only been compromised of the National President, Dan Murphy and the Director of Public Relations, myself.

In reality, the President is running the EC on behalf of the WPA without any meaningful recourse to me.  It is entirely unsatisfactory that the President can make unilateral decisions and impose his views on the future of the WPA without challenge or discussion.

I am grateful to the time and commitment that the President has given to the WPA over the years but my view is that he is no longer fit for the role and this is not fair to the members of the WPA.  There have been a number of incidents in recent months that have convinced me that the President must stand aside and allow a full election of the EC to take place at the requested EGM. For him to continue to seek to unilaterally run the WPA is not in the interests of the members. I set these out below and can and will provide evidence in support if required.

  1. The President has made a number of unilateral decisions in relation to EC business without any consultation with the rest of the EC. For example, the President decided unilaterally to postpone a recently called EGM at which a new Secretary was to be elected. The President stated that there was a risk that members might feel aggrieved by the result as due to an ongoing disciplinary process. While this might be a sensible approach, the President’s approach to potential conflicts of interest is not consistent. For example, the President thought it appropriate to appoint Mr and Mrs Milton as the Hearing and Investigation Officer respectively of the recent disciplinary process brought by a member.  The Miltons are members of the same club as the complainant which will inevitably give rise to a potential or perceived conflict of interest. Indeed, at the time when the President decided to postpone the Secretary EGM, Mr Milton sent me a threatening email in which he instructed me to agree to the postponement of the meeting or face disciplinary proceedings. This email was sent to my private email address and could only have been obtained from the President. I twice asked Mr Milton how he acquired my private email address, but wasn’t given the courtesy of a reply.  This was not appropriate and shows how the President is seeking to intimidate those in his way. There is a duty to avoid conflicts during all WPA disciplinary processes.
  2. On Monday 11th September, I attended a meeting with the President to discuss WPA matters at the Cricketers Pub in Pontcanna following the resignation of the Treasurer and Assistant Secretary. I was amazed to see that the President had invited Mr and Mrs Milton to the meeting without asking me. I refused to meet with the President with Mr and Mrs Milton in attendance, (I don’t know them) and they had no mandate to attend a meeting of the EC. At the same meeting we discussed the vacant Treasurer position and the President informed me that he had ‘sounded out’ a suitable Member that we should appoint into the Role. I refused this unconstitutional request.
  1. The President has failed to adhere to the Data Protection Act 1998 when recently sending emails to the WPA members. The disclosure of individual members’ email addresses to other members puts the WPA in clear breach of its data protection obligations and opens up the WPA to the risk of legal action. This is unacceptable and again shows that the President is simply not coping with the administrative burden of seeking to run the WPA on his own.
  2. When the President was first in receipt of the recent EGM request, whilst at the CEP event in Normandy, he left me a voicemail. He described a section of the letter as “b*llocks” and was audibly chastised by his wife in the background for doing so. I find myself agreeing with the President’s wife. The letter is a serious request to address a serious matter. It is signed by a majority of WPA affiliated clubs and it is the EC’s role to take such requests seriously, with respect and in good faith. It is clear to me that the President was against the calling of an EGM from the outset without hearing any comments from me and without considering the issues fully.
  3. The reaction of the President to anything that he does not like or that cuts across his own agenda is often met with a barrage of threatening correspondence and/or threats of legal action. This is not an appropriate way to engage with fellow EC or WPA members. I feel that the President is using convoluted and calculated legal language to put across his version of events or his interpretation of how WPA business should be approached.  His arguments may look reasonable and accurate to the untrained eye, but on deeper analysis, as below, it is clear that his views can lack substance. This is neither helpful nor welcome.

The EC exists to represent the interests of all members and all clubs. We cannot do that as a group of 2 and the President is clearly not achieving this when he chooses to act unilaterally.

My proposed way forward

It is clear to me that the WPA needs an overhaul.  I do not believe that anyone disputes that the best way to approach this is by way of a full and transparent election of all members of the EC.  I urge all members to review my proposed way forward and agree that this will get us to where we need to be. The member clubs and the members must be at the heart of this process and everything else must be put to one side until the process is complete.  My own reasoning for why this is the best way forward is set out below in response to the President’s own interpretation of the EGM request.

  1. The President and the Director of Public Relations must step down with immediate effect.
  2. The business of the WPA must then be entrusted entirely to the Arbitrators.
  3. An EGM must be immediately called for a date and at a location to be agreed. I would suggest a month from today. There must be a facility for members to vote in person or by post as we need the fullest possible turn out to give the new EC the strongest possible mandate to move forward. The Arbitrators shall be in charge of all administration involved in calling the EGM.
  4. Ahead of an EGM, all member clubs must undertake to contact all of their own membership to explain why an EGM has been called and the importance of taking part in the election. The members must feel that they have been informed of all issues appropriately. The Arbitrators shall provide a briefing paper that can be circulated to all clubs for this purpose.
  5. The Arbitrators should invite nominations for all positions on the EC to be voted on at the EGM without delay.

 

My response to the President

I have set out my thoughts directly below each of the President’s arguments as set out in his recent post on the WPA website.

DM “I sincerely believe [Andrew Howard] ought to support the calling of an AGM for the following reasons, and I ask him to do that. With respect, it seems clear that we cannot, in all conscience, as Officers, support something which is so clearly unconstitutional. We both have no choice but to support the only constitutional method open to us, the AGM.”

AH response: I do not agree for the reasons set out below.

DM “The letter contains no resolution, but expresses some purposes of those sending the letter. It is not a constitutionally acceptable request to the EC for the following reasons.”

AH  response: It is important that everyone sees a copy of the letter:

This letter starts with the assertion that the EC of the WPA is no longer effective under the terms of the current WPA Constitution and provides an example of why it cannot operate in practice.  This is a statement of opinion with which I agree. The EC cannot function as just a group of 2 and to do so is contrary to Clause 5.1.1 of the Constitution which requires the 5 named EC roles.  I would further add that the EC is in reality being controlled by the President with no material input from me. My views on whether the current President is up to the job are set out above. The letter then calls for the 2 remaining members of the EC to step down to allow an EGM to take place to allow the election of all positions of the EC. Lastly the letter demands that the nominated arbitrators be allowed to oversee the running of the WPA pending the EGM.

The request was eventually signed by representatives of 9 member clubs of the WPA which represents 60% of the Affiliated Club membership (as listed on the WPA website). Clause 8 states that an EGM can be called “upon a requisition of 5 registered clubs, signed by an officer of each of those organisations”. It is clear therefore that the EGM notice is valid from a “signatories” point of view.

DM “1.         EGM’s (sic) require a resolution on which members can vote, as has been the case in every EGM I have ever attended and as members will also recall recently.”

AH response: I do not agree with this statement. There is nothing in the Constitution that requires a request for an EGM to contain a resolution on which members can vote. In fact, I regard the use of the word “resolution” to be a red herring.  If a “resolution” was such an important factor in the way that the WPA must make decisions then the Constitution should define the term and explain how resolutions need be drafted and tabled. The word “resolution” does not appear in the Constitution. What has happened at previous WPA EGMs does not impact the validity of this notice.  It is valid as a matter of fact. However, it is true that resolutions are a good way of focussing the attention of any general meeting. It gives people an understanding of what it is that they are being asked to consider and vote upon.  In my view, the recent request for an EGM could not be clearer in its scope. It calls for an EGM at which a re-election of the whole EC will take place. There can be no misunderstanding from the members about the purpose of this requested EGM. I have set out above some suggestions on how we can move this forward to a satisfactory conclusion by way of an EGM.

DM “2.         Any resolution must be about something the WPA has the power to do under its constitution:

a) The EGM cannot force the officers to resign if they choose not to. Recently two officers were requested to stand down, which they could have declined to do, but they chose to resign. So there is no effective “vote of confidence” – it is for the Officers personally to decide what they wish to do.”

AH response: the EGM does not seek to force the current EC members to step down. The request for the EGM envisages that the EC members will already have stepped down in anticipation of a full election at the EGM. I agree that this is the most sensible approach.

DM “If they don’t volunteer to resign, the resolution is pointless.”

AH response: I agree. However, I hope that the President does agree to step down to allow a full election at an EGM. It is my intention to step down to allow this process to run its course. For reasons already explained, I feel that the President’s position is untenable. However, if the President feels confident that he is doing a good job then he should feel confident that he is going to be re-elected, should he be re-nominated for the role.

DM “b.         The running of the WPA cannot be handed over to the arbitrators. There is no power to do that.”

AH response: I agree that this is not expressly provided for in the Constitution. However, the EC has to ensure that the WPA is being properly governed.  It is my view that the EC cannot operate by 2 members alone. In any event, the President is seeking to unilaterally run the WPA without any input from me.  The EC cannot be allowed to continue in the sole control of the President. The Constitution allows the Arbitrators to be appointed by the WPA to oversee certain official WPA business.  It must therefore be appropriate for the Arbitrators to be appointed to oversee the period between the current EC members stepping down and the election which is envisaged in this EGM request. If this action requires ratification by members at the EGM then so be it.

DM “It is pointless to hold an EGM to try to do things which cannot be done.”

AH response: It is clear that an EGM can achieve a full re-election of the EC.

DM “These are the reasons an EGM called for the purposes in the letter would be unconstitutional, and any decisions made invalid.”

AH response: I do not agree. Not only would the requested EGM be valid, it would also result in a valid decision.

DM “The letter also accepts that such an EGM would be a first step only, and that it would have to be followed by the calling of another meeting, another EGM, to vote for new officers to fill vacancies but it could not remove any who choose not to resign.”

AH response: I do not agree. As stated above, the EGM request envisages that the EC members will have already resigned ahead of the EGM.  The EGM will deal solely with the full EC election.

DM “It would therefore be pretty pointless, and waste time, when there is a much more effective and constitutional alternative, an AGM, which would allow the Committee to be replaced in an entirely proper, and democratic way, where all our members decide.”

AH response: I do not agree that an EGM would be pointless, a waste of time, ineffective or unconstitutional.  I do agree that an AGM could be an alternative route to a full election but this could only achieve the desired result if every EC position is put up for election. The Constitution states that certain positions are elected in the AGMs of odd years and others in even years.  I understand that the President does not intend to stand down in the event that an AGM is called in place of the requested EGM as it is not the year in which the role of President is due to be re-elected.  An AGM therefore cannot be an alternative unless those present vote on a resolution immediately prior to the election that the Constitution be temporarily amended to facilitate a full election of all EC positions. In any event, an EGM is the best solution as an AGM requires other Constitutional agenda items (such as the approval of the accounts) which would distract from the issue at hand.

DM “The EGM would produce a meeting where there would be likely to be a lot of dissent and argument and frustration, not least for the reasons I gave above. It would only be divisive, at a time when we need to rebuild the WPA.   I sincerely believe an AGM is now the only way forward.”

AH response: It is regrettable that any meeting of WPA members might easily descend into dissent, argument and frustration given the current state of affairs.  However, the calling of an AGM in place of an EGM will not change this fact. I would urge the WPA members and member clubs to consider my proposed way forward and undertake to attend the EGM in good faith with a view to moving forward. We need to work together to rid the WPA of politics, ill-feeling and cliques.  Let’s remember that this game is a hobby underpinned by hard working volunteers and willing members in the sole pursuit of fun, competition and friendship.

DM “For all these reasons I believe that the officers are honour bound to call an AGM. I am sure that that is also the opinion of many members who wish to make changes but in the proper way.”

AH response: I do not agree for the reasons set out above.  There is a clear desire and need to make changes. These changes should happen by way of an EGM.

DM “With respect, it seems clear that we cannot, in all conscience, as Officers, support something which is so clearly unconstitutional. Both officers have no choice but to support the only constitutional method open to us, the AGM, and so I expect Andrew to support that.”

AH response: I do not support the calling of an AGM unless the President agrees that all EC positions be put up for election.  An EGM is a proper and constitutionally sound way to proceed.

Andrew Howard

Director of Public Relations

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