Call for MS committee to resign

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Members of the Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society are calling for its committee to step down, accusing it of bullying and nepotism.

The Star spoke with three society members this week, who alleged that the committee had bullied members and staff and was not acting in the best interests of the society.

Other concerns raised involved two staff members who had been fired by the committee and a lack of quotes for work that was done.

A letter had been circulated to members alleging inappropriate behaviour by the committee, nepotism, conflict of interest and poor treatment of members.

Eighty-two percent of financial members signed a requisition for the committee to resign and call a special general meeting to air their grievances, which had not been scheduled, members alleged.

A protest will be held by members on Saturday, from 11am, at the MS Society in Baker St, Dunedin.

When contacted by The Star, committee president Beverly Glenn said, however, that there was no bullying and insisted that any work carried out by committee or family members was legal.

There were not enough signatures for a special general meeting to be called and the members had not gone the correct way about it, as outlined in the organisation’s constitution, she said.

Society member Mike Harrison said he was concerned about the apparent lack of communication from the committee and wanted to hold a special meeting so everyone could share their opinions.

The no-confidence vote was sent out to 83 financial members, of whom 68 signed, he said.

He was concerned connections in the committee would not lead to “robust, independent” discussions regarding important issues.

Mr Harrison credited the committee for doing an “exemplary” job fundraising, but felt it was not living up to the aim of the society, which was “to stimulate and to develop co-operation of therapeutic, rehabilitative and social services for those persons with multiple sclerosis and their families”.

Fellow member Lenore White said she was voted on to the committee in March but resigned a few months later because she did not agree with the way the committee managed staff.

“I wasn’t going to be forced to do things that I believed were not the way to manage staff, so because of that I resigned,” Mrs White said.

Another member, Arralyn Ibbotson, also alleged there had been bullying by the committee.

She shared concerns of nepotism, which was against society rules.

Mrs Glenn said, however, that not enough members signed the vote of no confidence for the committee to call a special general meeting, and a letter would be sent out to members “very shortly”.

“It’s not just the signatures, the whole process was not correct, so the whole reason for having a general meeting was not .. feasible .. ”

Regarding allegations of nepotism based on family connections, Mrs Glenn asserted that “every member can come on to the committee if they want to and no-one came forward, so what are you meant to do when you have got a lack of .. committee members?”

Two staff members had been fired because of serious misconduct, but Mrs Glenn would not elaborate further because it was a legal matter.

Information contained in letters sent by the members was not true and the committee was working hard to defend the society, she said.

“We have a very good committee. We work very hard together.”