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BVA executives ‘leave’ ahead of stormy meeting

After several months of public wrangling and years of alleged internal strife the Chief Executive and Assistant Chief Executive of the British Veterinary Association have left their posts ahead of the BVA’s annual general meeting last Sunday.

Chief executive of 15 years James Baird, 58, and his assistant Mrs Ailsa Edwards who had been with the BVA for ten years had been criticised by seniors members prompting an internal inquiry into allegations about their behaviour towards staff.

The inquiry, which cost £60,000, was to have been followed by another into the alleged misuse of corporate credit cards. Approval was give for this last month after an 18 hour extraordinary meeting of the BVA Council.

But the AGM assembly last Sunday was greeted with a brief statement saying that the chief executive had ‘retired’ and that his assistant had left the association. Baird and Edwards had been at the congress at Stratford on Avon on the previous Thursday.

It was thought that members were ready to block votes on further expenditure on investigations. A vote of no confidence in the senior executives and possibly the council was also planned.

In August sixteen past presidents of the British Veterinary Association expressed concern over the state of the organisation in a letter in the profession’s own journal the Veterinary Record. Amongst the signatories was Mr Mike Stockman former chairman of Crufts committee, Kennel Club General Committee member and trustee.

The allegations which include ‘harassment, staff intimidation, bullying and possible financial mismanagement at the association’s headquarters in Marylebone, west London, came several weeks ahead of the 2002 BVA AGM on October 6th. and Congress at which Barry Johnson a past president of the royal College of Veterinary Surgeons called for a vote of no confidence in the Council in a letter to the Veterinary Times of August 5th.

The presidents, all of whom were in office over the last fifty years, called for greater transparency and openness in the light of the two independent inquiries into the profession which examined the allegations said to be ‘tearing the profession apart and damaging its reputation.’

Mirroring Kennel Club concerns that the profession would be seen as laughing stock in the eyes of the government if transparency wasn’t applied, attention was drawn to the lack of confidence in the organisation particularly in the wake of the adverse publicity surrounding the veterinary involvement in last year’s foot and mouth crisis.

One expensive independent report even questioned the management style of the chief executive Jim Baird and his assistant Ailsa Edwards and catalogued a whole list of problems highlighted by past and current staff at the London office. These included ‘low morale, and an atmosphere of distrust, secrecy and fear.’ This has lead to a high turnover of staff and prompted others to join a union.

OUR DOGS contacted the BVA’s office in early September and a spokesman said, “In the light of concerns raised by staff, the Executive Committee of BVA appointed an independent investigator. The report of the investigator has been received and is being actioned. In view of the necessity for the process to be conducted fairly, I am not in a position to say any more at this stage”.

The then current president Andrew Scott confirmed that the report was being ‘actioned’ and that for legal reasons he was unable to comment further.

OUR DOGS contacted the BVA’s press office earlier this week when a spokesman issued the following statement:- ‘The Officers of the Association wish to announce the retirement of James Baird, BVA Chief Executive for 15 years. The Officers wish him well for his retirement and thank him sincerely for his long and continuous service. Mrs Ailsa Edwards has left the employment of the BVA.’