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SKC members’ no confidence vote carried


Robert Crawford - chaired the meeting which voted him out

For the second time in six weeks members of the Scottish Kennel Club met at a Special General Meeting - this time to discuss a motion "that the Convener and Vice Convener be asked to resign from the Executive Council because of there (sic) mismanagement of the Clubs affairs" and by a three to two majority the vote was carried.

The meeting at the Albert Halls, Stirling last Tuesday evening attracted approximately 280 members despite it being a physically difficult venue for the membership. Many had come straight from work, not even stopping for sustenance and were very glad of the tea and coffee on offer on arrival. As their membership was confirmed at the door members were given an un-numbered ballot paper containing only the wording of the motion.

At twenty past seven Robert Crawford took the chair and called the meeting to order. The chairs had been set out with seating for the Executive Council behind the top table. The top table consisted of the Convener Robert Crawford, Vice Convener Eleanor Bothwell and interim Secretary General Andy Kousourou, along with a minute taker. Such was the division within the Executive Council that only nine members of this elected body chose to sit with the Convener. The others sat within the membership who had elected them.

Robert Crawford opened the meeting stating that he had a letter from the Kennel Club which was to be read to the assembled members. With numerous objections from the floor ignored by the Convener and, despite the fact that the letter ‘requesting that, with the permission of members of the Scottish Kennel Club, this letter be read to those present at the meeting’, the interim Secretary General stood up and read out the following:-

‘The Kennel Club is aware that a further Special General Meeting of the Scottish Kennel Club has been requisitioned and that it has been convened on 17th February 2004.

‘I am writing to convey the request of the Kennel Club that, with the permission of Members of the Scottish Kennel Club, this letter be read to those present at the meeting. We request that this be done at the beginning of the meeting and if possible before any debate is held.

‘The Kennel Club is concerned that, over recent months, the Scottish Kennel Club has suffered from a good deal of unrest and internal turmoil. There has been, as is inevitable in such cases, an apparent element of personality clash. The Kennel Club asks that all Members of the Scottish Kennel Club should attempt to think only of the future and to put aside personal differences.

‘Members are encouraged to forget past issues and instead to agree the future steps needed to re-establish the respect in which the Scottish Kennel Club must be held, if it is to be an effective organisation. This must surely be the most productive course of action that the Members could take and it would be to their great credit if they were to do so, in the current difficult circumstances. We sincerely wish the Members well in their deliberations.’

The Convener then told the members that he wanted only one person to speak at a time through the chair with no personal attacks. All persons were to be treated with courtesy and dignity and the chair was to be respected.

As at the previous SGM, a properly constituted proposal for an independent chairman had been presented to the Chair prior to the start of the meeting. This SGM had been called to ask for the resignations of both the Robert Crawford and Eleanor Bothwell from the Executive Council. Members, rightly felt it would be unethical, therefore, for Robert Crawford then to act as Chairman. Mr Crawford ignored the proposal, but quoted Clause 33 "At each Annual or Special General Meeting the Convener shall…take the chair". He also invoked Standing Orders to rule the proposal as invalid. Under ‘normal’ circumstances, this would have been proper procedure. However, members felt strongly that these were ‘exceptional’ circumstances.

At the previous SGM, Mr Crawford had attempted to introduce his own choice of Chairman. It was, understandably confusing that, on this occasion, he was insisting on taking the Chair.

The meeting then swung back to the agenda with apologies being read out by the interim Secretary General with some 35 members being named.

Robert Crawford then asked the proposer of the motion to speak and Jane Gregory rose and explained her reasons for calling an SGM, seconded by Robert Geary. She enquired regarding the cost of both the Independent Chairman and minute taker who Robert Crawford had organised for the previous meeting. Robert Crawford replied that "this was between the executive and himself". When asked did you consult the executive council, he replied "yes".

This was greeted by immediate denials from those members of the Council seated within the room.


Objections

Another member queried the writing on the pamphlet sent out by SKC giving notice of the SGM. Apparently some members of the Executive Council had objected to its content but no changes were made despite these objections. Robert Crawford stated that this was "totally untrue" explaining that a draft version had been given to the council, feedback received and then a number of changes made. One council member clearly indicated that she had intimated several amendments however only one sentence had, in fact, been deleted.

The questions came from the floor thick and fast. A member asked "why would a vote of no confidence in the convener and vice convener lead to the self-destruction of the SKC". If the future of SKC totally depended on two particular people, was an Executive Council, or a membership, even necessary. Her feelings were that SKC was bigger than one or two individuals and could go forward with or without the present incumbents.

Another member asked why the SGM was being held outwith the 28 day ruling and the Convener explained that this was to save money on the distribution and postage. This was immediately picked up by the floor with a member again querying the cost of the independent chair and the scribe for the previous SGM.

A further member asked regarding the letter of apology to the previous office staff, had this been done yet? The convener appeared to disregard this question moving to the next question "the cost of independent chair etc at the previous SGM is a mismanagement of club funds". To this Robert Crawford replied that he would be answering the question at the forthcoming AGM.

Meanwhile there was a rumbling from the floor that the letters of apology to the previous staff had not in fact yet been received. An Executive Council member stood up and asked regarding the letters of apology to staff, when had they actually gone out. Barely pausing for breath, the Convener replied "today" and as boos were received from the floor he moved on.

A member then pointed out to Robert Crawford that if he did not resign from his position we are likely to lose the SKC, however if members do not renew their membership next year, either the Kennel Club will move in or the club will fold. The convener did not answer this question.

Ian Millar who had chaired the previous meeting stood up and pointed out that the present problems within the Club are a direct result of the failure of the Convener and Vice-Convener to deal with the circumstances surrounding the staff matter and the resulting consequences. He believed that this provided ample evidence of their mismanagement of the Club's affairs.

Aileen Sharpe who is currently a paid temporary member of staff for the SKC stated that having read the original e-mail she felt that it was time for the previous staff to "wake up to the real world and not walk away from it." She went on to say that if this was the first complaint they had received then they should assess and address the problems.

Without going through the Chair as requested, an Executive Council member, took the microphone and proceeded to criticise the competence of the previous staff citing a failure on their part to change an address. Members did not see the relevance of this statement as being justification for the position SKC now finds itself in.

Other questions then were raised regarding previous accounts with one member quoting the previous administration as being "too top heavy" for a delegated power. Mr Kenneth Cowe, went on to question details on the cost of the building and valuation.

An Executive Council member felt that, as these points related to the accounts for the previous year, it would have been appropriate to raise them at the 2003 AGM. She went on to ask " did the convener value the votes of all the Executive Council" When asked by the Convener to explain she stated that the ‘Message from the Council sent to the members had, in fact, been prepared with the results of votes before the meeting had started.’

A member then asked the Convener "Did you not suggest the move to Musselburgh?" He replied that it was either himself or the late Jim Peat. Former Vice-Convener Jim Peat tragically died suddenly at the beginning of 2003. At the mention of Jim Peat, boos and cries of "shame" came from the floor, the convener then went on to agree that it had been himself.

A lady member then asked whether all council members were kept fully informed of everything or just some. If the latter, then the management of SKC was not being handled by all the members elected and, therefore, the Convener was deliberately excluding members who may not agree with him. The convener retorted that he could not really answer that, decisions were made after full debate and a collective responsibility once decisions had been made.

A member then asked the chairman to move to a vote. The convener stated that he wanted to make a speech, but it was agreed that the members would have the right to reply. He started then talking about the three aspects of the SKC, the motion in front of us, the potential consequences and the current position of the SKC. He did little to endear himself to the membership, stating that "they were in danger of behaving like terriers in a fight, who have long forgotten the reason for the fight". He went on to state that further strife could turn the SKC into an open show society and the CCs lost would not necessarily remain in Scotland. He stated that other societies had a vested interest to pick over the spoils and continual strife could also jeopardise the future of the three new staff. He also thanked the members who had stepped in to assist in the running of the SKC offices in the past six weeks and explained what steps were being taken with upgrades of computers etc.

As further questions were fielded from the floor Ann Crawford, wife of the Convener asked to speak. Striding forward to the front of the hall she demanded to know who had been leaking information to the press as that day she had received a phone call as to why she was now a member of SKC. It was pointed out though that there was no evidence that the information had been leaked to the press by someone who disagreed with the convener.

Another member asked now much the executive cost to run as rumour had reached her that the figure was in excess of £30 000, the convener stated that he did not have the figures available but would make sure that there were figures available at the AGM.

A vote was then taken with two members retiring to the stage to count the ballot slips. At a quarter to nine, the Convener announced the result, with 128 votes for the motion and 86 against with just one spoilt vote. Immediately the announcement was made the convener closed the meeting totally ignoring the demands from the floor on "what happens next" and "you can’t just stop it there". The convener would not make any further statements, but, when asked privately by a puzzled member if he was going to resign, stated "I will consider my position after consulting with my Executive". The next scheduled meeting of the Council will not be held until April.

A stunned membership now look towards the elections for the Executive Council and the AGM on Thursday March 25th. Assurances have been presented to the Kennel Club on the running of the May Show. The dedicated, highly experienced show team remain in place and, it is to be hoped, that the Kennel Club will appreciate that SKC can, and will, go forward to a bright future.