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More questions than answers after EGM

When a Great Dane club treasurer made a short term investment using club funds in November 2001, he had no idea that three years later his actions would still be questioned by the membership - despite make a profit of £2,000 on the ‘investment’ which benefited the club.

Mike Duckworth of Worksop, Notts. had been treasurer of the Great Dane Breeders’ & Owners’ Association for 15 years when in 2001 he independently made the ‘investment’ using £13,000 of club funds from the £13,512 it had.

Miss Jean Lanning JP, President and Chairman of the association is also on the Kennel Club’s General Committee and for many years has sat on the Disciplinary Sub Committee.

Despite repeated attempts by some members for information regarding the transaction which has been described as a ‘preferential share option’ no information has been forthcoming. In the end members’ frustrations resulted in an EGM which was held at the Kennel Club in London’s Mayfair last Friday.

The option pursued by Mr Duckworth was done so in the name of his brother’s sister-in-law.
After the sequence of events two years ago, three committee members requested a special committee meeting and a vote of ‘no confidence’ in the treasurer Mr Duckworth was made, but this was not passed.

The matter was considered closed until, in 2003, a member told all the committee members by letter that he would commence legal proceedings if the treasurer didn’t resign.

The committee then declined Mr Duckworth’s offer to resign but at the AGM in 2003 another member acted as an ‘honest broker’ and reviewed the investment. The committee alone chose to consider the matter closed.

Members who objected in principle to the procedure called an EGM in january of this year but once again this fell as the committee of the association objected to the circulation of confidential committee minutes. The offer of an ‘informal’ meeting was rejected by the members.

The call for another EGM was further delayed when at the 2004 AGM the balance sheet was rejected by proxy votes. The reason l continued from given was the carry over figure from the previous year’s balance sheet. It was then agreed to have this re-audited and presented as an item for the EGM.

In a letter to members the association’s hon. secretary Mrs M Stevens stated that it was the collective view of the committee the matter had been dealt with under the rules; that the treasurer has acted in the best interests of the association and had been ‘loyal’; that the accounts had been audited by Chartered Accountants and that the association’s funds had been in the bank accounts since early 2002.

Last Friday around 30 members gathered for the long awaited EGM at the Kennel Club where an independent Chairman Dr Malcolm Willis was appointed. The association has over 300 members and the committee at the meeting held 108 proxy votes which it used to advantage.

One member speaking to OUR DOGS last week suggested that the vast majority of the proxy votes held by the committee had been made by members who had not heard both sides of the argument in detail - nor were they exposed to the debate on the day.

Item 2 on the agenda requested that Mr Duckworth, the Treasurer, provided a full and frank account of an “investment” made using £13,000 of the Associations funds in November 2001, in particular.

iii The Full terms and conditions of the investment;
iii Production of all documentation relating to the investment;
iii Production of any personal bank statement of the Treasurer showing the “investment” and;
iv Disclosure of the names and details of all third parties with whom the Association’s funds were placed with, or mixed with, and/or who may have derived a financial benefit, directly or indirectly, from the Association entering into the “investment”.

Item 3 on the agenda asked that the Treasurer provided the statements of all the Association’s banking accounts for the previous 6 years.

Before the former item was approached Mr Duckworth rose to his feet and read out a short statement and then left the meeting, rendering it impossible for both these to be heard.
Item 4 - ‘In the event that the Treasurer fails to comply with any aspect of items 2 and 3 above, or fails to satisfy the members attending the meeting, a vote of no confidence in the Treasurer is to be taken’ - a vote of no confidence was defeated.

Item 5 suggested that existing Rule 28 Banking Account to be amended to comply with Kennel club Rule C3a(3) to read as follows (amendment in italics). “A Banking Account shall be opened in the name of the Association into which all the revenue of the Association shall be paid and from which withdrawals shall only be made on the signature of two or more Officers, one of whom shall be the Treasurer. Cheques should only be signed by authorised signatories for a clearly specified and authorised purpose. Under no circumstances should blank cheques be signed”. This was passed.

Item 6 proposed a new rule to immediately follow existing Rules 28 Banking Account: “Investments: The Association shall not make investments or loans (except for those made to or from authorised deposit takers), for monetary gain or otherwise, without the prior approval of the Members in General Meeting. for the purpose of this an authorised deposit taker shall mean an entity that is authorised for such purpose by the Financial Services Authority.” This item failed.

A statement from the Great Dane Breeders’ & Owners’ Association, signed by the secretary Mrs M Stevens and the President/Chairman Miss Jean Lanning JP was issued last Saturday and read, ‘ The Great Dane Breeders’ and Owners’ Association held an Extraordinary General Meeting at The Kennel Club on Friday, 12th November 2004. Dr Malcolm Willis was voted to chair the proceedings and, having no involvement with Great Dane breed, could be considered truly independent. The Treasurer, Mr Duckworth, read a statement then retired from the room and a vote of no confidence was taken, but not upheld. The vote was 49 for and 108 against.

‘The meeting also approved an amendment to one of the Association’s existing Rules, to no longer permit the signing of blank cheques, thereby endorsing a decision made in a Special Committee meeting held early in 2002.

‘It is the Committee’s view that after three years since the investment was made, the matter is once and for all closed. All involved should respect this democratic vote of the Association’s membership.’