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Bad news Hypothetical Legal/moral Dilemma.

Discussion in 'General chit chat' started by Horizontal Jogger, Aug 2, 2020.

  1. Horizontal Jogger

    Horizontal Jogger Busy Member

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    Morning all, this is going to be a long tome, so I apologise in advance.

    I'm very aware that many members will be involved/help in the running of shooting clubs/teams etc, so I guess my situation will be something that they will have had to deal with over the years, so I wonder if I could ask the learned members for some information/advice on a problem I have.
    I'm a member of a small but friendly club (activity to remain secret for the moment). For many years, the club has been "controlled" by one family, which I've found out is frowned upon, the father was chairman, mother was the treasurer and son was the secretary. Over the years, both parents passed away and the son took on the mantle of all positions and his parents were still officially listed as they had been on the paperwork.
    About 10 years ago, I became more involved with the running of the club and I became treasurer and my name was added to the official paperwork, since then, I've not seen a single piece of paperwork relating to my position or have been involved with any activity as a treasurer should be. I began to worry about my responsibility, so I contacted the secretary and requested that myself and the committee had a meeting prior to the AGM, so we could be aware of how the club is doing financially. The secretary agreed and there was a meeting held, new people were appointed to official positions and the names were changed on the paperwork.
    Since then, things haven't changed, the secretary is still doing everything himself and those holding official posts are not allowed to be involved. In the last few years, mistakes have been made by the secretary, he's made decisions without committee approval, once more, the committee members, including myself requested that those in official post, are included in the management of the club, the secretary promised to be more proactive and communicative with the committee and members.
    The secretary's landline phone stopped working and up to now, has been off for at least 2 years, his house is like a tip and he's embarrassed about it and won't call BT to arrange reconnection, nor will he allow the engineer in the house to find the fault. This is causing big issues with the members, as no one can contact him and his mobile is only turned on to make a call. Another major annoyance with his phone being off, is the fact that 50% of the cost is paid for by club funds.
    I was contacted by the chairman on Thursday night, he was in a very angry mood and what he told me, got me in a bad mood too. He'd been contacted by a couple of members, who had been to see the secretary to collect their memberships, only to be told, that they were not members, nor ever had been. The members had informed him, that the secretary had been aggressive to them and was in a very cantankerous mood, something other members had mentioned prior to this event. Alarm bells started to ring and we arranged an emergency meeting of the committee, but without the secretary, this was held yesterday afternoon. The chairman contacted the committee and those attending we given a full run down of the problems members were having and to keep things in perspective, I made notes of the meeting and will write them up this afternoon. We decided, that we wanted the secretary to step down with immediate effect and to hand over all paperwork relating to the club as his recent behaviour had become a liability and not in keeping with the correct management of the club.
    I'm sorry that this has been a long winded story, but I wanted to give as much information to you, so you had an idea of my/our situation and could offer advice of how I/we can move forward without the hindrance of a man who is putting the future of the club at risk. So my question is, can we as the committee and members, force him to step down and hand over all relating paperwork? Funds will not allow us to enter into a legal battle, so that is not an option, we need to be able to get rid of him quickly and without a huge amount of hassle and cost.
    One other thing, as no one except him has any paperwork, correspondence etc, how will we know that what he hands over is everything relating to the club?

    Please help, I don't want to see a club that has been a big part of my life go down the pan.

    Thank you.
     
  2. Cam.

    Cam. Registered

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    Who has control of the finances? My initial advice is to obtain sight of the bank accounts.

    What does your club's constitution say about the conduct of officials/members and of their removal should they infringe the rules?

    My inclination would be to simply and immediately remove him from all of his his duties.
     
  3. Jimmypie

    Jimmypie AGF Leshiy rehoming service

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    I’m afraid I can’t offer you any direct advice but I Have witnessed a similar problem with a “community” based forum and membership subscription money , to be clear the forum was set up and it’s mission statement was non profit and all membership money would be used to go back into the community as support for projects etc ... so before anyone starts the “why should they work for free “ , that’s what they agreed and that’s what hundreds of people put thousands of hours and pounds into ...

    one man had all the keys to the castle even though it should of been a set each for three partners , one partner “outed” another for misappropriation of funds , he buried his head and disappeared , the other was too shallow and embarrassed to step up and support the other so they simply locked him amd anyone else out , tens of thousands of pounds not accounted for that should of been in a community pot , I believe even now nearly two years later there are still no solid answers , just swept under the carpet and anyone challenging it has been banned .

    You have two options really , legal action or keep waiting , I wish we had gone for the former tbh as what was built by the community is now gone and the impact it had in friendships and businesses was pretty devastating.

    good luck .
     
    2506sendero likes this.
  4. That hurts

    That hurts Barely Active

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    A very difficult situation to be in, but if it is written into the club constitution that officers can be removed by majority verdict, then this is the action that can be taken. To maintain the status quo, I would officially set this proposed action in writing, have all officers sign it and then present it to the secretary - it is then upto him to take action or he is simply voted out of position.

    What you don't say, is who owns the land where the club is based ? - if it is by the 'controlling' family, there could be a problem and the secretary could then just kick the club out. If the land is leased from another third party, then it might be worth having a meeting with them to express the committee's concerns.
     
  5. Wacko74

    Wacko74 Busy Member

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    I’ve been heavily involved in a voluntary organisation in the past that went sour and sadly it seems to be either people who get a power trip or questionable money decisions

    might it be worth a couple of you going round his house with a few cans and have a socially distanced drink in his garden and see if you can get to the bottom of the problem
     
    milek likes this.
  6. Patrick

    Patrick Donator

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    If you've been appointed treasurer then the finances of the club should be your domain and as treasurer you should be responsible for the clubs finances.
    You may not have funds to engage in a legal battle but seeking a solicitor's advice on how to remove this person from the club and him having anything to do with the running of it shouldn't be too costly. Just book an appointment with a solicitor and explain thoroughly the situation and just tell him you need the answer to one question i.e how do you remove this person from the club and any future association with it. in other words what are yours(the club's) and his legal rights and position. Making an appointment and asking that question shouldn't be too costly and that way you'll know legally exactly how you stand.
    I'm sure you and the rest of the members can stump up enough cash for a one off appointment with a solicitor.
    Unless we have any legal experts on this forum such as a solicitor or barrister, which i doubt, then any advice that may be offered is best ignored because you'll get conflicting advice/opinions none of which may be correct.
    From what you've said and reading between the lines don't be surprised if you manage to remove him that you find the club's coffers are empty as well as other surprises awaiting you.
     
  7. HairyHobbit

    HairyHobbit Engaging Member

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    It very much depends on the constitution of the club, and who owns the land the club is on. If the land is owned by the 'family' its a propriety owned club, which limits what a committee can do. If he doesn't own the land, i.e. either rented or owned by the club it is a member's club.

    If it is a member's club there should be rules on how you can call an EGM, assuming the timing doesn't fit for an AGM. Every club I've been in has been a member's club. An EGM can only be called if a certain number of members sign a letter asking for one, typically 20 members but that's from a membership of at least 400(golf). Within the letter will be the reason/proposal put forward for the EGM. Usually, there is only one reason permitted for an EGM, so it must be worded very carefully to allow all relevant business to be discussed and voted on - no "any other business" allowed at an EGM.

    Statement of Accounts; are these issued before every AGM? Are they independently audited prior to the AGM? Does the Treasurer sign these off, once approved by the members? Are the Statement of Accounts presented for tax purposes - membership fees may include a VAT element?

    Ideally, go along and talk to the guy, preferably with another member. Tell him there appears to have been an error with a couple of guy's memberships, and can you help to get to the bottom of it, i.e. can you see the membership books - how you word that is up to you. If the conversation doesn't go the way you want, i.e. if as you're the Treasurer he won't let you see the accounts, you have some choices to make. 1) ask members for a letter that calls for an EGM - note, you can't already have that in your back pocket as once you're in receipt of it you have to call it. 2) call the police for possible financial irregularities - you're the Treasurer, and in the frame too until issues are investigated

    Option 2 is, potentially, going a bit nuclear. Hopefully a decent chat and maybe some follow ups to resolve issues will put the club on a better footing.
     
  8. Bluetoe

    Bluetoe Engaging Member

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    Is the club a limited company? As treasurer, you should have access to the clubs' bank account, have you seen evidence that an account in the name of the club even exists? If the club has a bank account and the inland revenue people were to take an interest it is you as treasurer that they will speak to about club accounts. I wouldn't be surprised if the controlling family has been using club funds as their personal cash cow for years. If he has been embezzling funds he might be prepared to hand over ownership of the business and walk away rather than face an investigation by the Inland Revenue.
     
  9. RagnarHairybreeks

    RagnarHairybreeks Keyboard Hero

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    If the club is registered as a charity or a limited company then there will be a constitution and very clear rules. Happy to look at them for you ‘off air’ as I have a fair bit of experience.

    If neither of the above, and it is a very informal arrangement, then oddly life is easier. Just take over. Get a quorum of officials, change the rules, go to the bank with documentation and assume control.

    If, however, the arrangement is even more informal and the club funds are in someone’s personal account then you have only three choices;

    1) Chalk it up to experience and re-start the club under a more regulated structure to ensure its survival going forwards.
    2) Resort to a lawsuit (brace yourself)
    3) Take the head off your pick axe and pay a visit.

    Normally I would suggest 1) with possibly a friendly visit to make sure all bridges are not burned all the way through.
     
  10. sabc

    sabc Donator

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    Is your club registered to a National governing body ?
     
  11. Joel47

    Joel47 Engaging Member

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    I’m sure this exact question has been asked before
     
  12. KeithJ23

    KeithJ23 Posting Addict

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    You have to be careful about the finances side as you are the duly appointed treasurer you are responsible for the funds. It "could" be argued that you haven't followed due diligence and ensured that the funds are monitored by you and reported to the committee/club at every AGM.

    It should be in the club constitution about responsibilities and clauses to remove committee members.

    As has been said above, sitting down with the secretary and going through it all would give to the way forwards. You may be able to convince him to stand down on his own choice and avoid any possible backlash etc.

    Good luck!
     
  13. willo1962

    willo1962 Posting Addict

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    Thought so myself.
     
    Super-20, SimonCornwall and Joel47 like this.
  14. rich79

    rich79 Lovin the smell of cordite in the morning

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    Dont you have a vote to appoint the committee at every AGM? My rifle club does, sounds like he could be easily voted out if his behaviour doesn't change.
    If a revolution doesn't take off I'd step down as treasurer because by appointment you have financial responsibilities!
    Option 2, let's just say its got 100 members, of 99 leave & start their own he can have his club...... Of one.
     
  15. Grey Man

    Grey Man Posting Addict

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    I've seen much the same situation in a club I was member of.

    It turned out that there was a lot of money missing. The treasurer-cum-secretary had mixed it up with his personal money (a fatal mistake in any enterprise, business or otherwise), and spent it. He refused to co-operate with the new treasurer. It took a lot of trouble, much ill-will, and finally a big stick to sort it out.

    If the committee won't back you, quit. You don't want to carry the can for this.
     
  16. Horizontal Jogger

    Horizontal Jogger Busy Member

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    We are a very basic "bib and braces" club, the only constitution there is, is a very basic set of rules written in the rules and regulations of the club. As for the land, the majority is one riparian owner, the club owns some land and the secretary owns a small bit. I am treasurer and despite many requests, I've only even seen the books at the AGM's, I'm also joint signatory with the secretary and any cheques need to be sign by both, so in an attempt to offer myself some form of protection, I refused to sign anymore cheques and this afternoon, I handed the Sec a duplicated and dated hand written letter (a copy of which I've also posted to myself and it shall remain unopened on it's arrival), stating that as from lunchtime today, I am stepping down with immediate effect, my position as treasurer and any financial dealings made by the club and/or secretary are out of my control and made without any input from me.
    The Sec, despite being a very clever guy with an engineering background, is a luddite, wants the club to be like a "group of mates having a good time and enjoying themselves". But, times have moved on and he will not move from this ideal, I've tried to instill in him, that clubs like ours, should be run like a small business these days and several rules need changing/rewritten in order to work better and to protect the club now and in the future. I designed a new application form, the way this was written and laid out, gave the club more control over membership and a better method of getting rid of those who break or flout the rules, without having a legal battle on our hands. At the committee meeting, I took copies of the new forms and during, "any other business", I handed them out and asked if the members if they liked the design and if anything was to be changed, I could easily do it. The committee liked them and after suggestions of a couple of modifications, a vote was held, the only person to abstain was the Sec, but as it was carried, the new forms were accepted. I printed 50 of the new forms the next day and posted them through the Sec's letter box, up to date, not one of them has been used, he still writes to members with pen and paper, if there's a harder way of doing a simple task, he'll find it. He's constantly asking for help and assistance, but when something is suggested or help is offer, he doesn't want to know. Apart from him not having a working phone, as I've mentioned, he does everything with pen and paper, while this is good for important things, he does the same with everything the same way, something that a phone call or email could do just as easy. He holds any money until he can be bothered to bank it and if he dies, his two "hungry brothers", will descend and pocket anything and everything, leaving the club and it's members high and dry. The riparian owner has no input as such, as long as the rent is paid on time, they are happy, we do keep them aware of any damage, fences, gates etc and they appreciate this. We are not part of a national organisation, but we are members of a local organisation (which I started and still have a lot to do with). This organisation, has a written constitution and it this, there is a written agreement, that other clubs do not try to encroach on another members land or property.
    There are several other issues to deal with, but I've had a very long day, I don't feel to well and I've had nothing to eat, but thanks to the ideas and suggestion offered, I think I can cut and paste enough to make a Word document, with your ideas, that I can take to the committee members and decide the next step.

    Thank you all for your input.
     
    HairyHobbit likes this.
  17. Keith 66

    Keith 66 Engaging Member

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    You have my sympathy. First thing is get the latest version of your club constitution / rule book out & read it. If you are affiliated to a shooting organisation speak to them! If you are a member of a Joint Council they probably cant offer any real support but their constitution itself will likely require member clubs to conform to a set of rules.
    If any member of any club goes against the rules the Committee should have the power to deal with it, If the Committee cant deal with it call an EGM asap to deal with it & remove him.
    In the end if the elected officers & committee stick together & do the right thing you can win.

    I was secretary of a wildfowling club for 13 years that ran really well. In the distant past we had had a situation where the founder chairman kept a lot of paperwork as his own personal property but it wasnt the end of the world & the club survived

    I have also been in a situation where a club i was heavily involved in went pear shaped, we had a big influx of members from another club & they took it over, the politics got so nasty that we couldnt stop it. In two years we lost over ten officers & committee members basically bullied out of office until i was the last one. It got so every time i looked over my shoulder another one had gone. I left. Ten years later they are still fighting amongst themselves & the best of pox ridden luck to them!
     
  18. Strathrpc

    Strathrpc Posting Addict

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    I assume that this is an Airgun club, because I can't imagine a firearms club being run like this.

    Any club should have a written constitution which should define how the club is set up and it's policies & procedures.

    The officers of the club must be transparent in all their dealings.

    The Secretary is usually the one who takes responsibility for most of the day to day running of the club.

    The Treasurer looks after the money side of things & prepares the operating accounts normally for the Annual general meeting.

    The Committee should make any decisions about running the club & should be responsible for dealing with any & all operating issues.

    Sounds like your club needs a really good shake up.

    From a long suffering Secretary & Treasurer.
     
    Paul M. likes this.
  19. Paul M.

    Paul M. Busy Member

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    I run, or rather am Chair of, an organisation, not shooting, but voluntary. We have a bank acount, constitution etc. I'm a Non Exec Director and Chairman of a board, and a Director of my own company. Past Director of others.

    My thoughts, get out now. Wrong risk to reward. Make sure you record your position/resignation on Treasurer in writing, recorded delivery for proof, to the Chairman. Don't be afraid to say you have resigned because the lack of financial transparancy makes you unable to form an annual report that you can stand by as accurate.

    I don't know what can rebound, but treasurer is one of the few positions where it can. You would need to through the club's constitution and terms of the bank account to find out what the potential problems are.
     
  20. bighit

    bighit Active Member

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    can you get a free half hour meeting with a lawyer ? Might not now you have resigned but it may give an idea what to do if you are pulled for any questions regard the money side. I have went that route in the past .
     

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