The Bronte Parsonage Museum in Hawarth, Yorkshire. © Copyright Alan James, Creative Commons Licence

Brontë Society in turmoil as members call for EGM

Geraldine Kendall, 27.08.2014
Membership seeks to elect new council amid concerns over governance
Members of the Brontë Society have expressed serious concerns about the organisation’s governance and are seeking to call an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) in order to elect a new council of trustees.

Following a meeting of more than 20 members in July, a letter was sent out to the society’s membership last week detailing a number of allegations about the conduct of the council and asking members to support the calling of an EGM.

It said: “It is essential and urgent that we gather 50 signatures of paid-up members to requisition an [EGM].”

The letter, which a source has shown to Museums Journal, said it was necessary to elect a new council in order to “modernise” the organisation and bring “higher levels of professionalism and experience to the society”.

It described a “difficult” situation for staff at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, which is run by the society, and raised concerns about the council's lack of action following the departure of former executive director Ann Sumner in June.

The letter stated: “The post of executive director remains unadvertised. Financial reporting both of the society and its trading company, Brontë Genius, is months behind schedule...

“This is extremely serious for a business dependent on seasonal income and requiring up-to-date information to facilitate decisions that can improve performance during the busiest months of trading.

“If this deterioration is to be halted, members must take the initiative by requisitioning an EGM without further delay in order to pre-empt any cover-up action by the council.”

The letter expressed concern about changes to the society’s articles of association. It accused the council of attempting to call an EGM itself to overturn a vote at the society’s AGM in June that defeated motions to extend the chairman of trustees' term of office and give the council the power to summarily expel trustees and members.

The letter stated: “Should it transpire that council does intend to proceed with an EGM with the intention of overturning the votes at the AGM, we believe there would be no alternative but to propose a vote of no confidence in the present council.”

Under company law, trustees must call an EGM within 21 days of receiving a requisition from members.

The letter said: "The remaining task is to identify members with board level experience of charity and company work who will stand at the EGM for election as members of the new council. Without such leadership, the society will wither away, and the legacy of the Brontës will have been squandered."

The source said the council refused to answer questions about the future of the society at a meeting with a member representative last week.

A spokeswoman for the Brontë Society council said: "We are aware that a letter has been sent to some members of the Brontë Society expressing concerns about the effectiveness of the society’s council.

"The letter was sent by two current members, to other members of the society, but not directly to council. Trustees welcome feedback from members and take the concerns of members very seriously and will therefore be responding formally to all members without delay."

Update
28.08.2014


Edited to include a response from the Brontë Society.


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