Senior officer in business with grantees
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I would very much appreciate advice from experienced people. I am not posting information which could be identifiable.
I am connected with a small charity which has two managers and three non-managerial staff. The second in command (SIC) in our charity is employed to work full time for the charity, which is highly specialised. The SIC also runs a consultancy business in the same area as the charity. The SIC is described on his business website as the CEO of their consultancy business. The SIC's biography on the SIC's private business website cites the SIC's previous positions as an employee, but does not mention that the SIC is currently employed full time by our charity. The website does not mention that the SIC is employed by our charity at all.
The SIC's website lists a number of "associates" of the SIC. Among these are at least two chief officers of NGOs which are currently in receipt of grants from our charity. I am the grants officer, and until this week, I had no idea that the SIC had recruited our grantees as partners in his private, for profit business. The SIC has never mentioned this, although the SIC has taken part in discussions relating to the allocation and management of grants to organisations run by his private business associates. The SIC is absent from our office every single week for half day dental and other medical appointments. This has been going on for many months. The SIC also brings his private business associates into our office and conducts meetings with them during the time that he is supposed to be employed by our charity. The OM is a long standing friend of our CEO, and their families socialise together.
I cannot find any record in minutes of any committee of our charity in which the SIC declared that the SIC also runs a private business, or that the SIC is in business with CEOs of some of our grantee organisations.
On Monday of this week I emailed our CEO to ask if we had any procedure in place to deal with a situation where a staff member was in business with a chief officer of one of our grantees. Our CEO has not acknowledged or replied to my email. I am now being very actively bullied. Please could you advise me. Thank you.
This is terrible and I feel for you. Sadly I dont know what advice to give apart from trying to ring the Charity Commission advice line, however i would read this too: http://www.thirdsector.co.uk/news/1115428/Analysis-Blowing-whistle/?DCMP=ILC-SEARCH - maybe try and get in touch with this lady about her experience could help? Good luck!
Hi I would second Annina's advice, I am afraid I am not that experienced in the voluntary sector, but the main thing I would say is to have confidence in yourself that your concerns are valid and that it is the right thing to do to bring them to the attention of others, either within the organisation or externally, to rectify it. It's good that you have these paper trails. I would email the CEO back with a gentle reminder that you have not yet heard from him, and then I would call the Charity Commission and ask whether you are allowed to get advice without providing any details so that you can then assess your situation and how you want to proceed. The main thing I would say is make sure as much as possible is down on paper, log your concerns including your concerns about being bullied - i.e. who said what when, you can do this at home if you're concerned someone might find it, and just make sure that anything you voice a concern about is either put in writing or if you deliver it verbally reiterated in writing. It doesn't have to be too confrontational, you can present it as having genuine concerns for the charity and how it might be perceived, try to underline that you are acting for the good of the organisation. Good luck!
Your situation sounds awful and I'm really sorry you're going through it.
The situation you describe covers a lot of issue including employment law, charity law, and governance.
Firstly, I think you need to protect yourself. Do what Helen said and keep a record of what is happening to you. You should also speak to Acas about what is happening to check your rights and ways to deal with it, especially around whistle blowing (also see below). The website is www.acas.org.uk and there's a helpline 08457 47 47 47 Monday-Friday, 8am-8pm and Saturday, 9am-1pm. They should be able to tell you if you potentially have a case under any employment law.
I think you also need to start looking for another job (I feel like Jeremy from The Guardian's work section on a Saturday!!), just in case. Your health and confidence are too precious for them to be ruined through bullying, harrassment and worry. This isn't easy at the moment with the sector as it is but I think you should make a start.
You haven't mentioned the trustees at all in your post. Are the trustees active? Do they understand what is going on? They have a duty to make sure the charity's assets are spent on its charitable purposes and, from what you've said, there is a danger the charity's assets are being wasted. This includes paying staff who are not spending all their time on the charity's work and staff using the charity's assets to further their own business. The trustees *may* be liable for misusing charitable assets in this way, and depending upon the legal form of the charity, may be personally liable. (Is the charity unincorporated or incorporated?). Do you have a good relationship with any of the trustees? Are you able to speak to them in confidence?
And from what you've said, there are some very odd things going on with grant recipients of the charity being connected with a staff member's private business. The issues here also include conflict of interest and individuals privately benefiting from their association with the charity, which is a no no.
Once you understand your employment rights and position, I think your next step should be to contact the Charity Commission. You can find out about making a complaint about a charity at http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/About_us/Complaining/Complaint_about_a_charity_index.aspx. This also has a link (towards the bottom of the page) about protecting employees of charities if they blow the whistle. You can initially talk to the Charity Commission without saying who you are or the charity to find out what they can do about it but you'll quite quickly need to give that information for them to be able to act. You may also want to have a look at their new risk framework, especially the detailed guidance on how they apply the risk framework at http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/Library/arf.pdf. You will be able to pick out things they are likely to be interested in for example 'charities deliberately being used for significant private advantage' and 'other significant non-compliance, breach of trust or abuse that otherwise significantly impact upon public trust and confidence in the charity and charities generally' plus perhaps 'significant financial loss to the charity'.
My conern is that they are very overstretched at the moment, having had their budget cut by a third. They are pulling back from getting involved in complaints and I'm not sure how they will respond to you. I hope they will take it seriously. If they do take it up, the staff and the trustees at the charity are likely to know who has taken the complaint to the Charity Commission, especially as it is quite small. You will need to prepare yourself for that. I'm not sure how you best do that but it may be something you can ask Acas.
Good luck with it all