14 May 2015
More details have emerged over the summer about the sudden departure of Shaw Trust chief executive, Ian Charlesworth.
It now seems that a row among management and trustees over plans to expand into Australia prompted his sudden dismissal.
Charlesworth was given six months’ notice and put on gardening leave five days after reportedly warning trustees that the plans were risky and could jeopardise the charity’s reputation and finances. The Charity Commission has got involved and it’s all become rather messy.
This drama is being played out in the full glare of the media, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo. Not long after details of Charlesworth’s sudden departure, Acevo issued a press release pointing out what a good guy Charlesworth was and demanding his reinstatement.
At the time it was far from clear why Charlesworth had been sacked, so Acevo wading in rather than working quietly behind the scenes to resolve the dispute, seemed astonishing. Bubb has continued to hold court about the whole thing on his blog, which has led to a threat of legal action by the Shaw Trust.
If Bubb’s version of events is to be believed there may have been governance and management failings at the Shaw Trust. And Charlesworth does appear to have been treated shoddily. But is this the right way to go about dealing with the issue? Acevo’s role is to “connect, develop and represent the third sector’s leaders”. By coming out so strongly in support of Charlesworth it was certainly acting in that capacity, but its language was redolent of the sometimes blind loyalty of a trade union, particularly given that the background to the dismissal was not publicly known at the time.
Bubb is a passionate advocate of good governance standards, and feels that “this case does have wider implications for our sector and it is important that proceedings are transparent”. But perhaps Charlesworth and the charity’s cause would have been better served by a less public approach. Whatever the real story turns out to be, ultimately it is the Trust’s beneficiaries who could suffer.
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