The Charity Commission must take “decisive action” such as appointing an interim manager at the Vegan Society, the charity’s former chair has urged.
Rob Masters, who was one of a number of trustees to quit last year raising serious concerns about racism and bullying, published an open letter last month criticising how long the Commission was taking to investigate.
The Commission confirmed to Civil Society News that it has an ongoing operational compliance case. And the charity said it has made positive progress.
Masters wrote: “I have written directly to the Commission on more than 25 occasions, copied in the Commission on more than 15 emails between the former interim CEO and myself, had a number of telephone conversations with the Commission, and followed up via the Commission's account on Twitter.”
He said he has sent the Commission evidence of “a culture of institutional oppression and bullying” and accused trustees of ignoring the regulator’s advice.
“While I have previously tried to raise a complaint about how long the Commission's investigation is taking, I was advised that I cannot make a complaint until the investigation has been completed (which rather defeats the point!) However, in my opinion, the Commission's failure to take significant action regarding these concerns has empowered trustees to continue such behaviour,” Masters added.
He called for “decisive action”, and suggested the Commission should remove the whole board and appoint an interim manager “before trustees again abuse the AGM to consolidate their impenetrable grip on power”.
Commission: ‘Ongoing compliance case’
Masters first contacted the Commission about concerns last February, before resigning in July.
The Commission confirmed that it has been working with the trustees. A spokesperson said: “We have an ongoing compliance case into governance issues at the Vegan Society and we continue to engage with the trustees. Whilst this remains ongoing, we cannot comment further.”
For the Commission to take the kind of action Masters suggests, it would need to escalate its investigation to a statutory inquiry.
The Commission has no set timescale in which it must complete a compliance case.
Vegan Society: ‘We are making positive progress’
The Vegan Society said it was making progress and is continuing to co-operate with the Commission.
A spokesperson for The Vegan Society said: “We have received appropriate advice from the Charity Commission and we will continue to provide information and updates to the Commission when requested.
“We cannot comment on Mr Masters’ own interactions with the Commission, but we can confirm that we are making positive progress on the recommendations made in the report by an independent QC and on advice to date from the Commission.”
Total income for the year ending 31 December 2020 was £3.47m and the charity employs around 50 people.