Harrison hits out at BHETA ‘smear tactics’

Charles Harrison, who is hoping to be elected president of BHETA, has accused the board of using smear tactics and of a lack of transparency.

Harrison hits out at BHETA ‘smear tactics’

Yesterday, the board told HousewaresLive.net that Harrison had damaged BHETA by causing “disruption and distractions”, and also blamed him in part for declining membership revenue.

But Harrison said today that the board was failing to allow the presidential election – in which John Newcomb is also standing – to be conducted fairly. And he told HousewaresLive.net that BHETA would not reveal the reason for a £70,000 payout itemised in its financial projections.

“I thank the board for the kind words which have already proved so beneficial to my campaign,” he said. “Alas, I cannot accept all the credit for members voting not to spend £1.7m [capitation charges on joining the British Jewellery, Gift and Finishing Federation] – that the association did not have – and was not ring fenced as promised. I only had one vote.

“It was the board that called [last July’s] EGM, put forward its resolution and failed to get the support of the members. As is clear from this statement, because the board thinks the members were wrong it believes it can ignore them and then for good measure try to shoot the messenger.

“Given its reaction to the democratic process at the EGM should I have had any expectation that the board would allow the election for president to be conducted fairly? Not really,” he said.

He reiterated that he was “outraged that it wants paid executives, that they appointed, to make recommendations to members and is using the resources of the association to favour their candidate. They can spin all they want but members know instinctively what is fair.

“These days it appears that truth should never be allowed to get in the way of a good smear, so I congratulate the board on its adherence to best current practice.”

He said he found it very strange for the board to suggest that he was in any way responsible for dwindling membership revenue. He said that on April 7 chief executive David French had provided him with a schedule predicting that membership would increase this year to 298 against last year’s 291 and that membership revenue would grow by 5%.

“Is this an example of the chief executive not communicating the facts to the members?” Harrison asked.

“The board suggests that I am hindering the drive for cost savings but everybody knows that I put proper cost savings on the agenda. Let’s be absolutely clear – at the EGM the board never suggested that in 2010 it would achieve cost savings through membership of BJGF. It told members that that it would create an operating surplus of £95,000 as a result of the savings that would be made by relocation to Birmingham.

“After the EGM I confirmed to [current president] Andrew Weiss that I fully supported a relocation to Birmingham that saved costs – which was not dependent on membership of the BJGF – and agreed a statement that he issued on September 18.

“Now consider the revised projections given on January 14,” Harrison went on. “The £95,000 projected surplus had gone and was replaced by a break-even scenario. What credibility does this revised projection have when it included a projected profit of £20,000 from Ambiente in February (which in itself means members were never going to get best value) when the event actually created a loss of £40,000.

“Is it credible no-one at BHETA was aware a month before Ambiente that the show was going to generate a loss of £40,000? Is it therefore credible that the board can project in January that BHETA would break even in 2010? Of course the board has form in such matters: in July last year it was happy to tell members the association would break even in 2009 even though it was on course to lose £100,000.”

Harrison said he believed that members had “a right to know the truth, and the board cannot point to a single instance when I have misled them”.

And he said he rejected the proposition that the board had spent £39,000 of association funds on an injunction to – as described in BHETA’S statement yesterday – “prevent the integrity of the association being put in jeopardy”. BHETA issued the injunction last year to prevent Harrison from releasing details of confidential BHETA emails.

“If they had published the emails the members would have known immediately who was acting with integrity,” Harrison said.

He also told HousewaresLive.net that BHETA had refused to explain a £70,000 item included in its financial projections.

“Is it a coincidence that on the same day [yesterday] that this smear was issued I should receive a letter from solicitors acting for the board,” he said. “You may ask what I have done this time to put the integrity of the association in jeopardy. It’s quite simple, I wanted to establish the truth.

“In my analysis of the revised projections I discovered that in addition to the relatively small sums of redundancy (£30,000) quite properly paid to the clerical staff an estimated £70,000 was for what the board describe as ‘compromise agreements’. I simply asked who received the £70,000 and why.

“Howes Percival have advised me that the compromise agreements are subject to confidentiality agreements, and the board would be acting illegally if it told the members who got the money,” he said. “We can only guess where the money went – how does this tie in with a commitment to transparency?”

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