Two must go

Land­holder con­cerns as Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion di­rec­tors say . . .

Southern Riverina news - - FRONT PAGE -

A furor which erupted over a letter sent to Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Ltd share­hold­ers from the com­pany’s Board try­ing to in­flu­ence the cur­rent elec­tion has taken an ex­plo­sive new turn.

Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion has now is­sued a pub­lic state­ment mov­ing a vote of no con­fi­dence in two of its Board mem­bers — James Sides and Chris Brooks.

Pub­lished on the com­pany’s web­site on Fri­day and signed by cur­rent chair and elec­tion can­di­date Bruce Simp­son, it says a meet­ing will be called with the in­ten­tion of re­mov­ing Mr Sides and Mr Brooks in Novem­ber.

Share­hold­ers will be in­vited to vote on the no con­fi­dence mo­tion at that meet­ing.

Nei­ther Mr Sides nor Mr Brooks could be con­tacted for com­ment be­fore go­ing to print yes­ter­day.

But other share­hold­ers have ex­pressed con­cern at the ac­tion, with well known lo­cal farmer Karen Mac­don­ald stat­ing she had ‘‘lost faith in the Board’’ and Ber­ri­gan’s Graeme Pyle say­ing the com­pany’s board­room pub­lic squab­bles had shaken his con­fi­dence in the Board at a time when share­hold­ers were look­ing for ‘‘guid­ance and gov­er­nance’’.

Mr Sides is one of three ex­ist­ing di­rec­tors seek­ing re-elec­tion to the board, in an elec­tion for which vot­ing closes to­day.

Ear­lier this month, the com­pany’s Board sent a letter to share­hold­ers re­fus­ing to en­dorse Mr Side’s re-elec­tion, cit­ing that his con­duct ‘‘in the Board’s view, has failed to meet the min­i­mum re­quire­ments of a Di­rec­tor of the Com­pany’’.

The Board said its stance was based on a re­view of the find­ings ‘‘of both an in­ter­nal as­sess­ment of per­for­mance and an ex­ter­nal re­view of gov­er­nance’’.

Mr Brooks came out in support of Mr Sides, say­ing ‘‘I am not at all in support of this state­ment (from the Board), and do not support what I be­lieve to be a flawed process, or in my opinion a breach of con­fi­den­tial­ity and unity of a board of man­age­ment’’.

The same ex­ter­nal re­view is now be­ing cited as the rea­son for this vote of no con­fi­dence mo­tion in the two di­rec­tors.

Speak­ing to the SOUTH­ERN RIVE­RINA NEWS on the mo­tion, Mr Simp­son said ‘‘enough is enough’’.

‘‘The share­hold­ers have a right to know what's go­ing on,” Mr Simp­son said in jus­ti­fy­ing the Board’s de­ci­sion to pub­licly move the vote of no con­fi­dence.

‘‘In view of the find­ings of the re­view, this is what is needed to be done to re­turn to be­ing a func­tional Board.

‘‘I am only at lib­erty to tell cer­tain as­pects (due to le­gal con­straints), but the pri­mary rea­son is to do with be­hav­iour that has led to dys­func­tion.

‘‘The re­view was con­ducted to­tally in­de­pen­dent of the com­pany — by Deloitte with le­gal firm HWL Ep­worth — be­cause the Board had be­come dys­func­tional and is­sues were raised that needed in­ves­ti­gat­ing.

‘‘Some of those is­sues were sub­stan­ti­ated, oth­ers were not but the find­ings were that James Sides and Chris Brooks con­trib­uted to the dys­func­tion.

‘‘This is an un­prece­dented sit­u­a­tion for the Board.’’

Mr Simp­son said the re­port would re­main con­fi­den­tial and sub­ject to le­gal pro­fes­sional priv­i­lege.

But he said based on its find­ings, the Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee — con­sist­ing Mr Simp­son, board deputy chair Ben Bar­low and fel­low di­rec­tors John Brad­ford and Tim McKind­lay — “con­cluded that the re­moval of Mr Sides and Mr Brooks as di­rec­tors would pro­vide the best op­por­tu­nity for the Board to re­solve its cur­rent dys­func­tion and en­able the Board to achieve a base level of op­er­a­tional com­pe­tence, trust, re­spect and con­fi­dence”.

‘‘The five di­rec­tors have there­fore re­solved to call an Ex­tra­or­di­nary Gen­eral Meet­ing to re­move Mr Sides and Mr Brooks from the Board. The EGM is likely to be held in late Novem­ber when a mo­tion to re­move them will be put to share­hold­ers,’’ Mr Simp­son said.

Com­pany share­hold­ers say both the en­dorse­ment letter and no con­fi­dence state­ment paint the com­pany in poor light.

Ber­ri­gan share­holder Gra- eme Pyle said he per­son­ally had lost con­fi­dence in the en­tire board, and also ques­tioned the tim­ing of the an­nounce­ments.

‘‘It is a be­wil­der­ing way for a body that is sup­posed to be run­ning a farmer-owned in­sti­tu­tion that we rely on be­ing run well,’’ Mr Pyle said.

‘‘It re­duces my con­fi­dence in the board as a whole if this is what’s com­ing up.

‘‘Get­ting a di­rec­tive from the board on how to vote was just ridicu­lous. I haven’t met any­one who has said it was a good idea (to pub­licly choose not to en­dorse an ex­ist­ing di­rec­tor).’’

Both the en­dorse­ment letter to share­hold­ers and the vote of no con­fi­dence mo­tion have been is­sued in the vot­ing pe­riod for di­rec­tor elec­tions.

Mr Simp­son said the tim­ing was un­avoid­able.

He said the re­view started in May this year. The first part of the re­port was re­leased last month, prompt­ing the com­pany’s letter to share­hold­ers re­fus­ing to en­dorse Mr Sides.

Mr Simp­son said the fi­nal part of the re­port was only re­ceived last week.

‘‘The Gov­er­nance Com­mit­tee then met on Tues­day, and then we had the di­rec­tor meet­ing on Thurs­day evening,’’ Mr Simp­son said.

‘‘When you have in­for­ma­tion be­fore you as a board, you have to in­form the elec­torate. We had an obli­ga­tion.’’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.