RSPCA breached rules over cat­tery man­ager po­si­tion

Chair­man’s daugh­ter got to live rent-free

Kent Messenger Maidstone - - NEWS - by Tom Py­man tpy­man@thek­m­group.co.uk @TomPy­manKM

An in­ves­ti­ga­tion has found the RSPCA breached branch rules af­ter al­low­ing the daugh­ter of its Maid­stone chair­man to take a salary and live rent-free at a con­verted cat­tery, while still be­ing reg­is­tered as a trustee.

The Char­ity Com­mis­sion launched a probe af­ter it emerged last year Katie Toms was re­sid­ing at the Head­corn prop­erty with her fam­ily, and earn­ing £18,000 a year as a live-in an­i­mal carer.

Of­fi­cials were con­tent the pur­chase of the prop­erty in Maid­stone Road in 2011 was jus­ti­fied as the branch had a long-term aim of ac­quir­ing an an­i­mal wel­fare cen­tre.

It was known a live-in man­ager was needed, but no in­ten­tion had been ex­pressed Ms Toms, daugh­ter of Daphne Harris would be in­ter­ested in the role, ad­ver­tised in­ter­nally and ex­ter­nally. Ms Harris is the branch chair­man and also chair­man of the char­ity’s na­tional coun­cil.

The probe found the char­ity sought to man­age con­flicts of in­ter­est when Ms Toms ap­plied, as her mother stepped back from any in­volve­ment in the re­cruit­ment process.

Its na­tional so­ci­ety es­tab­lished a se­lec­tion panel of the branch trea­surer, the RSPCA re­gional man­ager and the branch sup­port spe­cial­ist.

But it failed to de­clare Ms Toms’ res­ig­na­tion as a trustee in writ­ing be­fore the Novem­ber 2011 job of­fer. This is needed for a res­ig­na­tion to be ef­fec­tive un­der the RSPCA’s branch rules.

There was also no record of a res­ig­na­tion or the ap­point­ment in the min­utes of the trustees’ meet­ings or AGM and pa­pers sub­mit­ted to the Char­ity Com­mis­sion listed her as a trustee un­til Septem­ber 2013.

The watch­dog con­cluded steps were taken to man­age the con­flict of in­ter­est but felt the con­nec­tion cre­ated a risk to the per­cep­tion of in­de­pen­dence and “jeop­ar­dised public con­fi­dence.”

The re­port added in fail­ing to re­sign as a trustee, the salary and rent-free ac­com­mo­da­tion Ms Toms re­ceived were in breach of branch rules, which pro­hibit re­mu­ner­a­tion of or other ma­te­rial ben­e­fit by a com­mit­tee mem­ber.

The com­mis­sion did say how­ever that Ms Toms would likely be en­ti­tled to “an eq­ui­table al­lowance for the ben­e­fit re­ceived” in ex­change for her work as cat­tery man­ager.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion also iden­ti­fied fail­ures in the char­ity’s gov­er­nance and deemed this should have been of a higher stan­dard given Ms Harris’ knowl­edge and ex­pe­ri­ence.

The char­ity watch­dog is­sued for­mal reg­u­la­tory ad­vice to the char­ity’s trustees in the form of a strict ac­tion plan, set­ting out a num­ber of steps to re­solve weak­nesses in its man­age­ment and ad­min­is­tra­tion and en­sure the trustees meet their le­gal du­ties.

It has also made clear trustees fail­ing to com­ply with the plan could be guilty of mis­con­duct and/or mis­man­age­ment.

Left: Daphne Harris, chair­man of the RSPCA Maid­stone branch and the char­ity’s na­tional coun­cil. Her daugh­ter took a man­ager role at the Head­corn branch pic­tured bot­tom right

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