The Montefiore: President David Freeman

December 6, 2013 by  
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Ahead of Sunday’s AGM and contested election, president of the Sir Moses Montefiore Home David Freeman has issued a statement:

David Freeman

David Freeman

By any objective assessment, the past ten years have been extremely successful for the Home. It has established a significant presence in the eastern suburbs of Sydney through the construction of the outstanding Randwick campus and has broadened service delivery through its outreach and home care programs. It has plans to further significantly develop the Randwick site and is looking to proceed with these plans in the near future.

The achievements of the past decade have been both affordable and, on a cost benefit analysis, highly productive for the community.

Despite this achievement, the Home has been subject to criticism which bears no relationship to the objectives of the organisation.

The community will be aware of the campaign by Millie Phillips which commenced in early 2012 and which has been played out through the pages of the Australian Jewish News ever since. Whilst the Home has consistently refuted the allegations and rhetoric contained in her advertisements, her underlying message is clear, namely, that older persons deserve to receive only the basic minimum standard of care and money saved that would otherwise provide meaningful quality of life to these older persons should be used to support Jewish day schools. .

I am sure that most readers would agree that whilst the provision of education and other communal services is vitally important, that is not the responsibility of the Home nor should it come at the expense of the most vulnerable of the community, namely, our elderly and particularly the indigent elderly. These responsibilities are that of the JCA who have been appointed as the communal fundraiser.

More recently the Home has received criticism from a small but vocal group comprising Greg Shand, Alex Abulafia, Craig Shapiro and David Lubowski putting the Home’s governance into question particularly in relation to succession planning.

The Home’s Board considers that in the context of the Home’s activities governance is far more than succession planning as it encompasses all aspects of financial governance, which for the Home includes the responsibility of managing a large amount of accommodation deposits held on behalf of residents and families, as well as the significant responsibility of clinical governance, care and support for residents and their families.

Board members should have a passion for supporting a high standard of care which optimises the older person’s quality of life, whilst recognising the importance of delivering that care within a sustainable financial model. This philosophy has been the cornerstone of the Montefiore Home for generations. Board positions are not ceremonial and come with significant responsibilities to the community.

One of the most important attributes for Board members is that they be known by the community both in order to maintain the reputation of the organisation but most importantly to be able to maintain the fund raising effort. For this reason the Home has historically supported extended periods of Board tenure to enable directors to build appropriate understanding, experience and the community’s trust over time.

However, this does not mean that the Board does not recognise the importance of succession planning. It has actively sought new members with appropriate skills and, more importantly, with a philosophy of care that matches that of the Home and which has been the cornerstone of care delivery for more than a century.

In this regard, following an active recruitment drive last year, the Board welcomed three new Board members. These included Dr Susan Hertzberg, Senior Emergency Specialist at Prince of Wales Hospital, Leora Ross, with qualifications in education and pharmacy, and retired dental surgeon, businessman and long-time supporter, Dr David Berman.

All of these candidates are committed to supporting the Home’s philosophy of care and each brings specific skills and expertise that add value to the Board. Their first year as Board members has been most productive and they are gaining expertise and confidence.

This year the Board will endorse the nomination of Trevor Pogroske, a Partner with respected financial and aged care specialist accounting firm, Grant Thornton, who has nominated for a Board position at this year’s AGM.

Trevor was one of a number of people that responded to the advertisement we placed in the Australian Jewish News seeking expressions of interest and was clearly a standout candidate amongst those who proffered their services.

In the lead up to this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) the said Greg Shand, Alex Abulafia, Craig Shapiro and David Lubowski sought appointment to the Board as a group. They argued that their appointment would negate any criticism the Home has received about succession planning. On the face of it these represented outstanding new potential Board members.

The Board met the four but unfortunately when asked if they were prepared to stand individually and on their own merits the group refused. The group confirmed that they were only prepared to accept the appointment of all four members and insisted they be favoured by existing Board members standing down or that they be co-opted after the Annual General Meeting. No reason was forthcoming for their group approach.

The Board is well within its rights to query the reason why any group should seek a collective appointment as opposed to standing on their individual merits as the Board has a responsibility to assess each individual’s skills against that of existing Board members as well as any new candidates. One of the Board’s most significant responsibilities is to cautiously consider all candidates for Board positions.

Given that the members of the group refused to be considered individually, the Board was justifiably concerned as to their agenda and therefore the Board unanimously refused their request.

This concern was reinforced by the knowledge that the Home had worked closely with Greg Shand last year when he was head of the JCA Building and Capital Committee and was requested to qualify further potential Board recruits. Apart from this fact dispelling any myth that the Board is resistant to succession planning, the Board was also aware that one of the candidates approached by the Board was Craig Shapiro who, at the time, turned down an invitation to nominate for a Board position but now argues that the Board has not done enough to recruit new members to the Board.

The most important aspect is getting the “right” people on the Board, namely, those that are trusted, have a transparent agenda, respect the existing Board and share the Home’s philosophy of care.

The Board has absolutely no opposition to individuals standing for a Board position at the Montefiore Home provided they stand on their individual merits, philosophically support the Board’s aims and the Board has the opportunity to consider and review both their qualifications and their talents and experience in the context of existing Board members and other candidates.

Ultimately and fundamentally the election of the Board is a matter for the members of the Home to decide. I hope that this explanation will act as a guide to the reasons the Board has been unfortunately reluctant to endorse this group whilst at the same time acknowledging their individual capabilities. The Board will rely on the good sense of its members to consider their options at the Annual General Meeting.

 

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