The Monte AGM – Take One

December 9, 2014 by  
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In the welter of claim, counterclaim and general unpleasantness at today’s Montefiore AGM, I learned a number of surprising things:

Montefiore is the only one of JCA’s 22 affiliated organisations without a governance and succession plan, and I wonder why. When will Montefiore fall in line with the 21 others and not-for-profits and corporates across Australia and place limits on the terms of Board members and the chair, thereby ensuring succession and renewal is on its agenda.

Montefiore’s chairman has been in the chair for well over a decade and on the board for 29 years. Judges have to retire at 70, doctors in some hospital positions at 65, and I can’t think of a single organisation whose articles of association do not include statutory periods of service beyond which you must step aside and make room for others to be appointed. None of that prevents departing chairs or board members from staying around to mentor the next generation, and if the members of the Montefiore board are as good as the chair said today, why has he not made way for one of them to take over from him in 13 years?

I also learned that you can’t vote, even as a life governor, if you can’t be present at the AGM. (Yes, I read Ian Pryer’s letter on the subject in the Jewish press.) This situation could easily be remedied, but hasn’t been. I wonder why. I saw people arriving with their ballot paper already filled in: so much for hearing the proceedings at a meeting and then deciding. Let’s face it, most people have already decided before the meeting, so postal voting could easily be instituted, and not to do so seems incongruous in an organisation serving aged people who otherwise had to travel a considerable distance on a 27-degree day to cast their ballot.

Turns out residents of Montefiore don’t have a vote at all unless they join as members and pay up – yet they are the very people the board claims to serve. Shouldn’t their voice be welcomed without the further expense of paying membership dues?

I also found out that you can’t vote if you’ve paid your membership 3 years in advance, because you can only vote in the year you paid, believe it or not. So the most dedicated members vote one year in three, a penalty for not paying their subscriptions annually. Crazy! Another thing that could easily be changed. And where on the Montefiore website is this spelled out? I couldn’t find it.

I was also astounded that the Treasurer was unable to answer a simple question about what constituted overheads of $1.2million. After a bit of fumbling and consulting he returned to the microphone and said limply that it included “such things as printing and stationery, phones and travel.” Really? I’d have thought phone costs were not overheads but recurrent expenditure, and as for printing and stationery contributing significantly to expenditure of over $1 million in the era of email – hard to believe. Isn’t it a Treasurer’s duty to be across the detail?

The CEO defended the fact that staff leave from time to time by saying turnover is not all bad – that’s what keeps standards high. That’s precisely what people in the Board Renewal camp were saying about the Board.

And was the man who came to the microphone to say “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” challenged to reveal to the meeting that he is the parent of a board member? Certainly not.

The meeting was a shambles. People were catcalling (“Sit down!” “Ask a question!” “Put time limits on comments and questions”, etc) even when one of the speakers was an elderly resident making points of great importance but not exactly succinctly. There were no roving microphones, obliging people to walk to the front of the marquee to speak, including frail elderly people. Not a dignified process, and another that could have been avoided had the meeting been planned and independently chaired.

Without an external facilitator at the meeting, what happened was entirely predictable.

When a chairman needs to speak to defend a board or wishes to weigh in to the debate, it is a tall order to ask the same person to chair the AGM, lay down ground rules (timing, comments versus questions, etc) and keep order. Being able to do that at a Board meeting is one thing: doing so at a meeting of between 600 and 800 people is another thing entirely. On this occasion, the chairman’s challenge to Richard Scheinberg to speak was, to say the least, undignified, and detracted further from his authority at the meeting.

I left before the AGM ended, and don’t know as I write who was elected, but one thing is sure. Whoever is on the Board of Montefiore, whoever is its chair, renewal and attention to due process and transparency are firmly on the agenda. I doubt Montefiore’s members will put up with the present situation for very much longer.

Joanna Kalowski

Mediator and facilitator

Bellevue Hill Sydney


5 Responses to “The Monte AGM – Take One”
  1. Jen Berger says:

    Thank you for your great letter Joanna Kalowski. You must have read my mind. Unfortunately your letter has already been removed and I’d like to know why.
    Seems to me you just called a spade a spade, and not a upmarket , high level digging implement, as the Monte board would have it.

  2. Sam Zweig says:

    Was it only me or did others notice that the ballot papers were not ‘endorsed’ or initialled nor numbered or stamped on the front or reverse when handed out. Do we know that only one each paper was given to each member or that non members did not receive ballot papers? Even in third world countries each person is only supposed to be able to vote once. It creates serious doubts in my mind.

  3. Sean Meltzer says:

    If the situation is as bad as Joana describes it is totally outrageous an organisation can be run this way, especially if their are the recipient of donations from the Community. Aged Care should never be compromised and the residents and their families deserve better treatment. The Board should be sacked and a new accountably regime needs to be installed.

    Sean Meltzer

  4. Gaby Berger says:

    At least six staff members took up the limited time for questions. If(?) they were members than it constituted a terrible ‘conflict of interest’; if not – they were not entitled to speak at all!

    I know for a fact that that Directors, other then the President, also provide products or services to the Monte. Where is this disclosed?

    • Robert Orie says:

      As I clearly advised members at the AGM, any payments made to Directors for goods or services are declared in the Audited Accounts and which are freely available to be viewed on the Montefiore website. I would also like to point out that being a Director is a voluntary position. Directors do not receive any remuneration for acting as a Director nor do they have a financial interest in any subsidiary company operated by the Home.

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