Disputes continue to rock Committee of 25 board of Governors

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  • The Committee of 25

    The Committee of 25

Internal struggles, including more than $3 million of unaccounted assets, continue to roil the Committee of 25, according to ousted members.

One of the Island’s oldest third-sector organisations, the Committee was demoted from charity status after failing to provide Government with accounts.

However, a former member of its Board of Directors told The Royal Gazette: “The issue that everybody seems to believe is at the forefront is their non-compliance with the Registrar General’s request for audited financial statements.

“But the issues are a lot deeper than that. It really speaks to the overall ability of these folks that call themselves a Board to provide the Committee of 25 with good governance, as any board should.”

The group gives financial assistance for the care of mentally and physically challenged children was deemed unfit last month by the Charity Commissioners.

The former Board member provided correspondence pointing to internal disputes, including last year’s suspension of Maynard Dill for alleged breaches of protocol such as “making a complaint to the Charities Commission”.

His wife, Wilma Dill, had her membership rescinded shortly thereafter.

Sources told this newspaper that the latest annual general meeting of the group had security barring all but an approved list of 25 members.

Membership has dropped from more than 150 over the past several years.

Of particular concern is an April, 2011 balance sheet that shows a drop in assets from $7.86 million in 2008 to $4.64 million in 2011.

A letter of complaint sent in February to Acting Registrar General Thelma Trott also accuses the Committee’s current Board, headed by Nicola O’Leary, of “cherry picking” from the group’s constitution to back up its decisions.

Asked for comment, the Committee of 25 referred the matter to their lawyer, who declined to speak on the matter, since the ex-charity is currently appealing to the Minister of Home Affairs to get reinstated.

A Government spokesman could not confirm if the organisation was under investigation, but reiterated that the latest Throne Speech committed Government to an amendment of the Charities Act to protect the public interest.

This will include “expanding the definition of charitable organisations to include entities that raise funds from private sources; establishing new offences for non-disclosure and non-distribution of public funds, and giving the Charity Commissioners increased regulatory authority”.

The tougher measures are expected to be tabled during the next session of the House of Assembly.

Former One Bermuda Alliance candidate Andrew Simons, approached by concerned ex-members of the charity, said the issues “highlight the brevity of the current Act, which is a brief, eight-page document — whereas the Companies Act and its amendments run to more than 200 pages”.

“This Committee of 25 issue comes at the end of a period of a loss comprehensive regulatory framework for the charitable sector,” Mr Simons said. “One hopes that with modernised legislation and sincere oversight, a lot of these challenges can be avoided.”

The ex-Board member who contacted this newspaper said the Registrar General “has the teeth” to investigate the Committee of 25.

He added: “But, as with most Government institutions, they refuse to do the job they have to do. They prefer to go by the letter of the law, rather than the spirit of the law.”

He also asked how the Committee of 25’s store, the Bargain Box, could continue running while the organisation was stripped of its charitable status.

Again, no comment was forthcoming from the organisation.

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