To whom it may concern,
It is one year today since I originally wrote to the Charity Commission, in my role as Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Vegan Society, regarding serious concerns (previously raised with the Board) about trustees acting upon conflicts of interest and loyalty – in breach of both the charity's own articles and the legal framework (e.g. the Charities Act 2006 and the Companies Act 2006).
Since then, I have written directly to the Commission on more than 25 occasions, copied in the Commission on more than 15 emails between the former Interim CEO and myself, had a number of telephone conversations with the Commission, and followed up via the Commission's account on Twitter.
In doing so, I have raised further concerns about (and provided further evidence of) trustees prioritising their own interests (and those of their friends and family) over those of the charity, a culture of institutional oppression and bullying, and trustees wilfully ignoring advice from both the Commission and the charity's own lawyers – even possibly criminality within their roles at the charity.
I am also aware that some of my former colleagues have done likewise.
While I have previously tried to raise a complaint about how long the Commission's investigation is taking, I was advised that I cannot make a complaint until the investigation has been completed (which rather defeats the point!) However, in my opinion, the Commission's failure to take significant action regarding these concerns has empowered trustees to continue such behaviour, resulting in the following:
- the enforcement of a compromised election that involved one trustee being removed after a smear campaign
- the resignations of five more trustees, the Interim CEO, a number of other well-respected members of staff, and an unreported number of society members and volunteers in protest at institutional oppression (racism, transphobia, ableism, etc.), bullying and corruption
- the suppression of a report that identifies those who made malicious complaints against former trustees, and their relationships to current trustees (and a general lack of communication to members regarding such matters)
- the lack of consequences for those who made bigoted and malicious complaints against former trustees (indeed, they appear to have been rewarded instead)
- the dismissal of all complaints against current trustees without any investigation or impartiality, with accused trustees instead hand-picking their own "judge and jury" – i.e. co-opting sympathetic trustees to reject all complaints (see also "The Vegan Society doubles down on racism and corruption")
- the appointment of an external candidate, who would not be expected to challenge the Board, as Interim CEO without any due process.
In doing so, I consider that the Commission is complicit in the ongoing harm being caused to The Vegan Society – as well as the corresponding loss of faith in (and goodwill towards) the charity, the sector, and the Commission (not least its whistleblowing and complaints processes).
Therefore, I must reiterate my call on the Commission to take decisive action. I would recommend the removal of the Board (all of whom I consider to have shown themselves to be actively engaged in the misconduct outlined above) and the appointment of an Interim Manager before trustees again abuse the AGM to consolidate their impenetrable grip on power.
Robb Masters (former Chair of the Board of Trustees at The Vegan Society)
Response from Charity Commission
Response from Charity Commission received at 11:32 today (Thu, 24 Feb '22).
Dear Robb Masters.
I apologise I have not been able to respond to your emails. I will review the emails you have sent in and they will be added to our case.
I have recently returned to work having been on an extended period of leave due to unforeseen circumstances.
We understand that you may be concerned about how long the case is taking. We are unable at this stage to tell you when the case will conclude.
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