RACGP board spill starts to gather momentum

6 minute read

Influential RACGP members want the RACGP board chair Christine Nixon sacked and the board censured at the upcoming AGM.

A group of influential and longtime RACGP members have started a campaign to have the chair of the RACGP sacked and the whole board censured for poor performance at the upcoming AGM.

On November 10, Associate Professor Chris Hogan and Dr Karyn Matterson published an RACGP member call on a newly established Facebook site titled Members voice at RACGP 2019-20 AGM which outlined their serious concerns with governance, expenditure, the handling of the recent fellowship exams, and the overall competence of the current board.

The post explained that an attempt to have a series of associated resolutions put to the AGM was rejected by the executive based on the RACGP constitution (which has a rule requiring 21 days’ notice for resolutions to be added to the AGM agenda) but the leaders of the executive said they were prepared to meet and listen to the concerns in person.

The full initial post of Professor Hogan and Dr Matterson is reproduced below.

Professor Hogan and Dr Matterson then conducted a 48-hour online poll on the new site and gained 184 votes for their resolutions, both of which received overwhelming numbers in favour (over 97%).

Resolution 1: “That the Board be requested not to reappoint Christine Nixon as Chair of the Board following the AGM.”

Explanatory Statement

Pursuant to clause 7.5 of the Constitution, the Chair is appointed by the Board (from among the Board members) at the first Board meeting following the Annual General Meeting. As the current Chair Christine Nixon has not yet completed her term on the Board, there is a reasonable prospect that she will be reappointed as Chair following the AGM. The requisitioning members consider that the performance of the 2019/2020 Board is, to a significant extent, the responsibility of the Chair. Although the members do not have the power to direct the Board to refrain from reappointing Ms Nixon, this resolution serves as an expression of the will of the members that the Board is encouraged to take into account.

Resolution 2: “That the members censure the 2019/2020 Board due to their failure to deliver core strategic objectives as outlined in the RACGP Strategic Plan 2018-2022”

Explanatory statement

A motion of censure is of no legal effect – it is simply an expression of significant disappointment and concern regarding the Board’s performance.

Professor Hogan notes in his explanation to members that while a motion of no confidence has no legal effect, “…by convention, a Board will often resign if more than half of the members vote in favour of a motion of no confidence”.

The poll was subsequently closed and yesterday CEO Dr Matthew Miles and Company Secretary David Goldberg met with Professor Hogan and Dr Matterson. Professor Hogan subsequently posted:

“Our position was the need for the RACGP to take immediate and strong action toward the failings of the Board, specifically the 23 failures itemised on our explanatory notes. We expressed the urgent need for change & constant improvement as a way forward to re-instil confidence and rebuild the much-needed trust of the members.

“Our next steps are to meet with members of the Board to describe the views of the membership that have been expressed to us by yourselves. We have yet to be given a date for an appropriate forum to do so but hope that this will occur within the next week.”

Dr Miles and Mr Goldberg also issued an official statement referring to the meeting saying:

“Although we could not accept the motions, we treat the feedback seriously and have offered these members other avenues to engage with the board … We are doing everything in our power to remediate the [exams] situation and support those affected, including refunding fees for the assessments as quickly as possible.

“While the AGM will be delivered remotely this year, there will still be a question-and-answer session, where members are able to submit questions for the board.”

The initial Facebook post by Professor Hogan and Dr Matterson:

This is a call to action for members of the RACGP.

We are two RACGP members, a GPiT (Dr Karyn Matterson) & a Life Member (A/Professor Chris Hogan).

Last week we, in a polite & courteous manner, delivered a list of major concerns we had about how the outgoing Board had handled its affairs. We asked that they not confuse our courtesy for temerity.

We have concerns about governance, expenditures, the handling of the recent Fellowship exams & our perception that the Board was out of touch and/or the Senior Leadership was ineffectual at delivering the memberships will. We asked that our concerns be taken to the 2020 AGM so that they could explain their actions to the members & be judged by them.

While polite in their response, they refused our request to do so. They relied on legal principles instead of our democratic right and our insistence for ethical and moral accountability.

However there were two very important issues that were raised in that response.

The first was extremely telling.

Now, we two are members of RACGP & both subscribe to the critical principle that the College is its members. The College is not its officials, not its representatives but is all of us.

The letter from the same Board we were worried about being out of touch said against us, that “In summary, the RACGP’s view is that……..”

Well guess what? We are the College too! They are the outgoing Board theoretically elected to serve the members not to oppose them; to listen to members, not to silence them.

This attitude exemplifies our concerns even if it might have been a Freudian slip .

The second issue was an indirect exploration of how many members share our concerns about the outgoing Board’s actions?

So we have a question of you.

How many members are of the opinion we should be able to take our concerns to be discussed & to be voted on at the AGM?

That is concerns about the outgoing Board’s governance, expenditures, the handling of the recent Fellowship exams & our perception that the Board was out of touch.

Our request is deliberately vague. We say again, our request is deliberately vague. We wish to improve the RACGP to let the members voices be heard and not to cause scandal. Who will collectively stand with us to respectfully challenge the Board decision not to allow our motions to be added into the Agenda ? We need many members voices to be heard as we can gather.

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