MS Society meeting ‘renewal’

Mike Harrison
Mike Harrison
After earlier protests and allegations of bullying and dysfunction, an annual meeting of the Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society has sparked a "very positive" outcome, including a new president and big new committee.

Mike Harrison, who was elected vice-president, said the weekend meeting’s strong attendance, by 54 people, and the committee election clearly signalled a "renewal" of the society.

"It’s a very positive outcome," Mr Harrison said.

"It certainly has calmed the waters."

After a "difficult year" this was a "new beginning".

The annual meeting, including the election of Bronwyn Wylie-Gibb as president, showed the society was focused on meeting the needs of its members, and the committee would operate in an "open and transparent" fashion, he said.

Newly elected to the committee as members were Brian Murphy, Lenore White, Arralyn Ibbotson, Mike Palmer, Glenys Forsyth, Allan Teviotdale, Judy Cook and Shirley Smeaton.  Gavin Mead and Michelle Smith, from the former committee, were re-elected.

Former committee member Peter Roy had been "very committed" and had stood again for the committee, and as president and vice-president, but was not elected, Mr Harrison said.

The society’s immediate past president, Beverly Glenn, and her husband, former society treasurer David Glenn,  both presented their respective reports to the Saturday meeting.

As they had previously indicated, they had not stood for re-election, but remained society members.

Former executive committee members denied suggestions of bullying and dysfunction, and Mr Glenn has previously highlighted the growing pressures faced by organisations which partly rely on community volunteers.

Mr Harrison said the new 12-strong committee also augured well for the future, being twice the size of the previous committee.

Given concerns being voiced by members, the annual meeting had been brought forward from its previously scheduled March date to last Saturday, and the meeting had been chaired independently by Multiple Sclerosis Society of New Zealand national president Malcolm Rickerby, of Christchurch.

An independent audit report had showed no financial irregularities, Mr Harrison said.

He was asked how the society would respond to a series of recent complaints from members, including over the discontinuation of lunches at the society’s  rooms, apparently because the kitchen needed upgrading; and issues involving two former staff members pursuing personal grievance claims.

The committee planned to meet within the next two weeks, including to appoint a new treasurer, and would "move forward" positively. A legal process was already in place over the two former staff members and there would be an "open dialogue" between society representatives and those of the staff, Mr Harrison said.

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