NFoPP – which trades as Propertymark – yesterday acted to head off disquiet among members of Propertymark NAEA and ARLA after the notice for the AGM was sent out on Friday.
Propertymark NAEA chief executive Mark Hayward totally rejected suggestions that there has been a lack of democracy.
Yesterday afternoon, speaking from Washington where he is on business representing the organisation, he told EYE: “This IS democracy.”
He said that “if members don’t like it, they can vote against it”.
Friday’s notice has raised two issues: inviting votes for electing vice-presidents, plus a special resolution – changes to the memorandum and articles, to be voted on at the AGM.
A member of Propertymark NAEA, Chris Wood, who had applied for a vice-presidency role, is not listed among the candidates, while the special resolution contains:
- proposals for reducing the size of the board from next year (2018) onwards – down from 12 to eight, plus chairman;
- apparently preventing the NAEA and ARLA presidents from participating at board meetings from next year onwards;
- and seeking approval for the election of an executive chairman.
The notice about the AGM contains a message from Christopher Hamer – explaining that a smaller board “can concentrate more effectively on strategy” – signing himself as executive chairman.
However, while there was no publicity at the time, EYE was yesterday told that Hamer has been executive chairman since last year, and that the board appointment was already covered by existing memorandum and articles. Hamer initially became an adviser to the NAEA and RLA when he stepped down from being property ombudsman at the end of 2015 – an appointment which was publicised.
Friday’s AGM notice inviting elections for vice-presidents was also sent out on the same day that Wood was told that his application to be a vice-president had failed. Wood attended an interview with a panel three weeks ago.
The letter telling Wood his application would go no further was signed by Hamer.
It means that Wood’s ‘candidate statement’ has not been put before the members, and cannot be voted on.
The special resolution that members are being invited to vote on contains a series of proposals.
The new board would, as from June next year, be reduced in size.
The resolution states: “With effect from the conclusion of the Annual General Meeting in 2018, the President of the Estate Agents’ Division and the President of the Residential Lettings’ Division shall be entitled to attend meetings of the Board but shall not be entitled to vote nor to speak unless invited to do so by the chairman of the meeting.”
One long-standing member said of this proposal: “I find this utterly disgraceful in the light of them being asked to attend meetings and then expected to speak about Propertymark and government issues of the day. It is like sending them out to meetings with their hands tied and them gagged.”
He told EYE: “Many members are expressing considerable concern about the AGM proposals for change. There appears to have been no consultation with the membership.”
Another member told us: “Feelings are running high over removing the Presidents’ right to speak or vote at board meetings.”
A third member, Richard Hair, a former NAEA president, told us: “I am very surprised and disappointed that NFoPP has decided not to allow its members a full democratic voice when choosing our new vice-presidents.
“I also find it disappointing that, on the same day, we see that the NAEA is unilaterally proposing significant changes to its members’ abilities to influence the running of their associations.”
Wood said: “It has always been the case that the members of the Association had the opportunity to decide who would or would not become their next president in an open and transparent process.
“This year we do not know who, or even how many, have been nominated and quietly rejected by an anonymous panel, or for what reasons.
“Nor are members privy to how many of those who made it through that clandestine process were subsequently interviewed, rejected or the reasons for those rejections.
“I’m very happy to stand and accept the verdict of my peers in a transparent and fair process. However, denying the members the opportunity to reject or endorse one or more candidates based on a secret clique’s whim is not democracy.”
Yesterday afternoon, Propertymark NAEA boss Hayward said that last year’s appointment of Hamer to the role of executive chairman was something that the board was fully entitled to do. He said that because the special resolution was effectively a re-drafting of a complete section of the association’s memorandum, it contained elements that were already there.
He said of the reduction of the size of the board, that this was in line with the Nolan Committee’s recommendation for governance, as a result of which NFoPP had engaged management consultants. They too had recommended reducing the size of the board.
While the special resolution specifically states that the Presidents of both NAEA and ARLA will not be entitled to participate or vote, Hayward said that this was “legalese”, reflecting that the Presidents “won’t actually be directors”. He emphasised that they would be able to speak at the invitation of the chairman.
On the matter of Chris Wood’s application to be a vice-president, Hayward would not be drawn.
He told EYE: “This is between the organisation and the individual. We will engage with Mr Wood, but it is not a public matter.”
Responding to claims that NFoPP had been undemocratic, Hayward said: “This is a democratic process and if people don’t like it, they can vote against it.”
The candidates for ARLA vice-president are: Peter Savage, Michelle Niziol, David Votta and Ross Jezzard. For NAEA vice-president, they are Lauren Scott and Jonathan Hudson.
Voting closes on June 14, and the AGM is on June 16.