16th August 2022
On behalf of the Management Committee, please accept our apologies for the length of this communication. What follows is the culmination of difficult circumstances which have long existed within the governance of Penrith Golf Club. The situation has now reached a crisis point the outcome of which will have long lasting repercussions for the well-being of our Club. These are important issues and for us, the Management Committee, not to try and address them as fully as possible and in some detail would be a dereliction of our responsibilities to the Members, Employees and Stakeholders of our Club. Regardless of the impression that some of you may already have formed about the Management Committee or it’s individual members we hope you will read what we are presenting to you before you settle upon your ultimate decision.
Rule 21(c). RULE CHANGES, RESOLUTIONS AND AMENDMENTS.
You are possibly already aware that a Petition has been put forward requiring an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) to be convened to consider a Vote of No Confidence regarding the present Management Committee. If the vote is passed, each of the Management Committee Members will be immediately required to resign after which the current Executive Committee will perform the Management Committee duties until such time as a new Management Committee can be appointed.
The present Management Committee will of course comply with these requirements and specific details including the EGM’s date and time will be advised to you in due course.
Under normal circumstances the Management Committee would have a duty to discuss any petition with the petitioners to ensure that any anomalies or ambiguities were clarified before putting the matter to the Members for their consideration. On this occasion, where the subject of the petition is the Management Committee itself, it is doubtful that any such discussion would be meaningful and the Petition will therefore be put to the Members as presented and without any such scrutiny.
The Petition has 122 appended signatures and as such complies with Rule 21(c)’s requirement that it is supported by at least 10% of Voting Members. However, because of the constraints mentioned in the previous paragraph the Management Committee is unable to ascertain what information the Petitioners have made available to individuals whilst gathering those signatures. As we are unable to verify the facts and accuracy of what Members have been told by the Petitioners, we feel there is justification in writing to you to put our side of the case. Hopefully, this will give all Members a wider perspective on the matter and, if nothing else, will help to avoid the forthcoming EGM turning into nothing more than an ill-tempered ‘slanging match’. It is worth pointing out at this juncture that in excess of 400 Members are not presently signatories to the Petition. It is also noteworthy that in subsequent conversations with some of those who are signatories they have admitted that they are not entirely clear about what they have signed up to!
In brief, this Petition for a Vote of No Confidence is based on a claim made by the Petitioners that the Management Committee have conducted themselves in a way that is detrimental to the reputation of Penrith Golf Club and have acted in a way that is contrary to the Club’s Social Media Policy. More specifically, these claims relate to comments that have been posted on, and their use of a WhatsApp messaging group by members of the Management Committee.
With regard to the first case. The WhatsApp group in question was in fact, at the time, a private messaging group consisting of and restricted to the six sitting members of the Management Committee. We accept that some of the content and opinions in the group messages were expressed in strong ‘heat of the moment’ terms, but what cannot be denied by our accusers is that these messages were ‘private conversations’. At some time or another most of us, if not all, have thoughts or have said things later regretted. That is a fact of life and they themselves will undoubtedly be guilty at some time or other of similar private indiscretions (possibly whilst talking about us). We are under no delusions that this undoubtedly will be strenuously and energetically denied.
In respect of the second case. There has indeed been a breach of protocol but not the one that the Petitioners believe they have identified. Instead, it is that one member of our private WhatsApp group has disclosed confidential information to individuals outside the group, namely those Petitioners. The legality of that disclosure and the purpose for which it is being used has yet to be established, but it is unquestionably a betrayal of trust. Unsurprisingly the individual concerned is no longer a member of the group and has also resigned from his role on the Management Committee. Whether or not his actions were part of some long- term strategy for the sole purpose of seeking an opportunity to undermine the Management Committee is open to conjecture. What is clear is the question as to whether that is the calibre of person fit to manage the affairs of your Club? That is not an expression of the opinion of this Committee. We merely invite you to consider your own opinion of the matter.
With further regard to the claim that we have breached the Club’s Social Media Policy inasmuch and because our group was named ‘PGC Committee’. This is a non-specific designation with no indication, real or implied, of any connection with Penrith Golf Club. Despite its designation, the private WhatsApp group was outside and in no way any part of the Club’s media or communication structure. ‘PGC Committee ’was a private messaging group and as such was outside the provisions of the Club’s Social Media Policy just as it would have been if we had named ourselves ‘The Group of Six’, ‘The Council Estate Boys’ or some such. Rather than facing a Vote of No Confidence it could be argued that the Management Committee is in fact the victim of a manufactured charge of indiscretion and a misrepresentation of the facts. If we are required to stand down it could be considered tantamount to constructive dismissal.
Before going further, the Management Committee does unavoidably acknowledge that some of the expressions and opinions expressed on our WhatsApp group were strongly and inappropriately worded. It does however raise the question as to who caused the distress? Was it the authors of those comments or the one who disclosed them?
Obviously whether or not there are justifiable charges to answer, wheels have now been put in motion and we have passed a point of no return and a conclusion will eventually be needed. However, before any decisions are made perhaps we should consider the truth of the matter and the realities behind this present scenario.
It is no secret that the relationship between the Management Committee and the Executive Committee is one of disharmony and there is a long and documented history of the one being subjected to ceaseless antagonism and provocation by the other. Whether this has been perpetuated by political or personality differences is irrelevant. The reality is that a great deal of time, energy and emotion has been wasted. In the face of this the Management Committee has worked tirelessly and at personal cost to put into good order the disarray of affairs and turn around the substantial financial losses inherited from the previous administration. The Club’s records and accounts will bear out that this statement is not one of fanciful self- congratulation but that a great deal of hard work and personal sacrifice has been involved. With a complete disregard of all that hard work and the positive results that it has generated the Petitioners are focussing on one indiscretion, evidence of which has been acquired by underhand and possibly illegal means, just to try and achieve their long-held obsession of trying to unseat the present Management Committee. (We apologise if our use of the terms Executive Committee and Petitioners causes any confusion in recounting these past and present events. Whether or not they are one and the same or interchangeable we do not know for certain and it would be improper for us to suggest that they are.
Again, the reader must draw their own conclusion). We recognise that there was and is a wealth of knowledge and experience within the Executive Committee. The Management Committee would have willingly tapped into that resource had it been offered in a spirit of cooperation for the good and betterment of the Club. Instead of that, by and large and at every opportunity, they used it to be confrontational and put obstructions and stumbling blocks in our way.
A notable example of these tactics relates to the Club’s contract with the new caterers. The Executive Committee considered the contract as being inadequate and that they had identified issues which placed the Club in financial jeopardy. Instead of sharing their specific findings with the Management Committee and working with us to find an early solution, they sent us away to redraft the contract and bring it back in due course for their consideration. In adopting that strategy the Executive Committee themselves perpetuated the state of jeopardy which they had identified and allowed it to exist, and expose the Club to the risk, for longer than necessary. The corollary of this clearly was that they also intended the Management Committee to impose a new contract on the caterers. Obviously, a possible outcome of that could have been the caterers, if unwilling to enter into the redrafted contract, being in a position to sue the Club for breaching the existing contract. As the Management Committee was at the time working hard to put the ‘post pandemic lockdown’ world to rights, was this the right or a sympathetic way to go about things? No!, because their own agenda was more important to them than the welfare of the Club. In a spirit of generosity, and trying to be even handed, we have tried but have been unable to identify a single quantifiable contribution made by the Executive Committee that has brought a measurable benefit to either the governance or the benefit of the Club. On the contrary. In their efforts to justify the Executive Committee’s continued existence the opposite has been done. We accept that these are strong sentiments to be levelled at a group which we should have been able to regard as our allies in governance. However, it is not a case of ‘sour grapes’. We, the Management Committee feel very strongly that we are being unjustly treated by being accused of what could turn out to be a somewhat dubious charge of indiscretion. It might not appear so, but we have always wished and tried to play fair. We are now being forced to fight back in a way we would have preferred to have never even contemplated.
The Management Committee, on behalf of ourselves individually, on behalf of our families and friends who have stood by us and supported us, on behalf of the Club’s servants and stakeholders who have worked hand in hand with us through difficult and testing times to get us to where we presently are, we are deeply insulted to be confronted by the prospect of a Vote of No Confidence at a time when the Club is operating so successfully. Our golf course is in excellent order as regularly testified by many who have come to play at Penrith. The Club’s finances are in good order despite spurious rumours being spread to the contrary and, again, the Club’s records will confirm the healthy financial position we are in. We have worked with our Professionals and refined the operation of our golf administration. Despite recent upheavals with the Facilities Management, and previous to that the difficulties caused by the Covid pandemic, the catering and clubhouse facilities are operating successfully and receiving well deserved accolades. The routine day to day processing of the Club’s administration has been updated and is also running smoothly. Importantly, the Management Committee enjoys good working relationships with the Professionals, the ground staff, the admin staff and the catering team. Fortunately for the Club, despite the stress of working for the Club in the present unhealthy atmosphere, they have stuck with us and we are grateful to them for doing so and give them our heartfelt thanks for their loyalty and goodwill. Perhaps at this point we should draw your attention to the open letter to all Members written by Ricky Lamb our catering provider. If you are unaware of it or haven’t yet read it you can find it on the Club’s website in the ‘Members’ section under Member Info : Summary of Meetings : 19th July 2022. Perhaps we should also bear in mind that there is at present a nationwide shortage of caterers and catering staff and perhaps those who presently don’t should consider expressing some gratitude to the ones we have. To find replacements who would be prepared to put up with the things that Ricky and his team have had to endure would be no easy task.
Are these the achievements of a management team acting to the detriment of Penrith Golf Club?
In all of this the Management Committee, largely, has wanted only to act in the best interests of Penrith Golf Club. They have worked hard to put right a catalogue of anomalies which they inherited. The Executive Committee has frequently reported that we, the Management Committee, are difficult to deal with. They have assumed and implied that we conduct all of our dealings with others in the same manner. We don’t. There is one reason and one reason only that they have found us difficult to deal with and that is that they as a group have been difficult to deal with. We would even suggest that they have gone out of their way to be difficult and from the outset adopted an attitude of superiority. If we are wrong in this assessment perhaps they need to address their motivations and communication skills. One particular point of contention which the ‘Executive’ has raised on numerous occasions has been our inability to fill the vacancies on the Management Committee. It has been suggested to us by a number of Members that potential candidates are reluctant to put themselves forward because they do not relish the prospect of carrying out their duties with the interference of another committee constantly looking over their shoulder. Is this, together with the frequent resignations that have taken place, not a clear indication that this system does not work?
Looking to the immediate future. The Petition when it was delivered to the Management Committee was accompanied by a covering letter signed by Mr N Wilson, the Proposer of the Petition. The covering letter includes a stipulation that Members should be advised that only the subject matter of the Petition should be discussed at the EGM. Clearly the imposition of this condition is to avoid any opportunity being taken to discuss the ongoing viability of continuing with the ‘two committees’ model of governance at Penrith Golf Club. We would contend that this ‘two committees’ model and the inevitable power struggle between the two is the root cause of the disharmony and ill feelings that exists within the Club. As long as we continue with two committees, each trying to impose its will on the other, that state of disharmony will continue to exist. Unless one of those committees is made up of individuals prepared to act as puppets and the other one always gets its own way there can be no other outcome. We will inevitably go back to business being done behind closed doors.
We, your present Management Committee, are not puppets but nevertheless we will comply with the condition of discussing only the Petition at the EGM. However, we are aware that there are many like- minded individuals amongst the Members who wish things to change. If the vote of confidence goes in our favour and we remain in office we will take that as a clear mandate and will seek sanction from Members for us to diligently and democratically explore the opportunities to put a more streamlined workable model of governance in place. We are convinced there must be a better way and we would not expect it to involve the same amount of upheaval as the last change.
If you are still reading this we will assume that you have an interest in the outcome. If that is the case and you wish to influence that outcome we hope you will make yourself available to vote when the time comes. If we are ultimately required to resign our positions on the Management Committee and hand over the benefits of our hard work to others, we would prefer to know that we were standing down because it was the will of the majority of the membership, not just the majority of a few.
Before closing, it is important for us to declare that none of the above is meant in any way as being disrespectful to the achievements of past Committees. Most of us are long term members of Penrith Golf Club and many individuals who have served the Club in the past are personal acquaintances and friends. We are aware of the personal sacrifices they made and cannot be anything other than grateful to them for the good things they left in their legacies.
The members of the Management Committee thank you for taking the time and trouble to read this. We realise that our words will not rest easily with some of you but we have endeavoured to be objective and factual and tried our best to avoid distorting your thoughts with inappropriate sentimentality.