INTRIGUE surrounds the workings of the Peninsula Community Legal Centre, whose board resigned last month after their recommendation to solve a “governance problem” was rejected by members.
Chairperson Amanda Graham wrote to members late last month saying independent legal advice had recommended the centre’s constitution be amended to resolve the problem, but that three proposed resolutions put forward had been voted down at a special meeting on 8 September.
This prompted the board to resign – a move over which it is now backtracking to enable the appointment of an administrator “to demonstrate that all options had been explored in attempting to resolve the governance issue”.
This is a blow to the organisation, which Ms Graham described as “one of the largest and most highly regarded legal centres in the state”.
In her letter, seen by The Times, she said PCLC members “have given their hearts and souls” to the independent, not-for-profit organisation that has been providing free legal services to Frankston and Mornington Peninsula residents since 1977.
No one from the centre would comment last week.
The service, with the help of volunteers, helps clients use the law to protect and advance their rights, and offers free advice to disadvantaged clients in family law, child support, intervention order, fines clinic, tenant and consumer advocacy programs.
“The decision [to resign] was not taken lightly, and was made with the best interests of the PCLC at heart,” Ms Graham said in the letter.
“It is simply untenable for our community organisation, with an annual budget in excess of $2 million, to rely on governance structures that fall outside of general accepted practice.
“As a leading CLC, we should embody the very best of governance practices.”
She said the committee of management had believed that handing the running of the organisation over to a statutory manager would allow a “totally independent review of the PCLC structure – thereby giving key stakeholders and funders confidence that PCLC would transition to good governance”.
But, that all fell in a heap when subsequent legal advice found that, for a court to appoint such an administrator, the board members would have to rescind their resignations, and to demonstrate that all options had been explored in attempting to resolve the governance issue.
A members’ forum to be held Thursday 13 October was called to discuss with the committee “the importance of PCLC instituting proper governance and canvassing any concerns members may have about doing so”.
A second special general meeting on Thursday 20 October will consider a single governance resolution regarding the introduction of associate members.
Ms Graham said the highly regarded PCLC was “in a precarious position given the membership has rejected independent legal advice pertaining to good governance. The committee of management has resigned as a result and then reformed in order to put the matter to members one last time”.
“Such scrutiny could jeopardise PCLC’s good reputation and potentially shake the confidence of PCLC supporters and funders. For this reason, we ask that these matters not be discussed with non-members,” she said.