Code of Conduct for those in governance of community organisations

Awareness of the importance of governance I have addressed governance issues several times in this column, and in the article “Responsibilities of those in Governance” I observed: Governance was scarcely mentioned in the context of community organisations a generation ago, but in recent years there has been a growing awareness of the need for higher standards of governance in community organisations, not just of licensed clubs and major sporting bodies but also of smaller organisations.  This may be a spin-off from the increased emphasis on governance responsibilities in the business community (the recent convictions of finance company directors may heighten this awareness), with some flow-on effects for community organisations. Poor governance practices are common in community organisations, but I do not intend that observation to be a criticism, but rather as identifying a simple lack of skills and training. Improving governance practice Realistically, it is not possible to legislate for good behaviour, but some form of code of governance conduct could usefully be included in constitutions (or subsidiary policies) and in any reformed societies’ Act, and more progressive entities already provide training for those in governance. At present common sense responsibilities such as are found in the Companies Act are not found in any legislation relating to not-for-profit organisations. In the Law Society’s view, the model in the Companies Act is not immediately transferable to societies, but provides a useful and adaptable model for any new societies statute, and one superior to the very limited code found in, for instance, section 25 of the British Columbia Society Act 1996. Q20  In what respects might the Companies Act obligations need to...

Access to society and charity records – Revisited

Joys of Writing this Column I enjoy writing this column as issues arise where the answers are often uncertain or obscure.  Some articles provoke responses raising further questions or advancing other points of view, or draw attention to authority I either have not been aware of or have overlooked. I discussed a South Australian decision, McKay v Australian Alpaca Association (1997) 69 SASR 218, dealing with a member’s request to access to a society’s records in my last article “Access to society and charity records”.  That morning a reader emailed me, drawing attention to another Australian decision of which I was aware, but had overlooked.  This earlier New South Wales decision in Grogan v McKinnon [1973] 2 NSWLR 290 is cited three times in my text, Society Law, and one footnote expressly discusses the conclusion that a candidate for office in a society should be permitted access to the member’s register to advance his candidacy.  Because the judgment of Street C.J. in that case explains the rationale for that conclusion and further explains why a member should be allowed to access a society’s records, extracts from the judgment are set out below. Background facts in Grogan v McKinnon This case raises a short but novel point concerning the right of a member of an unincorporated club to have access to the membership records of that club. … The facts are not in dispute.  There is no challenge to the correctness of the Plaintiff’s assertion that it is in aid of his candidature for the position of president that he seeks to have access to the membership records.  Nor it...