Responding to dysfunctionality in a society

Cries for help NZLawyer is read by a wide variety of people, and I receive requests for advice to deal with a variety of issues. The following enquiry (edited to make it anonymous) is one worth sharing as it illustrates frustrations society members commonly experience: Like other situations you have addressed, our club is also facing internal problems, with a dysfunctional president who behaves inappropriately and acts without committee authority. We have tried to get him to “up his game,” but without success. We tried to requisition a special general meeting, following the processes under the constitution, but this requisition was ignored and not implemented by the president and secretary. During this time, the president obtained legal advice without reference to the committee, presumably at the society’s expense, about getting rid of some committee members (and presumably the society will be asked to pay for this advice). Now we are unclear as to who are the members of the committee. I have asked the Registrar’s office to investigate under the Incorporated Societies Act 1908. Are there any avenues the committee can pursue to proceed with a special general meeting to let the society’s members deal with the issues and keep the society functioning? Do we have a legal right to access the membership list of the society? Should the committee all resign, leaving the society to wind up? The legal position On the facts given, and without access to the society’s constitution, it is difficult to give definitive advice on facts such as those just set out. However, there are some general principles and comments that can be made:...

“Officers” under the Charities Act

Confusion or ignorance within charities I frequently come across charities where it is assumed that the only people whose details as their “officers” are the trustees of a charitable trust or the committee members of a charitable society. Such perceptions are very wrong. Definition of “officer” in the Charities Act 2005 At present (as no regulations have been made to the contrary) under subsections 3 and 4, under section 4(2), an “officer”: “(a) means, in relation to the trustees of a trust, any of those trustees; and “(b) means, in relation to any other entity,— a member of the board or governing body of the entity if it has a board or governing body; and a person occupying a position in the entity that allows the person to exercise significant influence over the management or administration of the entity (for example, a treasurer or a chief executive); …” The most obvious officers are, of course, trustees of a charitable trust or members of the executive of a charitable society. However, some executive members might thing that only named office-bearers, such as the president, secretary and treasurer are “officers,” but this is quite wrong as all members of the governing board or committee are officers under. An “officer” a person who exercises significant influence over the management or administration of a charity Section 4(2)(b)(ii) makes it clear that people who occupy “a position in the entity that allows the person to exercise significant influence over the management or administration of the entity (for example, a treasurer or a chief executive)” are frequently not included among the officers notified to the...