Members of the General Employees Cooperative Credit Union (GECCU) were told on Tuesday that the former CEO of the credit union was fired.
The disclosure by the Board of Directors of the circumstances under which Rohan Stowe demitted office almost two months ago came at a Special General Meeting of the cooperative on Tuesday, September 19.
Almost 300 people were crammed into the Kingstown Methodist Church hall for the meeting which had been called after members invoked Article 14 of the credit union’s By Laws for the first time in the organisation’s history.
Article 14 states that a Special General Meeting shall be held on receipt by the Secretary of a written requisition signed by no fewer than 75 members. According to the requisition, the meeting was called to provide “… a plausible and sound explanation of the material facts that led to the ‘apparent abandonment or termination’ of CEO, Mr Rohan Stowe.”
The requisition said members were “surprised and shocked” to learn, in the public domain that Stowe was no longer the CEO of GECCU, given that at the 57th Annual General Meeting held on June 8, 2023, it was reported that the credit union “performed credibly well over the last Financial Year and the CEO and staff were lauded for their performance.
“Given that there was no allusion to any concerns regarding the post of the CEO then, you would appreciate the level of confusion when the Searchlight newspaper reported on 30th June 2023” that Stowe left the office for lunch on Monday, June 26 and did not return to work and speculated whether he had abandoned the post as CEO or was fired.
The requisition, which was dated August 8, 2023 said “… we have found it quite disturbing that after five weeks, the board which was elected to act on members behalf have not provided any explanation to the owners of the credit union (the members / shareholders) on what transpired or to allay any fears that may have been caused by the sensationalization of the matter in the media and by extension the general public.”
A copy of the signed requisition, seen by SEARCHLIGHT contained 76 signatures, but the Board told the meeting on Tuesday that some of the persons who signed the document were not members of GECCU, so the conditions for the holding of the Special General Meeting had not been met. A decision was nevertheless taken to call the Special General Meeting.
The meeting was chaired by Harvey Farrell, after a majority of persons voted in favour of a motion moved by Ronny Daniel that the President, Michael Sayers relinquish the chair to allow an “impartial, competent” member to chair the meeting.
Although the meeting had been convened specifically for the Board to give an explanation for the fact that Stowe was no longer on the job, there appeared to be great reservation on the part of the Board, a position supported some members, pertaining to the release by the Board of “confidential” information such as the grounds under which Stowe had been dismissed. In fact, one member of the board indicated to the meeting that he “will not be party to the disclosure of the reasons for dismissal”.
Calls by some members present for the letter of dismissal to be made available to the meeting were rejected by the Board, however, after being pressed, Sayers read the reasons for dismissal as published in an article on iWitness News on September 18, the day before the Special General Meeting.
According to the article, the letter of dismissal, signed by Secretary of the Board of Directors Linus Goodluck gave eight reasons for Stowe’s dismissal, and said the board had made the decision to fire Stowe at their June 6, 2023 meeting (two days before the 2023 AGM).
The reasons read by Sayers from iWitness News were as follows:
“We consider there to be a mis-match (the word conflict is proposed) between your management style and the spirit and needs of GECCU as a member owned organisation.”
The letter alleged that there had been “a general failure to consistently carry out your duties as outlined in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the job description” and that there had been “repeated complaints from members that they have not been able to feel your presence in the management of the organisation”.
The board complained that “the work environment, staff cohesion and team spirit” had not been “enhanced nor maintained” during Stowe’s tenure, amid “internal and external lapses in communications, lack of responses to emails and phone calls from staff and members of the Board of Directors.
“These issues have given the impression that you are either unaware of or reluctant to address concerns which have affected staff morale, performance and health, and the overall well being of the organisation.”
The dismissal letter said that Sayers had not been “sufficiently and or consistently advised on pertinent and or relevant matters” as required and outlined in paragraph 19 of the CEO’s job description.
It said that representation of GECCU in its dealing with external bodies had been “inadequate” and Stowe “also appear[ed] to be reluctant to identify fully with GECCU and take advantage of the opportunities to enhance his knowledge of credit unionism.
“This is inclusive of interacting with key stakeholders as described in duties at paragraphs 28 & 29 of your job description. Overall, there is an apparent display of a lack of understanding of the culture of the Credit Union movement, and a reluctance to make the necessary adjustments.”
The board said there continued to be “a deficiency of the soft skills we are looking for” in the management of a member-based organisation like GECCU.
Issues were also raised in the dismissal letter over a letter allegedly sent to Financial Services Authority on GECCU’s behalf on May 31, 2023, which the board alleged ‘contradicted the explicit directives of the board’. Other concerns were raised over the use of an e-signature.
Directors also cited the alleged “lack of regret and tone” of a letter Stowe allegedly addressed to the president and board of directors in response to their request for an explanation in reference to Stowe’s alleged actions as regards the correspondence and use of the e-signature.
Stowe had been appointed to the position effective October 1, 2020.
The Board told the meeting that the process has already started for the recruitment of a new CEO.
GECCU is the largest credit union in St Vincent and the Grenadines, with a membership of over 50,000.