"I feel like I've been treated like a mushroom - kept in the dark and fed a load of sh*t". So said one of the members at the start of Tuesday's already delayed AGM of the North and West Wilts Branch of the Federation of Small Businesses.
I can totally understand those feelings - for the members, in what is claimed to be a member led organisation, had just learned that their branch chairman had been suspended since June and remains suspended. And that's based on unproven allegations of actions that would be totally out of character that we all find very hard to believe. Some of us have known some elements of what has been going on, but as the branch committee is no longer allowed access to its members records "because it would be illegal under the data protection act" it's been impractical for them to tell everyone - and official requests to HQ for information for members have been stonewalled (although apparently it's NOT illegal for them to have member lists).
The members present were all the more shocked to learn that the regional committee - the next level up - is completely suspended too. That there was no timescale for the clearing up of these matters. That it appeared that proper procedures had not been followed in dealing with these matters. That the other person involved in the allegations continues in her job, even though she is a newcomer with an unproven record in contrast to our chairman is a long standing member with an unblemished prior record.
Points of order were called, and the meeting unanimously voted for an Extraordinary general meeting to be held as soon as possible, to which one of the FSB chiefs is to be invited to explain the situation. He has been recommended to bring his lawyer. And the AGM was suspended. After all, it would have been crazy for us all to vote for a new chairman, choosing between the incumbent for whom we have great respect but would be suspended straight away, a newcomer to the area who I had not met until yesterday, and another member who has been absent from FSB branch activity for years ... and we don't know what their agendas would be. Hopefully all will be sorted before the delayed AGM, and we'll no longer all feel like mushrooms, but the first flowers of spring and look forward to a properly running FSB branch.
As you can imagine, a very interesting meeting.
Credit where credit is due.
I have to admire the gentleman from Liverpool (Norman) who came down to chair the meeting for his fortitude, calmness and strength of character in what must have been a difficult position for him. He is not one of the key players behind the farce I described in my first two paragraphs; he described himself as a member of the FSB like the rest of us, although he gives over quite a bit of his time to the organisation "to the detriment of my own business at times".
I don't have the luxury of having the time to be involved to the extent that Marion or Norman or many other good people are - and at times I feel like a mushroom too. I wasn't standing for re-election to the branch committee on Tuesday and was looking forward to being off the case that has wasted so much time for no good of the members. However, it looks like I'm still on there with the AGM aborted at least for another week or two. This one has run and run - watch for the next merry installment!
Update - May '08
- it seems that this sort of thing is not new to the FSB. Read about a previous scandal
- and even the players are the same. I especially like the quote: FSB rules are merely for guidance
I cannot, of course, confirm that the information on this other site is correct but it's much too close to the pattern I've seen for me to have serious doubts in spite of the amazing things described.
Update - November 2009
. This article has recently been brought to my attention as being potentially biased, incomplete or in error. I am happy to make necessary additions to complete the story or reflect other views, and to correct any error of fact. See here
(written 2007-12-20, updated 2009-11-29)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ401 - Federation of Small Businesses 
Wiltshire - multicultural community - (2007-02-13) 
Train and business balls all in the air! - (2007-03-02) 
B-2-B Networking, 20th April. Useful for YOUR business? - (2007-04-03) 
Speed Networking - a great evening and how we arranged it - (2007-04-21) 
An oddball day. Strange experiences! - (2007-06-27) 
Is this how to run a business for businesses? - (2007-06-27) 
West Wilts Show - (2007-07-26) 
An update on the West Wilts show ... - (2007-07-30) 
A wasted evening? - (2007-08-01) 
FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) Western Region - (2007-09-13) 
Summer Ball at Bowood - Saturday 12th July 2008 - (2008-01-19) 
Keeping staff up to date on hotel room status - (2008-01-22) 
FSB, EGM, AGM. - (2008-02-18) 
The old sayings are the best (FSB) - (2008-05-26) 
FSB - an update. - (2008-10-07) 
Volunteer v Employee - a skewed balance? (FSB) - (2008-10-25) 
Melksham Chamber of Commerce, or the FSB - (2008-11-12) 
Getting hold of the wrong end of the stick - (2008-12-12) 
Blogging accuracy - open invitation for any corrections - (2009-11-29) 
An update on legal changes from the FSB? - (2009-12-03) 
Coincidence, or Conspiracy - a wrong email address - (2010-11-06) 
Melksham Campus - any last minute inputs from Melksham businesses? - (2011-03-26) 
Networking - North and West Wilts FSB Style - (2011-11-15)
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