As I understand it:
1. That the Board - and most particularly the Director and the staff, according to the Chair - had done wonderfully well, working day and night, to get the Poetry Society its improved grants;
2. That the board thanked the Director and then put her into a position in which she had no option but to resign;
3. That the board did this because it considered she was under stress. They improved the stress by putting her in this position;
4. The underlying reason for this was unmanageable stress between the Director and the editor of Poetry Review;
5. That the editor wanted to change her job description in that she wanted to spend less time on the premises and to report directly to the board rather than to the Director. However the Director's job description included being the route of communication between the Board and the editor and that, furthermore, this responsibility was a legal obligation under the terms of her contract, and that to change this would mean a change in her job description, a change that required certain procedures that were, as I understand it, not followed;
6. That, according to the Chair, there wasn't a grievance procedure under way so no proper grievance procedure could be followed (was there then a grievance? and if not what's the problem?);
7. That the then Chair and Vice-Chair of the board informed the Board that there was no time to discuss this problem so asked to be entrusted with whatever action they took;
8. That the action they took was to accept the changes in job descriptions without due procedure and without the consent of the Director, who was simply presented with the changes, and then, naturally enough, resigned;
9. That the Director suggesting that this might be a case of constructive dismissal and therefore for legal action (she threatened legal action, they said) the Trustees ran to Harbottle & Lewis (by coincidence Rupert Murdoch's lawyers, in other words not the cheapest, who have so far charged them about £24K, and to Colman Getty, who have so far charged about £3K);
10. There was no threat in writing of legal action on the grounds of constructive dismissal and so far no action has been initiated;
11. That there were many organisations offering free advice on such matters to charitable bodies but the Trustees were not aware of these and they were not consulted;
12. That one reasonable course of action might have been to consult ACAS. The Trades Union person who advised this also thought that there was in fact an unusually strong case for constructive dismissal;
13. That in the meantime, at various times, the President, the Vice-President, the Finance Director, the Chair and a member of the Board had also resigned;
14. That in the meantime the Poetry Society had embargoed the Director, forbidding her from entering the premises, disconnecting her email etc, in other words they clearly worried about something;
15. That there was some exchange of emails between the then Chair and the previous Chair threatening the previous Chair with legal action for having had communication with the departed (or departing) Director. This was a perfectly proper course for the Director to take, however. That was before the then Chair resigned;
16. That according to the Finance Director, who has resigned but has worked out his term, the Poetry Society's finances are far from secure and there has been correspondence between the bank and the Society regarding overdraft facilities and the value of the Society building, which he found worrying;
17. That, though the Arts Council had increased the grant of the Society, that grant was conditional and that some of the regular grant has been held back until the Society fulfils those conditions;
18. That those conditions have not so far been fulfilled.
These were, I think, the main points to be discovered. If I am wrong, my apologies in advance. Then there was a vote of no confidence by poll that was carried by a majority of somewhere round 6:1.
It is important to stress that the Board, in anticipation of this, had announced that they had brought forward the date of their next meeting to September at which point they would resign, and would be replaced by a new Board that would be elected by due procedure, which was a legal requirement. They were, at the end of the meeting, pressed to accept three new people onto the board until that time. Four volunteered. It is, procedurally, up to the Board to select the three they want until September, and that this is what they will now proceed to do. At this point the meeting closed.
This left some questions unanswered, chiefly:
How the Trustees had got themselves into this situation when there were procedures they could have followed? They seem to have been in a huge hurry straight after the announcement of the Arts Council decisions, to the extent that they permitted matters to get to this stage. What pressure were they under?
Why they were ignorant of cheaper or free legal advice?
What is to happen to the Director who has said - so it was reported by certain members at the meeting - that she would be happy to return? The Board will say no more that they are in discussions with her, which suggests that it is the Board that is the obstacle.
If these discussions are not concluded satisfactorily within a suitable time frame and the Director is not back in her job does she still have a case for constructive dismissal, and if so, how much money will that cost the Society? Should it win? Should it lose? It may be that the Trustees are hoping that sufficient time will elapse between the resignation and a decision regarding the case for constructive dismissal on the Director's part, to nullify the possible case, since there is a certain period within which a case has to be started. It may be so.
What is to be done to ensure that procedures are clear and will be followed in the future?
What happens regarding the Arts Council and its conditions regarding the grant?
What is the likely state of the Poetry Society's finances in the immediate future?
My personal feeling - I know nothing of the position of the editor and have not been consulted or lobbied by anyone speaking for her, and in fact hold her in the highest regard as both editor and poet - is that the Director has been shockingly treated and in a manner that endangers the future of the Poetry Society. It may be the Editor has dissatisfactions but I know nothing of those. They have not been made public and she remains Editor, now in perpetuity.
I was asked to stand as an interim board member and, reluctantly, I agreed. In the event I was not called on, for which I am grateful. I wish the Poetry Society well, since the Society is not this or that Board of Trustees. I wish it better communication, better publicity, and better relations generally. It is vital that the Poetry Society survive, especially since one of the two institutional legs on which poetry stands has already been shot away. Which might be just one reason why the Arts Council too might want it to survive. Shooting itself in the foot has not however helped the National Poetry Society.
I reveal all this because it was declared an open meeting and because minutes will be circulated to Members. Nobody said any of this was confidential. I can't remember how many decades I have been a member, but certainly some.
Considering events in Norway today this affair seems pettier than ever in personal and institutional terms. How thoroughly depressing it all is.
Important update: I strongly advise those interested to read what Jane Holland has to say of the same meeting.