Parramatta Leagues Club administrator Max Donnelly says that even if members vote down his proposed constitution he is never going to change his stance on how the first board is appointed and claims the regulator wouldn’t allow him to, anyway.
Tomorrow night at the Novotel Hotel in Parramatta from 7pm, Parramatta Leagues Club members will vote on whether they accept a new constitution put forward by Donnelly, who currently runs the club as an administrator.
Last year, Donnelly tried to pass through what he described as a “model constitution”. However, guidelines and processes that aimed to ensure that board candidates met strict eligibility criteria, and which also prevented past ghosts from returning, raised the ire of some members and the initial constitution - which requires a 75 per cent mandate in its favour - was voted down.
A further period of member consultation led to Donnelly watering down the eligibility criteria and the power of the nominations committee to vet candidates, and it is believed that has led to many of the constitution’s former opponents agreeing to back the new proposal.
Indeed, it appears the only remaining sticking point is how the first board is appointed, with some members remaining adamant that an open election should decide its initial make-up. Indeed, a petition was circulated by former Chairman Roy Spagnola in recent months, with the stated goal of dismissing Donnelly and immediate replacing him with seven-elected directors. It appears that effort failed to generate sufficient interest to go forward.
However, Donnelly is adamant that the first board must be appointed via a merit-based selection process.
“That’s one thing, I won’t and can’t move on. ILGA (the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority) has said to me, get the new constitution in place, make sure the club is in good hands, and then we’ll retire you,” he told 1Eye Eel.
“So that’s what I want to do. Get the constitution changed tomorrow night, and then appoint the best board that I can so I can then be retired.”
“ILGA isn’t going to retire me [if they don't’ have confidence in the first board], so it’s just not going to work to have an election.”
Once the initial board is appointed, the voting will then move to a triennial process, where approximately a third of the board goes up for election each year. Donnelly said this was accepted as best process and ensured consistency and stability at board-level.
“When you’re in the middle of doing something significant like building a hotel and leisure facilities, to have your entire board replaced overnight is a recipe for disaster.”
“When you have biennial elections and you’ve only got two years, the board ends up in their second year, spending the whole time just trying to get re-elected. In a triennial, two or three may go out, but the rest of the board continues on.”
Donnelly said triennials also took factionalism out of elections. “When you have people going for seven spots, you end up with factions running, when you have just two people up for election, the most you can have is a faction of two.”
Donnelly urged Parramatta Leagues Club members who had three-year voting rights to make the effort to get to the Novotel in Parramatta. He promised the doors would not be shut at 7pm and that people would be allowed in, right up to the moment of voting.
He said the last member consultation meeting had been positive and generated useful and constructive dialogue, and he hoped that given the concessions made, that members would now allow the new constitution to pass.
In other points made in questions put forward from 1Eyed Eel members, he said:
- In the case of a casual vacancy, directors would appoint the next director, but that a temporary director would have to stand at the next election.
- At this point, he does not see the possibility of legislative change forcing through a constitution. It would require legislative changes that would be opposed by ClubsNSW. The clear preference is for members to accept a constitution developed after a long period of member consultation but still modelled on boardroom best practices.
- In relation to a question about his fees, and his role at the club, Donnelly said: “I can assure members, I am doing my best to get constitutional change through so that I can retire”.