Members of the Clubs Council Executive (CCE) brought a motion of no confidence in Chair James Howarth on Monday. The members cited distrust in Howarth following instances of misconduct and ongoing commitment issues.
Woroni obtained documents which revealed that Clubs Council Secretary Jason Pover moved the motion of no confidence at yesterday’s meeting. The motion is non-binding as the CCE do not have the ability to remove the Chair from office. Nevertheless, it is revealing of the mounting tensions and internal turmoil brewing within the Council.
What appears to have stemmed from a personal conflict between Howarth and Pover, has escalated dramatically to the level of the executive at large.
Pover stated that at the end of last term, Howarth “engaged in some severely unprofessional conduct,” claiming that he had sent “abusive messages” to Pover and “failed to consult with Clubs Council about significant plans he had.”
In the wake of Howarth’s misconduct, named officers unanimously agreed to sign a joint memorandum of understanding (MoU) to set out mutual expectations. At a meeting in June, the expectations to be included in the MoU were outlined, and it was requested that Howarth note his prior misconduct in the document. Howarth allegedly refused, and this requirement of the MoU was abandoned “to ensure the MoU was signed.”
After meeting initially with ANUSA representatives to write up the MoU, Howarth later reached out to ANUSA for support, claiming he had “cried for 15-16 days” and “felt like it couldn’t go anywhere else.”
“I won’t fulfil sexist stereotypes of men being tough, this has affected me,” Howarth said.
“I’ve felt bullied by Jason [Pover], Ebe [Ganon] and Jacob [Howland].”
After meeting subsequently with ANUSA and embracing their advice that “the MoU was an option and not a guarantee,” Howarth asserted that he wanted the MoU to come only through mediation.
Other named officers opposed mediation on the grounds of it prolonging the process.
According to Pover’s statement, some members of the executive thought that Howarth’s backpedalling on the MoU was “significant given that it was James signing an MoU that originally dissuaded us from wanting him removed from his position.”
Howarth’s failure to uphold his alleged commitment to signing an MoU gave rise to the motion of no confidence brought at yesterday’s meeting. However, Howarth maintained that he had never fully committed to signing the MoU.
“I hold that I didn’t agree to definitely sign an MOU, I said that I would if I liked it after it had been written, I did not like it,” he said yesterday.
“You are taught as a law student not to agree to sign things sight unseen, and to not sign things under coercion. I think this has been coercion, developed into various things despite apologies.”
Community Officer Ebe Ganon countered that Howarth was “using ANUSA to back out of commitments made to CCE.”
“James behaved poorly, failed to consult on an issue that resulted in the drama, and went back on commitments he’d made, breaking the trust we had in him as a leader and a co-leader,” Ganon said.
Pover further argued that Howarth “has done everything he could to put off the procedures he agreed to.”
“Tree of trust has been salted and burnt,” he said. “I had no other option.”
Members of the broader executive claimed to have been “blind-sided” by Pover’s motion of no confidence as the issue had been previously dealt with only by named officers. Executive members who had been kept in the dark about the extent of the issue spoke in favour of attempting mediation prior to a motion of no confidence.
The motion was passed through secret ballot at Monday’s meeting.
Editor’s note (16/08/2019): An earlier version of this article stated that the outcome of the motion had not yet been revealed. This article has since been amended to correct this. We apologise for this error.