On Friday 18 November 2022, we were saddened and disappointed to receive a letter from Tim Tate tendering his resignation from the Management Committee (board) of the Society of Authors.
Tim served a year of his three-year term, during which time SoA staff and fellow directors appreciated his knowledge and expertise.
At 7pm on Friday, Tim chose to publish his letter of resignation on social media and on his website, within minutes of sending it to the SoA. Many of our board members had not yet read it. While we embrace Tim’s right to share the news of his resignation — and we are always open to comments, criticisms and feedback that will help us improve our processes — publishing this letter with many details of a confidential process is not consistent with a director’s fiduciary responsibilities and has exposed named colleagues to attack. Nor is it helpful to the complainants or the subjects of the complaints, or to the SoA’s wider membership.
Tim’s letter includes a disputed account of disagreements within a subcommittee in which the wider board, Chief Executive and Chair were not involved. It also seems to indicate some misunderstanding of the central purpose of the SoA’s complaints process, which is designed as a problem-solving conciliation procedure, not a judicial procedure.
The subcommittee was not ‘unilaterally suspended’ by Abie Longstaff. A former barrister, Abie had concerns about the processes being followed by the subcommittee and she acted with the support, agreement and prior knowledge of staff. When those concerns were not accepted by her fellow members, she followed due process, raised them with the whole Management Committee and chose to resign from the subcommittee.
The Management Committee arranged an urgent meeting to consider the concerns about process and to discuss who should continue the investigation. This meeting was not attended either by the Management Committee Chair or the SoA’s Chief Executive. We fully understand that Tim felt unsupported when the Management Committee voted against accepting the current membership of the subcommittee. However, debate and working to resolve differences are a core part of serving on any elected committee. Decisions are made by consensus and majority vote. This is how Management Committee members serve the Members who voted for them.
As a democratically elected board, the Management Committee has a wide range of skills and backgrounds, which makes for lively discussion and often disagreement. This is a strength of the SoA’s governance and maintains the health in our decision-making on behalf of members and the organisation.
Tim’s letter describes the Management Committee’s decision as a vote of no confidence in him. It was not intended as such, but Tim took the decision to step down despite requests from the Management Committee that he reconsider and stay. We regret that Tim feels he can no longer work with the Management Committee because of disagreement over a single area of work. The Management Committee’s duty is to ensure that the confidential process he was involved with continues without further delay to ensure the SoA can perform its duty to complainants and members. We are keen to ensure the process is clear so that the committee can proceed to consider the substance of the complaints.
We have already taken legal advice on our complaints process and will continue to involve lawyers as necessary to ensure that correct processes are followed.