Board of Deputies leaders lose votes on key constitutional reforms

Revised Board will have more trustees but deputies reject a number of proposals supported by the leadership


The leaders of the Board of Deputies suffered defeat on a series of votes over planned reform of the representative body at a special meeting on Sunday. 

Although the reorganisation of its structure was broadly approved, a number of amendments won majority support from deputies in the teeth of opposition from president Marie van der Zyl and her officer team. 

“The president was given a bloody nose,” one deputy said. 

Unusually, the three-hour, digital meeting was not livestreamed and the JC’s request for papers in advance went unanswered. One deputy was threatened with suspension for tweeting during the meeting. 

One of the reasons behind the revised constitution was to protect deputies from what lawyers had warned was unlimited liability for any debts. 

But in several key clauses deputies defied the wishes of the leadership and backed alternatives. 

However, since deputies were told the votes were only “indicative” and not binding, the executive will have to decide whether to incorporate them into the final version of its governing rules.

Andrew Gilbert, a member of both the Board’s executive and of its constitutional working party, said, “Most of the new governance document is not controversial, However, in areas where there is disagreement, the meeting was inconclusive.

“Next month, when the new governance document comes to the Board, it will need the approval of a two-thirds majority by deputies and none of the amendments showed a two-thirds approval or disapproval.”

Board leaders had wanted to increase the number of trustees from five – currently consisting of the president, three vice-presidents and treasurer – to nine, with the power to co-opt two more. 

But deputies voted to increase the number of elected trustees to 11. 

Leaders had also wanted to give some of the trustees designated roles and establish a nominations committee which could recommend whether candidates fulfilled the brief. 

But the proposed nominations committee to vet those standing for election was voted down. 

Deputies also voted to curb the period of the office served by trustees. 

Under the proposals supported by the leadership, trustees would have been eligible to serve two three-year terms in one role and then a further six years in another. 

But the deputies backed an amendment where a trustee would have to step down after six years and take a break for three: the only exemption would be if they wanted to stand for president. 

The draft constitution also proposed that some decisions by trustees should be taken on the “advice” or “recommendation” of the president but these provisions were also rejected. 

Deputies also voted down a proposed change in the system of electing vice-presidents and trustees after it was argued that this could allow a bloc of deputies to exert disproportionate influence on elections. 

In a statement after the meeting, Mrs van der Zyl thanked deputies “for their contributions to updating our constitution to make it fit for the future. The trustees will be reviewing the results of the discussion and will bring a final document back to deputies at the January’s full Board of Deputies meeting.”

She said she was “proud of the debate and how we have met the challenge of ensuring the Board of Deputies remains the community’s primary democratic representative organisation”.

An amendment to block a proposal that will allow trustees to remove a fellow-trustee or deputy without going through disciplinary proceedings was not put to the floor on what deputies were told was legal advice. 

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