The Jewish Leadership Council has bowed to pressure for an independent inquiry into the allegations surrounding its former chief executive, Jeremy Newmark.
On Wednesday it confirmed that a retired judge — yet to be appointed — will chair the inquiry, assisted by experts in charity law and accountancy.
But the JC can today reveal a series of emails between JLC trustees in 2013 which show how worried they were that their decision not to report Mr Newmark’s alleged misconduct and their repayment of missing money would leak.
The emails show that an internal report into Mr Newmark was discussed with the charity’s trustees at an “urgent meeting” two weeks before he departed the organisation officially on the grounds of ill health.
In an email sent on September 16 2013, the then JLC chairman Sir Mick Davis summoned the trustees to a meeting to take place the following day to discuss the “critical matter” of Mr Newmark. Sir Mick later raised the allegations made in the report with the former JLC chief executive.
In one email, Sir Mick, now chief executive of the Conservative Party, wrote to fellow trustees that Mr Newmark “recognised the serious nature of the issues raised” and agreed just a few days after the meeting that the “best course of action” was for him to resign on the grounds of his ill health.
But the emails also confirm that Sir Mick — along with several other trustees, including former United Synagogue president Stephen Pack — had serious concerns that the “true reason” for Mr Newmark’s departure after seven years at the helm of the charity would emerge into the public domain.
In one message Mr Pack warned: “The book-keeper and some other members of staff know quite a lot about his actions.” Mr Pack also discussed a six-month pay-off to Mr Newmark sanctioned by Sir Mick, writing that it “does not sit well to pay someone who has done what he has”. But Mr Pack then added that the pay-off was a “better alternative than a long and messy investigation in the public eye”.
Sir Mick replied that he was “aware of the risk” of hiding the real reason for Mr Newmark’s departure from the charity.
The JC revealed two weeks ago how the internal audit into his conduct alleged that Mr Newmark had billed the charity for thousands of pounds of unwarranted personal expenses over a two-year period, as well as inflating costs of JLC projects.
Mr Newmark has resigned from his role of Jewish Labour Movement chair. The Charity Commission is assessing the JLC’s conduct after confirming that it had not been made aware of the allegations against Mr Newmark in 2013 and now had “serious concerns”.
The emails reveal how the internal investigation into Mr Newmark was first sent to Mr Pack, who was a JLC trustee and PricewaterhouseCoopers’ former head of risk, on September 15.
Mr Pack had earlier emailed Nigel Layton, the JLC’s then treasurer and a partner at leading audit firm KPMG, specialising in fraud risk management.
The email was also sent to Helen Myer, the JLC’s then head of operations. It said that Mr Pack had arranged for a meeting to take place the following week at the headquarters of PwC.
On September 16, Sir Mick sent an email to all JLC trustees which read: “Gentlemen, I need to have an urgent meeting of Trustees to discuss a critical matter...All Trustees must please make an effort to attend in person or by phone. Please treat this meeting as confidential as it concerns Jeremy and his continuing employment.”
Following this meeting, Sir Mick and Leo Noe, another trustee, met Mr Newmark on September 25.
On September 30, Sir Mick then emailed other JLC trustees — including Bill Benjamin of UJIA, Steven Lewis of Jewish Care, Vivian Wineman of the Board of Deputies, James Libson of World Jewish Relief, Gerald Ronson of the Community Security Trust and Sir Trevor Chinn — to update them on the result of the meeting with Mr Newmark.
He wrote: “Gentlemen, I want to report back to you on Jeremy Newmark’s position and the course of action which I will initiate subject to any objections from yourselves… We discussed the report which I had tabled with yourselves. Jeremy recognised the serious nature of the issues raised in the report although he did not at the meeting accept wrong-doing other than very bad administration.
“He did concede that the picture the report painted was not good.”
The email continued: “It was left with Jeremy to consider his future position as CEO in light of that report and his current quite serious health issues.
“Jeremy was fully informed of the future courses of action we had agreed upon at the meeting of the Trustees. Jeremy undertook to come back to me by Monday, 30 September 2013.
“On Monday 30 September 2013, and to cut to the chase Jeremy indicated that he thought the best course of action was for him to tender his resignation as CEO on the grounds of his ill health.
“Jeremy indicated that he wanted to ensure an orderly departure and handover and that there was a great deal of JLC activities which he alone was on top of and felt he owed it to the Trustees to ensure these were properly ‘downloaded’.
“He proposed that he be ‘employed’ as a consultant for a short period to facilitate this but with no line or admin authorities.
“I undertook to consider his proposal and revert by Wednesday, 2 October 2013 with my response.”
Sir Mick then outlined his “future course of action”.
He wrote: “I intend to accept Jeremy’s resignation with immediate effect on the grounds of ill health. I intend to appoint Jeremy as a consultant on full salary together with reimbursement of reasonable and approved expenses for a three month period. During this time he will report to me and affect a proper ‘download’ and handover. I expect that he will be full-time only for an initial period of his consultancy and thereafter be available as and when needed.”
Sir Mick continued: “I am fully aware of the risks associated with this course of action in the event that the fact of the meeting on 17th September and its topic is leaked. Given that only the trustees and one member of the JLC staff are aware of the meeting and the contents of the report tabled, I hope that there is a low risk of this happening.
“If however it does leak I will prepare a contingency. I intend to brief the staff about Jeremy’s resignation on Wednesday 2 October 2013 and write to the JLC members on that date as well.”
The emails also show that Sir Mick agreed to pay Mr Newmark six months’ salary after his departure from the JLC.
Sir Mick wrote: “Given the matters discussed at our meeting on 17 September 2013 I believe it is not appropriate for him to continue in his present position nevertheless while he acted at times without authority and did not manage properly conflicts of interests, the pursuit of personal enrichment is not proved.
“In view of this, Jeremy’s past service to the JLC and the Community and the fact that he in the last 6 months has been confirmed as a diabetic (which is not yet under proper control) I think that he should be given a further three months’ salary post the conclusion of his period of consultancy. I do not propose that this is paid for by the JLC and I will arrange for this to be funded and paid for separately.”
Sir Mick then asked his trustees for “your views on the above by latest midday tomorrow”.
On October 1, Sir Trevor Chinn replied, saying simply: “I agree”. Mr Pack also replied, detailing his concern. He wrote: “Mick — I am happy with your proposals — but I think we should assume that the true reason for his departure will emerge, regardless of our attempts to keep it confidential. The bookkeeper and some other members of staff know quite a lot about his actions and the Press will do their best to probe.
“I think a cost to the JLC of three months salary is reasonable, not least because a full investigation would have cost at least that amount plus a lot of Trustee time and energy. Whilst it does not sit well to pay someone who has done what he has, I recognise that it is a better alternative than a long and messy investigation in the public eye.”
Mr Lewis replied: “Mick you have my support on this solution. I agree with Stephen [Pack] that it will be difficult to stop the truth coming out.”