Violence averted at charity meeting

Police were called to prevent violence at a meeting convened to choose a member of an election board at a Sikh charity in Bradford, according to a Charity Commission inquiry report.

The acrimony arose after complaints from some members of the United Sikh Association Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, whose object is to promote the Sikh religion, that it had ignored the eligibility criteria for members of its managing committee.

The charity agreed to the commission’s request to hold fresh elections with an election board consisting of the charity’s four holding trustees – who held its property in trust – and one other independent person to be selected by the charity’s sangat, or congregation. The election board’s role was to oversee the elections and rule on who was eligible to vote.

The report says: “The scheduled meeting took place but fell into disarray, with both groups putting forward different accounts of the meeting, claiming a different independent had been elected.”

A second meeting was held in the presence of legal advisers and an independent observer, but police were called when, according to the report, “there was real concern about the potential for the situation to become violent”.

The commission concluded that there was “a potential high risk” to the funds of the charity – whose income in 2006 was just over £250,000 – and opened an inquiry in March 2006. The inquiry closed 43 days later, but publication of the report was delayed in order not to prejudice further issues concerning the charity.

The regulator met the trustees and the opposing group and persuaded them to make a third, successful attempt to elect a new managing committee.

“The charity’s governance was restored and the risk to the charity’s reputation, services and public order dealt with,” the report says.

“The commission expects those involved in charity disputes to be focused on working in the best interests of the charity and its beneficiaries. They must therefore be prepared to work together with the commission, where we have a role to play in bringing about a solution.”

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