Volunteers in dispute with National Coastwatch Institution

Disagreement follows the organisation's refusal to allow a volunteer to retract her resignation

A group of volunteers is in dispute with the National Coastwatch Institution over its refusal to allow one of them to retract her resignation.

The NCI was set up in 1994 to take over former coastguard stations and restore a visual watch over the UK's coastline. Pauline Bradbury became the full-time voluntary manager of the charity's station in Shoreham, West Sussex, in 2008.

Bradbury told Third Sector she felt her authority had been undermined constantly by the charity's treasurer, Brian Baker. She said she had also clashed with Baker and her deputy, Barrie Turner, over what she believed was discrimination against two other volunteers. She emailed her resignation to Baker last May at her "lowest possible ebb" after a telephone call from Turner demanding that she dismiss one of the volunteers.

Baker accepted her resignation and he and the charity's board refused to accept its withdrawal after Bradbury had second thoughts the next day.

In a statement, the NCI said it had asked two trustees to conduct an inquiry when it received complaints from Bradbury and three other volunteers in May. The other three no longer work for the charity. The NCI said it had repeatedly asked the complainants to give evidence, but their refusal to do so meant it had not been able to examine their case properly and had decided to declare the matter closed last month.

"Their refusal has forced the trustees to the conclusion that their objective is to create trouble rather than have their complaints thoroughly and impartially examined," it said.

Bradbury claimed the charity's constitution required three trustees to conduct investigations. She said that by the time the offer of an inquiry had been made, the complainants had lost confidence in the board's impartiality and wanted independent mediation.

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