Ex-Charity Commission chair thought claims against him had been dismissed, MPs told

Martin Thomas explains the events surrounding his resignation as chair of the charity Women for Women International, which he says was ‘imploding’

Martin Thomas

Martin Thomas, who resigned as chair of the Charity Commission a week after being appointed, has said he believed the allegations made against him while he was chair of a charity had been dismissed.

Thomas withdrew from the role last month after complaints were made about his behaviour while he was chair of Women for Women International, which supports female survivors of war.

In a letter to MPs on the Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Committee, Thomas sets out his side of the story and apologises for how events unfolded.

Thomas says about claims he had bullied someone: “I have never intentionally bullied anyone and I deeply regret that anyone could have construed my behaviour in that way.”

He says an individual had made a “raft of allegations against the board” and two trustees, of which he was one, amid a restructure that was causing “wider unhappiness within the charity, with many people making accusations against others, some libellous”.

The letter says: “It was said that I had been aggressive and inappropriate in tone in a phone call in spring 2021, and that I had dealt improperly with a protected vulnerability,” he says.

“The complaint was accompanied by an offer to leave employment for a large sum of money.”

He says an investigation was launched but he “felt that the organisation was imploding and decided to resign”.

Thomas writes: “Before I was told what the findings were, or what the board had decided about the findings, I resigned.

“To be honest, I did not need the constant grief. It was an unpaid role (as have been all my roles in 14 charities spanning 30 years) and I decided that my contribution and efforts would be better off invested elsewhere.”

The letter, which was sent just before the committee questioned William Shawcross, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, and officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport earlier this month about Thomas’ appointment, was published on the committee website last week.

Thomas says in it that he did not know how an image published in The Times newspaper of him in a branch of the lingerie retailer Victoria’s Secret had made it into the public domain.

He says he had taken the image of himself in the store to illustrate why he thought Women for Women International, which helps women escape sexual violence, should not take a donation from a company that could be seen as sexualising and objectifying women.

He says a complaint was made about the image, which he had inadvertently sent to the wrong contact at the charity, but the board concluded there had been no improper conduct.

“I do not know how the photo ended up in the public domain, I certainly did not put it there, and I doubt that WfWI did so,” he says.

“At no point in my career has anyone ever complained of any behaviour by me that has been sexual.

“I regret that the juxtaposition of The Times’ headline and picture, and some of the media storm that has followed, suggests otherwise. It has been a very distressing time for me and my family.”

Thomas apologises to the committee that it took time to interview him, only for him to resign a week later.

“And I am also sorry that I made the mistake of thinking that I did not need to report an allegation made against me by an employee at a charity I had chaired,” he says.

“Having heard nothing from the charity in the months following its investigation of the allegation, I assumed I had been exonerated.

“I now understand that this was not entirely correct, and with hindsight I should have told the interview panel about the allegation and my assumption that it had been dealt with to the satisfaction of those involved.”

Thomas concludes by underlining his commitment to the charity sector and says he is sad not to be taking up the Charity Commission role.

He says he will continue to work within charities and hopes the experiences he has outlined will not deter others from putting themselves forward for the role of a charity trustee or chair of the commission.

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