Lifeboat charity trustee involved in dismissing chair incorrectly, says Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

In its first statutory inquiry report, the Northern Ireland regulator says Trevor McKee put lives at risk by decommissioning one of the charity's lifeboats; McKee says the report is inaccurate

Charity Commission for Northern Ireland
Charity Commission for Northern Ireland

The Charity Commission for Northern Ireland removed a trustee from the lifeboat charity Lough Neagh Rescue because he was involved in dismissing the charity's chair incorrectly, froze the charity's bank account for no good reason and put lives at risk by decommissioning one of its lifeboats.

This is according to the CCNI's report on its statutory inquiry into the charity, published today.

Trevor McKee, the former trustee in question, who was removed in August 2013, told Third Sector the report contained inaccuracies and omissions, and was "not made in good faith".

The report says CCNI was approached by McKee and five other members of the charity in January 2012 and they voiced concerns about LNR's governance and administration.

The CCNI sought further information about the charity, and in May 2013 escalated the case to a statutory inquiry.

This resulted in the removal of McKee as a trustee of LNR and to five other members being removed from the charity.

Those five were reinstated – although they have not in practice been able to return to LNR – after the commission dropped its opposition to their tribunal appeal in March 2014.

But McKee’s appeal against his removal was later rejected on the grounds that his reinstatement would cause "further conflict and disharmony" at the charity.

The statutory inquiry has now been closed. The CCNI report, the first statutory inquiry report published by the regulator, lists the issues with the charity's governance that it identified – concerning McKee's conduct in particular – the action since taken by the trustees of LNR and the lessons for the rest of the sector.

The report lists seven "significant issues that led to the removal of Mr McKee": his part in dismissing Paul Quinn as chair without proper authority; attempting to "reject assets that might have become available to the charity"; cancelling LNR's involvement in public events; telling members to remove collection boxes from local shops; freezing the charity's bank account "for no good reason"; taking a lifeboat out of commission solely as a result of the charity's internal dispute; and creating an alternative website for the charity "to potentially confuse the public and damage the charity’s reputation".

The report says the charity's disciplinary policies were unclear and might have attributed undue powers to the trustees, that the charity's membership records were not maintained properly in accordance with company law, that minutes of board meetings were not endorsed or reconciled and that a "culture of rivalry" between the charity's stations had been allowed to evolve.

The charity has returned to good governance, the CCNI report says. It has revised its articles of association, asked members to agree to a new code of conduct and opened a third station, receiving funding from the local council.

McKee said he had not been made aware of the report's publication by the CCNI and, as a result, had had limited time to review it. A spokeswoman for the CCNI said it was "not obliged to share the report with affected parties for comment prior to publication".

McKee said the report was heavily biased and "surprising in its content and not made in good faith".

He said: "We will take time to properly study the report, its factual inaccuracies and omissions, and will respond appropriately in the coming days."

McKee, who has been forbidden from acting as a trustee of any UK charity, has also continued to challenge what he considers unjust decisions by the commission and the tribunal – he has lobbied politicians, made requests to the CCNI under the Freedom of Information Act and, most recently, lost a tribunal appeal against against the rejection of one of those requests.

A spokeswoman for Lough Neagh Rescue said the charity was keen to get on with its work. She said: "The board and crew of Lough Neagh Rescue feel vindicated by the outcome of this inquiry and this report, and welcome its findings. Since Mr McKee's removal by the commission, we have gone from strength to strength."

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