At Work: Law and Governance - Opinion - Just keep your hands off Delia Smith

Peter Stanford, a writer and broadcaster, and director of the Frank Longford Charitable Trust

A more formal approach to recruitment can guard against bad behaviour in the boardroom.

Here's a new aspect of trustee life for the Charity Commissioners to pronounce upon in one of their ever-welcome booklets: "Guidelines on how to behave when a trustee has an affair with a celebrity patron, breaks up his marriage and brings shame on the charity's name in the redtops."

In case you've been in an enclosed convent for the past few weeks, Chris 'Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?' Tarrant has been thrown out by his wife Ingrid after she discovered he had been carrying on with Fiona McKechnie. They had met through the brain injury charity Headway, where she was a trustee and he a patron.

It has caused me to look afresh round the Aspire trustee table for any significant glances I'd hitherto been missing. It's a slippery slope.

Once your suspicion is aroused, the simplest remark can be taken the wrong way. "Nicholas Parsons was so charming doing the auction at the end of the fundraising cricket match," one of my fellow trustees was enthusing.

"What is she trying to tell us?" I wondered. Not out loud, though.

We're rather casual when new trustees join. There are, of course, the legal papers to sign, but no code of conduct. I'm now busy drafting one.

First, check the financial statements at all times. Second, treat everything said round the table as confidential. Third, keep your hands off Delia Smith.

The most damaging thing about the episode (if you're not Mrs Tarrant) is the impression it gives of why people become trustees. We did once have a treasurer who saw joining the board as a way of boosting his social life. After one rebuff from a female member of staff over the post-meeting nibbles, his enthusiasm for overhauling our financial reporting systems wilted. But if we are now to face an influx of people too mean to pay the membership fee for a dating agency ...

And what of Ingrid? She planned to raise money at a Headway charity auction by offering an envelope with a "secret revelation" about her Chris - namely, what he was doing with Fiona. As cringe-making drama, it sounds like something Ricky Gervais might have written. As an incentive for donors to get out their cheque books, I can't imagine a bigger turn-off.

But can you imagine the event? The generous donor is warmly applauded as he or she goes up to receive the envelope from Ingrid. The spotlight comes on as the envelope is opened. And then ...

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