Friends of the Earth board acts to calm waters after resignation
Friends of the Earth board appoints interim CEO to appease staff worried about governance
Friends of the Earth's board of governors will not ask its chairman to take over the group's top administrative post after the former head resigned amid mistrust between the board and staff.
Chan May-ling resigned as chief executive without explanation last Friday after serving in the role for two years.
Her sudden departure has raised fears over how the group is being governed.
The chairman, Robert Yeung Man-kin, told staff of the decision yesterday in a move that might ease tension, at least temporarily.
Yeung said Merrin Pearse, head of communications and strategy, would be acting CEO until Chan's successor was found through an open recruitment process.
Staff cautiously accepted the appointment as a compromise until the group's annual general meeting on 20 June, when a new chairman will be elected.
Last Friday Yeung, a former oil firm executive, said he was on good terms with Chan.
But he did not directly respond to allegations about her departure that were widely reported the next day.
It is believed staff are angry that some board members are too hands-on in daily operations.
But Yeung denied there was too much intervention.
"There is neither over-managing nor micro-management," he said.
Media reports also mentioned the performances of particular board members, with one being branded a "tumour" on the organisation by another member.
Board member Carlos Lo Wing-hung yesterday confirmed the "tumour" talk in what he described as a "free discussion" among members.
"It is just a generic analogy and is of the speaking style of a particular board member," he said.
Lo also defended the board's performance, saying its members had a legitimate right to set the visions and missions for the staff to follow.
"It is difficult to define excessive intervention. The board is always the driver of the organisation," he said.
Lo also confirmed the board had discussed the possibility of asking a board member to be acting chief executive officer because it could be arranged quickly.
But Ng Cho-nam, a director of the Conservancy Association, said an overlap between the management and board was not desirable.
"Checks and balances might be compromised if there is an overlap," he said.
Ng said the Hong Kong Council of Social Service had guidelines for its member welfare groups so that such overlap could be avoided.
There was also similar advice from the Independent Commission Against Corruption.
Ng said there needed to be a sound structure that could both avoid over-relying on particular individuals in running the group and too much rigidity that prevented experienced people from contributing to the group continually.
Friends of the Earth Hong Kong was established in 1983.
The group now has about 12,000 members.