James Riley, Gem-A’s chief executive, has been dismissed for gross misconduct despite two weeks ago signing a severance and settlement agreement offered to him by the institution.
The settlement offer was withdrawn, and the trustees chose instead to fire Mr. Riley.
Jonathan Lambert resigned as a trustee soon after the settlement offer was withdrawn.
In a letter from trustee Miranda Wells, dated July 22, Mr. Riley was told: “Your failure to offer any explanation despite the seriousness of the allegations shows a lack of remorse and a disdain for the authority of the board, and no contrition at all.”
The allegation is that Mr. Riley visited a massage parlour on three occasions in Melbourne while on a business trip for Gem-A, and paid for the sessions using a Gem-A credit card.
Mr. Riley says he visited the establishment for treatment of a back condition, and only discovered later that the massage parlour was a brothel.
In his letter of dismissal, Mr. Riley is asked to repay improperly incurred expenses of £804.51.
Mr. Riley has been given five days to appeal against the dismissal, and is expected to do so.
The appeal process is sure to take many weeks, and a new board of trustees is likely to have been appointed following elections on August 29, so it is not beyond the realms of possibility that a new board will reappoint Mr. Riley.
He told Professional Jeweller that he would be prepared to work for a new board of trustees. “If a new board asked me to go back, I would go back and carry on. I have lived and breathed this organisation all my life,” he added.
Many Gem-A members are up in arms about the treatment of Mr. Riley, not least because there is evidence that the charity has spent well over £100,000 in fees to investigators and lawyers in the past few months.
The fees are not directly attributable to Mr. Riley’s case, but the investigation, legal issues surrounding the postponement and rescheduling of an AGM earlier this year, the planning of elections for a new board of trustees, and injunctions aimed at keeping the story out of the media, have all racked up costs now running into six figures.
Gem-A’s annual income was £2.98 million in 2014, and ran a surplus of around £200,000. Employees talking to Professional Jeweller, who have asked to remain anonymous, say they fear for their jobs or whether salaries can be paid next month because of the chaos and the rising costs.
Mr. Riley is not the only Gem-A executive who has been under scrutiny for improper conduct this year. In another incident, the institution’s chairman Jason Williams was named in a complaint for sexual harassment by a female employee dating back to 2014.
That complaint was adjudicated by Gem-A president Harry Levy in May, who arranged a private meeting between between the two parties, after which the complainant was reported to be satisfied with the outcome.
Mr. Williams resigned as chairman in May, although remained a trustee.
Council elections at the end of August have now become crucial to the future of Gem-A. At present there are nine positions on the board being contested by 16 candidates. Nigel Israel, who has taken over as interim chairman since Jessica Cadzow-Collins resigned the chair last week; Mary Burland and Miranda Wells will not have to contest their positions. Ms Cadzow-Collins is standing for re-election as a trustee.
Over 3000 Gem-A members are eligible to vote, and will be watching closely for any fresh revelations in the media and online forums; and what is said at the institution’s AGM next week.