YesCymru Chair under fire over CEO sacking
The Chairman of YesCymru has come under fire over the sacking of CEO Gwern Gwynfil and the removal of several members of the board.
In December, Nation.Cymru reported that the Chief Executive had been sacked due to the “needs of the business changing”.
The CEO received the news via an email sent by Director and Chair of YesCymru, Barry Parkin who stated that his position was “no longer required”.
Following this we have been conducting an investigation to uncover what happened at the pro Welsh independence organisation in the run up to Mr Gwynfil’s dismissal.
Whistle blowers have told Nation.Cymru that a week prior to the sacking, two YesCymru directors were removed from the board despite them both being involved in planning the organisation’s strategy, events and administration.
Sources told us the two directors concerned received the news of their sacking via an email “without debate or discussion” and without an official reason given.
We have seen an email between two directors which states: “After a discussion with the Chair, I was informed that the behaviour of the two directors concerned in the meeting of the 27th November 2023, was ‘obstructive, aggressive, deliberate, and planned’.”
We understand that the meeting in question also saw the first attempt made to remove YesCymru’s CEO.
However, the board failed to vote it through after the proposal was challenged by several directors.
A group of directors expressed concern about whether the board was justified in taking such a step without first looking at evidence such as financial records showing that the organisation could not afford to pay Mr Gwynfil.
Concerns were also raised about how members would react about the removal of the CEO who was appointed in September last year and had become “the face of the organisation”.
It was suggested that targets be put in place to monitor the CEO and that any attempt to remove Mr Gwynfil should be backed up by “HR advice”.
Concerns were also raised about the legitimacy of YesCymru’s Articles of Association which needed “ironing out”.
We have been informed that this evidence was not provided and the motion to sack the Chief Executive failed to be voted through.
Barry Parkin – who was just a director at the time of the first attempt to remove the CEO – was then appointed Chair of YesCymru after the former Chair failed to vote and stepped aside.
Shortly after the first attempt to remove the CEO, the two directors who had questioned the removal of Mr Gwynfil were themselves dismissed because their “input was no longer required”.
Insiders have told Nation.Cymru that the removal of the two directors enabled a small faction to obtain a decision making majority within the organisation.
A week after the removal of the two directors, Gwern Gwynfil was sacked via email by Barry Parkin.
Sources from within the organisation have claimed that the company’s rules were manipulated in order to achieve the desired outcome of removing the CEO from his role.
We were also told that directors are instructed to only speak in English not Welsh during board meetings and some directors found their comments muted by the Chairman if he was challenged.
Nation.Cymru contacted Mr Parkin asking for a response to these allegations. We gave him a 10am deadline to respond.
Mr Parkin told us he was entertaining friends and therefore could not stick to our deadline but said he had been working on a statement regarding the sacking of the CEO and two directors and that the statement would be released at 4pm today.
However, at around 8am this morning, the statement in question was released via email to YesCymru directors and members.
Last night a board meeting took place and despite Mr Parkin knowing about our investigation, he did not raise it with directors nor discuss the statement he planned to release on behalf of the organisation.
We understand that during this meeting a request was made for £2,000 to be set aside every year for the Chair of YesCymru to fund his own HR and legal advice.
This request was strongly rejected by several directors.
We were able to obtain the statement from a YesCymru member and therefore can release it before embargo. YesCymru sources described it as “amateur” and “lies and spin”.
Barry Parkin Chair YesCymru said: “During the interview process and following the appointment of the CEO it was made clear that an increase in membership numbers was required to maintain the position of the CEO. The financial budget of 2023 was set with a clear target of raising membership to 8,000 from the then membership of YesCymru of around 7,000.
“Following concern amongst the Board about our financial position following the fact that membership targets were not being met and our reserves more than halved over the last fifteen months, the Board requested a financial review together with a forecast for 2024.
“Following comprehensive discussions with staff and analysis of our finances by specialist volunteers, including a Management Consultant, a report was written with very conservative assumptions that were included for transparency. The report was accepted by the Board and a plan was developed to reduce the deficit to a sustainable level.
“In the subsequent months, our plan for raising funds mainly through an increase in membership numbers was unsuccessful. Consequently, several proposals were made to consider other options, including staffing levels which included offering to reduce the CEO’s hours. Unfortunately, many constructive compromise proposals were not even discussed or voted upon as two co-opted Directors decided to filibuster and stop the Board from even accepting previous meeting minutes.
“The two former Directors pushed for removing our entire Articles of Association democratically set-up by the Gweithgor that were supported overwhelmingly by members in an EGM. They not only questioning the validity of the Articles of Association but also the professional legal company who supported the Gweithgor in drafting the articles.
“They also wanted to remove the Board from their strategic management, meaning that the organisation would be rudderless and consequently be unable to address our critical financial position until after the election which is due in February 2024.
“Even in the unlikely event the new Board implemented substantial changes in their first full meeting following the elections, and all were very successful, it would take months for these to be implemented and to have any financial impact. By which time, YesCymru may be insolvent or have very minimal reserves left.
“The majority of Directors on the Board believe such delays to be unnecessary, dangerous for YesCymru’s financial position and our members’ hard-earned money, and inconsistent with our moral and legal responsibilities as Directors.
“It would also risk the movement’s reputation and our ability to react to the Constitution Commission report due in January 2024. As a result a majority of the Board decided by resolution following set procedure 10.1.b in our Articles of Association on the 8th December there was no choice but to remove the two co-opted members due to continuous disruption of Board activities and decision-making processes.
“Due to the disruption caused over a number of months to the Board activities and the continuing decline in the financial situation the majority of the Board came to the very difficult decision on the 18th December again following set procedures in accordance with 10.1.b in our Articles of Association that it was no longer financially viable for YesCymru to employ a full time CEO and therefore it was decided to terminate his contract.
“Having removed the CEO does not mean that YesCymru stops operating, to the contrary, YesCymru has grown and thrived during most of its time in existence without a CEO. We recognise as a Board to achieve our desired goal of independence it is not a sprint but a marathon and moving forward, we need to be united not divided.
“Our focus in 2024 will be on supporting or members and groups in bringing the message of independence to our communities through more targeted grassroot activities. Over the next few weeks and months, we will be bringing forward proposals to our AGM, regional and local groups about activities and campaigns that they can get involved with.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.