YesCymru members blocked from discussing issues within organisation
Internal conflicts have broken out within YesCymru, with the largest local group blocked from holding meetings with members to discuss concerns about issues within the organisation.
A recent investigation by Nation.Cymru exposed cracks in YesCymru’s board following the sacking of CEO Gwern Gwynfil and two directors.
This week the organisation’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) should have taken place for members and the board to discuss motions.
However, the meeting was cancelled less than week before it was set to take place.
The EGM will now take place on the same day as YesCymru’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) – an arrangement which some members say is a bid by the board to “avoid scrutiny”.
Following the news of the sudden cancellation of the EGM, a member of YesCaerdydd suggested holding two Q&A meetings for all YesCymru members to “discuss and debate recent events”.
An invitation was sent via an email to all members using the organisation’s HQ Nation Builder account – the membership management system used to send correspondence.
Later that day, at a Zoom meeting of the South Wales Central groups YesCaerdydd officials found themselves unexpectedly removed from the call the moment it started without an explanation.
The next day, YesCaerdydd found that the two Q&A meetings scheduled via YesCymru’s Zoom account had been cancelled and access to the organisation’s HQ Nation Builder account had been blocked.
A post on YesCaerdydd’s X account stated: “The Q&A meetings we wanted to facilitate for members tomorrow (Saturday, 13 January 2024) have been unexpectedly cancelled by the NGB and we are investigating why. The link to the meeting is voided and out zoom facilities have been removed. Apologies to all who wanted to attend.”
YesPenybont appeared to take umbrage with YesCaerdydd for arranging meetings with members to discuss the organisation’s recent controversies.
A thread on X by YesPenybont disputed points raised in the email and urged members to read a statement by Barry Parkin which was sent to members after questions were raised about the conduct of the board.
YesCymru founding member and Chair of YesCaerdydd, Iestyn ap Rhobert said an “inclusive meeting” to discuss recent events was “urgently needed”.
Another email sent by YesCaerfyrddin to local groups and the NGB appeared to acknowledge disagreements within the organisation.
It states: “As officers of YesCaerfyrddin we strongly believe that ongoing internal conflict within the organisation is extremely damaging to the movement and the campaign more widely, and that a divided movement will never succeed.
“We believe that we must put any internal conflict aside, and concentrate fully on campaigning for an independent Wales if we want to succeed.”
Nation.Cymru contacted YesCymru Chair Barry Parkin asking why YesCaerdydd was being blocked from hosting meetings with members.
Shortly after we sent our email, a message was sent to YesCymru group leaders via WhatsApp claiming that a Caerdydd group official had “put pressure” on a member of staff to send out the invitation to all YesCymru members.
The message, issued by YesCymru director Elfed Williams stated: “Many directors were notified yesterday of an email sent to all members from YC Caerdydd. This email caused much concern amongst recipients as they could not understand how YC Caerdydd had access to their data and were worried that it breached GDPR legislation.
“I can now assure you that your data is safe as following initial investigation last night, it transpired that the email had been sent out from YC HQ NationBuilder account.
“A Caerdydd group official had put pressure on our member of staff. Can I make it clear that no group member is allowed to instruct a member of staff to send out an email from YC HQ, unless it is sanctioned by the board.
“Can I remind you that Group members can only send out correspondence to members within their wards. They have no right to send information out to members outside their wards. Please read relevant bylaw 13.
“As a result we will be tightening down on access to our platforms whilst we deal with the matter in hand. I hope this explains the situation and I apologise for the anxiety it has caused. I also hope that the individual concerned will have the decency to apologise as well and reflect on their actions.”
Chair of YesCaerdydd, Iestyn ap Rhobert said: “The NGB postponed the 13 January 2024 EGM at short notice and without a suitable reason, despite motions having been put forward.
“Instead of the cancelled EGM, a member of YesCaerdydd wanted to hold Q&A meetings for all YC members on Saturday, 13 January 2024. An invitation was sent to all members across Wales to offer an opportunity for discussion and debate on recent events.
“It is important to note that in a grassroots lead organisation like ours, members are fully entitled to freely associate with other members without seeking authorisation from the NGB.
“This morning, we have unexpectedly found out the Q&A meetings scheduled for Saturday have been cancelled by the NGB, and our access to YC systems have been removed without warning.
“Claims that YesCaerdydd broke GDPR rules are untrue and we categorically reject any such accusations. The invitation to the Q&A meeting was sent out centrally from YC under our group’s name.
“YesCaerdydd can only hold personal information of YesCymru members in Cardiff and we use that information in compliance with the Data Protection Act 2018. We have never held any personal information on members nationally neither do we have any access to this data.
“We would like to reiterate: the message was sent out centrally at the bequest of YesCaerdydd and under our name. This was our only means to invite all YC members to an inclusive meeting we believe was urgently needed and very important.”
YesCymru Chair Barry Parkin was invited to comment but did not respond.
YesCymru Director, Elfed Williams said: “It is unfortunate that an officer of YC Caerdydd sent an unauthorised email to all YC members yesterday. They are fully aware of Nationbuilder protocol and byelaws [sic] including bylaw 13 which restricts Group officers to sending out email other than their own ward.
“Luckily it did not breach data protection laws. We are dealing with the matter and will be disciplining the members responsible for their actions. YC takes members’ data very seriously and as a result of this misdemeanor [sic] have secured all their platforms for the time being.”
On the meeting that YesCaedrdd were removed from unexpectedly, Mr Williams said: “There is only one zoom account and unfortunately two meetings were mistakenly booked in for the 11th January. The North Wales Regional Council Meeting had started at 7pm and continued until 9pm.”
On the YesPenybont X thread and the YesCaerfyrddin email, Mr Willaims said: “We have been approached by a number of members and groups unhappy that a letter has been sent by YesCaerdydd to all members. We have sent a reminder to YesCaerdydd in accordance with Bylaw 13 that they should only be using the data on Nationbuilder to contact members within their own ward.
“The feedback we are receiving as a Board is that groups and members throughout Wales are unhappy with correspondance emanating from some members within the Yes Caerdydd branch and that they should cease in their campaign to spread information that is incorrect and that we should be working together to focus on our wider campaigns for an Independent Wales.”
On the cancelled EGM meeting, Mr Williams said: “An EGM due to be held on the 13th January was cancelled for the following reason. On the 10th of December an announcement was sent out that an EGM would be held on the
13th of January. An unanimous decision previous to this was undertaken by the NGB for this meeting to take place. The responsibility of ensuring that the correct procedure was undertaken in announcing the meeting was the responsibility of the then CEO.
“Concerns were raised by Directors in the meeting of the NGB on the 2nd of January that the correct procedure had not been undertaken in announcing the meeting. As a Board we were reassured by the Director leading on the EGM that we had complied with the notice in accordance with our articles. Following further concerns raised by members and Board members the majority of the Board agreed to obtain legal advice.
“The legal advice we received clearly indicated that the notice sent out on the 10th of December did not meet with our requirements under our articles of association and therefore there was no option available to us but to cancel the meeting. A letter informing groups of this decision to cancel the meeting with a full explanation why was sent out last week to all Group Chairs and Secretaries.”
On the suggestions that YesCymru’s Chair and a faction of directors are attempting to avoid scrutiny, Mr Williams said: “Over the last few weeks we have had an open dialogue with members with a letter being sent out to all members and only a few days ago a further letter was sent out to group Chairs and Secretaries explaining the decisions taken by the Board of YesCymru.
“An AGM is arranged for the 10th February where there will be further opportunity for members to ask questions of the NGB. As with any organisation, committee and Board not everyone agrees with the decisions made and the same exists within YesCymru.
“We have robust discussions but at the end each Director has a right to a vote and decisions are only taken with the approval of the majority of the Board. For example the decision to terminate the contract of the then CEO was taken by 70% of the Board which can not be regarded as a small faction or a minority element of the Board.”
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