Chapman's overthrow deemed legitimate

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 12:00 16/01/2014

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A cloud of doubt over the ousting of Massey University Extramural Students' Society's former president has been lifted, with a legal opinion confirming it was legitimate.

Moments before the association's annual meeting got under way last night, a letter was received from law firm Fitzherbert Rowe clearing the society of any concerns surrounding the overthrow of Jeannette Chapman at a special general meeting (SGM) last year.

Yesterday's meeting was rescheduled from September after Ms Chapman disbanded the last attempt after seven minutes due to a lack of quorum and then refused to answer questions from the society about allegations she earned more than $50,000 part-time, among other concerns.

Members say that was the last time she fronted the society and since then she has been unreachable, issuing a few statements but not answering calls or emails.

A month later a vote of no-confidence was placed in Ms Chapman's presidency and Tiri Porter and Mark Lester were appointed co-presidents in her place. Ms Porter chaired yesterday's annual meeting with Mr Lester logging in online from Ashburton to follow proceedings.

Ms Chapman has reportedly refused to accept her ousting and sought legal advice regarding the legitimacy of the SGM - concerns which were echoed by EXMSS's stakeholders.

Fitzherbert Rowe emailed the co-presidents, saying the SGM was "valid and effective".

The meeting was told the law firm had previously written to EXMSS outlining why the SGM wouldn't hold up if it went to a judicial review, listing that executive members didn't call the special meeting and didn't appoint a chair or a secretary - meaning Ms Chapman remained president.

But EXMSS's executive disputed that and are this week providing to lawyers an 87-page timeline of events leading up to the SGM.

Executive member Joy Green told members concerns from the society's lawyers, accountants and Massey University can now be ironed out thanks to Fitzherbert Rowe's legal clarity and any calls for a judicial review could be withdrawn.

"We received a letter from the lawyer today saying if that is the case, he believes he is wrong and the SGM will be considered valid and he will change his advice, if we can send him copies of the documents, which we can and will be doing," Mrs Green said.

"It looks like we may be moving forward with a far more positive outlook than we expected."

Ms Porter said it was just the news needed to get the society back on track, rebuilding trust and relationships with stakeholders. "That was holding us back in a lot of areas, like trying to get into the EXMSS office, accessing EXMSS bank accounts and settling agreements that were hung over from when Jeannette was in office," she said.

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"This just opens the door a lot more to be able to proceed forward."

Other matters discussed at the annual meeting were finances, membership fees, student advocacy, securing service contracts back, governance versus management issues and proposed constitutional changes, to be passed at another SGM in March.

The Manawatu Standard has repeatedly tried to contact Ms Chapman for comment, but she has not returned calls, and her landline and cellphone have been disconnected. She did not attend last night.

- Manawatu Standard

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