REVEALED: Members step up with new vision for Warwick RSL
NEW leaders are stepping up to the plate in a bid to save the Warwick RSL Memorial Club from liquidation as members hear reports of autocratic leadership, food safety issues and issues regarding fiscal management.
Visions for a revival of the beloved venue have started to emerge with a special general meeting to take place on January 2.
Triggered by a petition calling for the resignation of the current management committee, the meeting will see a new board voted in by members who are determined to keep their community asset open.
Former management committee member Lorraine Dent said she would run for a position on the new board.
"I believe something has to be done immediately, otherwise it will close," she said.
In March, Mrs Dent decided to stand down from the committee in opposition to the present management committee.
"If something is keeping you awake at night because it's that bad, you can't go on," she said.
An audit prepared by Kestrel Solutions around the time of Mrs Dent's resignation exposed a spate of issues regarding the committee's financial management and record keeping.
The report found bank statements had been withheld from the club's treasurer and the club's profit had been overstated and its losses understated in 2016.
In 2017, the operating loss was $793,584, a dramatic increase on the previous year.
"To say the 2017 results are disappointing, in our view, is an understatement," the report said.
Reasons given for the massive decline in profits included poor purchasing controls, theft or misappropriation by staff not identified in this report, and food safety issues that resulted in a number of patrons getting food poisoning.
Added to the financial problems are a reported $1 million debt for renovations to Kings Theatre.
The audit also described problems stemming from the management of memorial club president Geraldine O'Neil.
"We have found the president is autocratic in her ways and in her running of the club," it states.
"We understand the president has told the committee members not to enter the office and that all matters pertaining to the club must be directed through the president."
Referring to her time on the board, Mrs Dent said the committee was excluded from decisions like hiring staff.
"You cannot just decide by yourself 'this is what we are going to do'," she said.
"That is what the president and a chosen few were doing."
In a survey conducted by the auditors, members of the committee indicated financial reports were not provided to board meetings and the club was "directionless".
"The committee in our opinion from observation and information supplied is dysfunctional," the Kestrel report claims.
"This does not mean the committee members are not concerned about the club's operations or wanting to see the club prosper but are sidetracked by the committee's own internal factions."
Mrs O'Neil denied the claims made in the report.
"It is completely untrue. All I can say is that I have a wonderful committee full of business people and they support me 100 per cent except for one," she said.
"I have done the hard yards for the club. And the committee I have are all on the same page to take this club forward to keep the doors open."
The Warwick Daily News understands four members of the original committee have resigned since the audit was undertaken in March.
Seven members sit on the current committee and the Warwick Daily News understands new members have been appointed by the president.
Mrs O'Neil declined to comment on whether she would run for presidency in the coming general meeting.
Mrs Dent said new leadership was needed to take the club forward.
"I want the club to stay open. I want us to have choices in this town," she said.
"All this money they make goes back to the community, to the football clubs and soccer clubs, into kids' sport. That will leave a hole in the community if they don't get them."
Mrs Dent said she would stand for the new committee and the Warwick Daily News understands a number of others are considering the same.
"We need to do something quickly about this before we lose this club," Mrs Dent said.
"My father is a returned soldier, my husband is a returned soldier, and it will be a very very sad thing if this club is going to close.
"We have to deliver top service and a top product. There are things cosmetically we can do to improve the look of the club and the pokies have to be a focus."
A special general meeting will be held on January 2 at 7pm at Kings Theatre. All RSL Memorial Club members are encouraged to attend.
Note: This report refers exclusively to the Warwick RSL Memorial Club and not to the Warwick RSL Sub-branch.