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By your leave

Ted Nield as MCresized.jpgThe Society has advertised for an Executive Secretary (Geoscientist 26.10 November 2016, print edition).  From the tone and content of the new advertisement, it appears that those who wrote to this magazine in protest over the unwisdom of dropping of the ‘charterable geologist’ requirement will be reassured.  We believe that, whoever that 'ideal candidate' of whom the advertisement speaks turns out to be, he or she is surely somewhere on the Society's all-knowing and all-seeing database already.

But, while much that is vital in a senior role is hardly the stuff of a sales pitch, and therefore not likely to feature in an advert, we urge the Trustees to remember the following.  First, that they govern the Society because they were elected by you, the Fellowship, and remain answerable for their decisions.  And while they govern - we hope wisely - they do so under the guidance and constraint imposed by a set of rules all too easily overlooked.

I refer of course to the Society’s Bye-laws, painstakingly revised by the Charter and Bye-laws Working Party under Sir John Knill at the turn of the Century, then voted on and approved by Fellows.  They are your mandate to those who govern on your behalf.  They lay limits on the powers of the Society's many servants, high and low, from staff to President.  They specify the boundaries of power, and lay out the procedures beyond which those servants may not stray. 

Any Fellow, feeling that Council has acted in breach of these Bye-laws, and having not received adequate redress via the usual channels, is within his or her right to take their grievance to the Charities Commission and even the Privy Council, in whose power it lies to revoke our ancient charter, and rebuke the Society, should the complaint be upheld.

Alas, among all the inevitable hifalutin corporate bloviation (‘strategy’, ‘vision’, ‘objectives’, ‘leadership’ etc.) it is likely to prove all too easy to overlook what is, in fact, nothing less than the principal duty of the Executive Secretary - namely, to interpret the Bye-laws for the benefit of the Trustees, and to offer proper guidance

In other words, that delightful record should be their constant study.  He or she should know the Bye-laws inside-out, like Holy Writ.  For they, and only they, are the rules by which Council may operate: literally, by your leave.

We trust therefore, that to avoid future difficulty as your agents the Trustees narrow their focus upon that much-anticipated 'ideal candidate', due attention will be paid to this perhaps slightly dreary - but fundamental - matter.


[email protected], @TedNield @geoscientistmag