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A Letter from Michael Monck

Hi All,

Published below as received is an email I received from Michael Monck this morning which concerns all members of the RAAus. I encourage you to read it and take action as you see fit.

Please read…

Hi,

Let me begin by apologising for this unannounced email. You may or may not be aware that Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) is experiencing some of the most troublesome times in its life hence this email. I have compiled a list of email addresses from various sources and I hope that by you forwarding it to your contacts we can present a balanced view of the current issues to most members.

I am, like you, a member of the association that is passionate about flying. I began flying in the early 1990’s and hold a PPL with various endorsements along with my RA-Aus pilot certificate, also with various endorsements. I also hold professional qualifications and have experience in running large and small organisations including not for profits such as RA-Aus. I believe that while this does not make me an authority figure on all matters related to RA-Aus it does give me some credibility and some perspective on the current state of affairs.

My main concern is the interests of our members and the protection of their rights to fly. Over the past couple of months these rights have been threatened with many aircraft being grounded to due RA-Aus’ authority to register aircraft being revoked for a period of time by CASA. No one is really clear on the extent of this problem as cold hard facts have not been presented by our current member representatives. All we have is vague statements published on the website such as “the piles continue to diminish” coupled with comments like “if I give you his report I won’t be accused of telling porkies”. Both these statements can be read at http://www.raa.asn.au/2013/01/registration-update-29-01-2013-2/.

It is this disregard for members that worries me. When pressed for information board members have informed me that they do not have access to certain pieces of information or that I am not allowed to see such pieces of information. Worse still, in some instances my requests have simply been ignored. One such request relates to our obligations to CASA which are covered in the Deed of Agreement between them and RA-Aus. On 18 January 2013 I wrote to several board members requesting a copy of this so I could inform myself of what is required by our association. Several board members replied that they were not aware of the document and had not been privy to its contents and I was informed that Steve Runciman had taken it on himself to provide me with the information on that same weekend. Some 12 days later (30 January 2013) I followed up with Steve directly and am yet to receive an acknowledgement of my email let alone a meaningful reply.

Not only is it concerning that Steve has failed to respond to my request (both directly and via other board members) it is worrying that RA-Aus has no system in place to ensure board members are made aware of RA-Aus’ responsibilities towards CASA. This is despite a publication by CASA themselves giving direction in relation to this specific document. They have published a handbook for organisations such as RA-Aus to help them guide their operations and it contains a checklist that specifically mentions the Deed of Agreement (this doc is available at http://www.casa.gov.au/scripts/nc.dll?WCMS:STANDARD::pc=PC_93439) and still, RA-Aus has not communicated these requirements to incoming board members.

Furthermore, the board seems unaware of its other duties and responsibilities. Paul Middleton recently wrote to members on behalf of the entire board in relation to the upcoming general meeting. In this letter he makes mention of a number of things. The most pressing issue of aircraft registrations features heavily and he states that CASA conducted an audit in November 2011 that highlighted some issues. He then goes on to say that a follow up audit was conducted in October/November 2012 (this is the time when aircraft groundings began occurring). What he fails to mention is that there were additional follow up audits in between these dates and RA-Aus had repeatedly failed, under the stewardship of this current board, to rectify the identified problems. Given the mixed messages received from the board (through conversations I have had personally) I decided to contact CASA directly and spoke to Rob Glenn in the Sport Aviation section. He informs me that the audits are part of a regular program of inspections that CASA imposes on all Recreational Aviation Administration Organisations and RA-Aus was made aware of this well in advance.

Interestingly, Paul also mentions that “the majority of the current board is NOT the board who were in position at the time the current registration problems arose” before saying that their primary interest lies in rectifying the problems. While I admire this approach and am openly appreciative of their efforts I do not accept this as a reason for ignoring their responsibilities. Firstly, through a freedom of information request to the ACT Government agency that administers bodies like RA-Aus I have a copy of all annual returns lodged since 2008. These documents reveal that Paul Middleton, Eugene Reid, David Caban, Myles Breitkreutz, John McKeown, Rod Birrell and Steve Runciman have all been on the board in some capacity since 17 September 2010 or earlier. This well and truly counters Pauls argument and shows the majority of the board have, in fact, been there during this entire saga, more than twelve months before the first audit Paul refers to in his letter. Indeed Eugene Reid and Paul Middleton both appear on returns well before this date making them even more culpable.

This raises a few questions. How long does a board member have to be in that position before they accept responsibility? And is it really acceptable to mislead the membership like this? On the latter topic the law says no.

In the most recent letter the board has made statements such as those highlighted above that are clearly contrary to fact, I can only imagine this is to protect their reputation and/or position on the board. RA-Aus is subject to parts of the Corporations Act and this Act clearly states that it is a criminal offence to act dishonestly as a member of a board:

A director or other officer of a corporation commits an offence if they:

(a) are reckless; or

(b) are intentionally dishonest;

and fail to exercise their powers and discharge their duties:

(c) in good faith in the best interests of the corporation; or

(d) for a proper purpose.

It also states that they must not act in a way that sees them gain advantage (note that it does not limit advantage to financial gain):

A director, secretary, other officer or employee of a corporation must not improperly use their position to:

(a) gain an advantage for themselves or someone else; or

(b) cause detriment to the corporation.

It is also worth noting that our constitution says:

No business other than that specified in the notice convening a general meeting shall be transacted at the meeting…

That said, Paul has said in his letter “will be not only for the purpose of dealing with the issues that the requisitioning Members have raised, but also to give all Members the opportunity to come to a meeting where the Board will go into all of the matters of concern to you and to us Board Members.” Another apparent disregard for the rules, laws and regulations that govern our association.

While I do not necessarily believe this board is acting in a sinister manner on purpose the recent series of events does suggest to me that they are out of their depth. Withholding information from certain board members, not following due process, not effectively discharging their duties, etc. is a problem. At best they have committed minor civil infractions, at worst they may have committed criminal acts.

What’s more, when people have tried to inform them that their actions are unconstitutional the responses are quite telling. In a reply to an email outlining that a proposed motion by Gavin Thobavin might be a misguided attempt to strip the rights granted to members under the constitution Gavin wrote “Well aren’t you scary????? I have had real tough men try to intimidate me before and you fall well short of them I can tell you.” Perhaps this was provoked by the initial email? This is the words dealing with the unconstitutional topic, I’ll let you decide – “It’s unconstitutional in that it attempts to change the constitution without using the mechanisms that the constitution and the ACT act specify. Fluffy words that seek to deflect from the truth change none of that.” Hardly provocative I would have thought.

RA-Aus is an organisation of more than 9,000 financial members (not the 13,000 the board told you at the AGM, not the 13,000 they published in job ads, etc.) and there are more than 3,000 aircraft on the register. Revenues have exceeded $2m for several years now. The problems I have highlighted above are threatening the effective operation of OUR association, they threaten our privileges in relation to flying, and they have already affected the incomes and livelihoods of many people we know on a personal level due to their inability to register aircraft. It’s time your voice and opinion was heard.

I have attached a proxy form to this email for you to use. I urge you to fill it in and give it to a member that you know who is attending. You can appoint your local board member as your proxy but they may have to recuse themselves from voting on issues relating to board performance so be wary of doing this. Find one of your local club members whose views align with yours and that is attending the meeting. Speak up and have your voice heard. I have mentioned a few things in this email but there is much much more that has gone unsaid. It is important that you inform yourself and let your views be known.

Even if you disagree with the facts I have outlined above, speak up against me as this is a democracy and we all have a right to be heard.

If you don’t know someone that is going there are some members (including myself) that would be willing to represent your views if they align with ours:

Andrew Saywell, 18Bluewater Place Sapphire Beach NSW 2450, member# 015361 (mob 0414 962 648)
David Isaac, 22 Railway Crescent, Lisarow NSW 2250, member #025205 (mob 0412 221 469)
Don Ramsay, 49/1 King Street, Newcastle NSW 2300, member # 026026
Trevor Bange phone: 0429 378 370 (SQLD)
Chas Priebbenow phone: 0407 133 621 (SQLD)

Carol Richards (get details from Carol by PM) (NSW)
Michael Monck, 3 McInnes St, Weston ACT 2611 Member # 022861 (mob 0419 244794)

I urge you to contact one of these members or someone else you know and be represented.

If you’d like to email your proxy I have set up an email address (raaus@internode.on.net) that you can email a scanned copy to. Given that your proxy must be received by the secretary 24 hours in advance I would also suggest you send it directly to him at nsw1@raa.asn.au as well as the general office address at admin@raa.asn.au).

I should note that there is no intention to remove the board and leave the association without any form of leadership. The prime intention of this general meeting is to break the silence from the board, gain some insights as to what is going on and then, based on what is learned, work out a way forward. I’m not promising that no board members will be removed/resign but your association will not left without a board. Nor will it be taken over by a bunch of rogues as has been suggested by others.

Please, fill in your proxy form, appoint your chosen proxy and send the form to the above email addresses.

I’m hoping that we can all go flying well into the future knowing that our association is being governed with our interests at heart in an effective manner for many years to come.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Cheers,

Mick.
RA-Aus Proxy form – 2012

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