The Mercury, ZARA DAWTREY | October 03, 2012
RSPCA Tasmania president Paul Swiatkowski hopes to have misconduct allegations against suspended chief executive Ben Sturges resolved quickly.
RSPCA Australia and the State Government have moved to protect the ongoing viability of the embattled animal welfare charity’s Tasmanian branch.
The national body and the government are working together to combat widespread staffing problems that have rocked the ranks for the second time in three years.
RSPCA Tasmania president, Launceston vet Paul Swiatkowski, said the board was working to resolve the suspension of chief executive Ben Sturges over allegations of misconduct “as quickly as possible”.
“We are expecting to finalise the external investigation into Mr Sturges’ conduct within the next two weeks and hope the organisation can then move forward and focus on its core responsibility which is of course animal welfare,” Dr Swiatkowski said.
Representatives from Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green’s office and senior management from the national RSPCA body met the Tasmanian board on Friday to decide what needed to be done.
The Government has committed $400,000 to ensure the charity remains viable.
It is understood the national body agreed during the meeting to take over the Tasmanian branch’s inspectorate, which arguably constitutes the charity’s most important role.
Dr Swiatkowski, vice-president Angela Ayling and Deb McGrath are the only three remaining board members after others resigned in recent weeks.
The board was previously staffed by up to 12 people but internal turmoil and major financial difficulties have seen the charity struggle to attract long-term members in recent years.
“It has been a difficult time,” Dr Swiatkowski said.
“But our financial position is currently stable.”
The rate of successful prosecutions in animal cruelty cases has also jumped.
“It’s these achievements that make people believe in the RSPCA.
“It’s why we’re still here on the board trying to do what’s best for the organisation.”
According to Mr Sturges, that means reinstating him.
“I have engaged the Australian Services Union and am very much looking forward to doing the great job I’ve been doing over the last 16 months,” the chief executive told theMercury yesterday.
He said his leadership had seen the RSPCA come back from the brink after devastation caused by an embarrassing court case against his sacked predecessor Greg Treddinick in 2009. That was only finalised in Mr Treddinick’s favour last year.
Dr Swiatkowski said the board would not comment on the investigation into Mr Sturges’ actions in the interest of ensuring he received due process but acknowledged the internal uproar was a bad look so soon after Mr Treddinick’s ugly dismissal.
“It should be about what the RSPCA does as an organisation, not about the people who run it,” Dr Swiatkowski said.
“I have great hopes we can move forward from here within weeks.”