The Mercury, ZARA DAWTREY | November 07, 2012
Sacked RSPCA chief executive Ben Sturges.
RSPCA Tasmania has sacked its second chief executive in three years as the charity fights for survival.
Ben Sturges, who took the helm of the troubled charity just 17 months ago, was told by letter on Monday his contract had been terminated.
Mr Sturges’ work car was repossessed from his Hobart home by a bailiff yesterday morning.
His work laptop had already been confiscated in the course of a six-week investigation undertaken by independent Hobart-based HR consultant James O’Neill.
The former chief executive yesterday condemned the board’s actions and vowed to do “whatever it takes” to fight for reinstatement.
“Now the $580,000 in Government grants [chief vet] Gabby Lawson and I secured this year is effectively going towards funding a witch-hunt instead of being used to benefit the animals,” Mr Sturges said.
Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green said the State Government was “keen for the RSPCA to resolve its operational difficulties”.
Mr Sturges remains adamant he has done nothing wrong.
He will lodge his case with Fair Work Australia this week.
Mr Sturges’ predecessor, Greg Tredinnick, was sacked after a board-ordered investigation and took the charity to the Industrial Commission in 2009 where he obtained a small payout. But the internal drama revealed in court proceedings significantly damaged the RSPCA’s reputation and as a result, hit bequests and donations.
The charity has a turnover of close to $4 million a year and insiders say there are very real and widespread fears this latest scandal could damage the brand beyond repair.
President Paul Swiatkowski said RSPCA Tasmania’s financial position is “as stable as it’s ever been”.
While limited in what he could say given the looming industrial action, Dr Swiatkowski told the Mercury the board stood by the investigation into Mr Sturges’ alleged misconduct.
“The RSPCA board is satisfied the investigation was independent and was subject to procedural fairness,” he said.
‘We’re looking to move forward and maintain a viable organisation.”