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President of the Eastern Credit Union Richard Noray

Joel Julien

[email protected]

Since Richard Noray was elected president of Eastern Credit Union one year ago, the organisation’s chief executive officer and one of its director were dismissed, and two other directors were suspended from the board.

And, during that time, the body tasked with supervising credit unions also launched an enquiry, and an investigation into Eastern’s operations.

Noray, however, has defended his actions since his appointment and blamed mischief makers for the state of affairs.

The Sunday Business Guardian received documents from a whistle-blower raising concerns about the “take over of Eastern Credit Union by the Board of Directors.”

On Tuesday Noray was contacted to respond to those accusations.

On Friday Noray and Eastern’s acting CEO Keston Lashley met with the Sunday Business Guardian at the organisation’s boardroom located at La Joya, St Joseph to respond.

Noray was elected Eastern’s president in March last year.

The 2019 Annual General Meeting which commenced on December 5, 2020 was reconvened and concluded on March 27, 2021.

The 2020 AGM was held some eight months later in November 2021 and Noray was re-elected to the position of president.

That election was held virtually.

Questions were raised about seeming irregularities, suggesting that some of the candidates got more votes than number of voters who were registered.

Noray said this was because the election was done where one device could be used for several members to vote so as not to disenfranchise members.

In December 2021 former acting CEO Sherry-Ann Mc Donald-Joseph was sent on 30 days enforced vacation leave which was then followed by administrative leave before she was subsequently dismissed on March 23.

Noray said this removal was justified based on what he called “significant developments.”

“The former deputy and then acting CEO, based on certain developments, the board felt that it was prudent and in good governance to do what they did and they had to discontinue her employment with the organisation based on a number of material concerns. That is why,” Noray said.

“We did everything humanly and legally possible not to end up there because we spoke to the person on a number of occasions and it just kept on and we discovered so many other things more than we had known about at the time. The person was sent on vacation, it was purely on the basis of sending the person on vacation to replenish but, during that time concerns we had that we felt were errors things turned out to suggest that they weren’t,” he said.

Noray said if the dismissal is contested in court, Eastern is prepared to answer.

“The board could have been accused of dereliction of duty not to act as it did in relation to the then CEO based on the information we had,” he said.

Lashley was named Eastern’s substantive deputy CEO last December and has been acting as CEO since Mc Donald-Joseph’s dismissal.

Lashley believes he is qualified for the position.

“I am confident it can withstand any scrutiny, qualified in terms of paper qualifications, two degree and three masters and completing LEC now,” Lashley said.

Lashley said last December several members of the credit union’s executive management all went on vacation at the same time.

“That was a reflection of the type of management that was allowed to occur at that time and we are trying to correct and you would agree when you are trying to bring change there will be resistance,” he said.

Eastern has put out a vacancy advertisement to fill the CEO position.

“This is a new board and we can’t come in here like a bull in a china shop. What we have come in here to do is to work with everyone and to see how best we can enhance (the credit union,” Noray said.

Eastern is currently in court with respect to the dismissal of Gerard Matthews from the board.

Noray said the dismissal was as a result of an investigation by Eastern’s Supervisory Committee which stated he did not meet the requisite “fit and proper” requirements.

The Supervisory Committee is independent from the Board, said Nora.

“The Supervisory Committee felt that the first director was declared to be unfit and improper and they sent his information to the board and the board said we could not keep someone on who has been declared as being unfit and improper. By Central Bank standards that could have put in danger the Bureau de Charge,” Noray said.

Noray said the Bureau de Charge makes Eastern unique beyond other credit unions and the Central Bank’s requirement for all directors to be declared fit and proper is a prerequisite for it.

“We could not run that risk for one person,” he said.

Noray said all of Eastern’s other directors have met the fit and proper requirements.

“Up to day I asked them to write Central bank to find out if everyone is okay, to make sure that we don’t have any concern. As far as I am aware at this time everything is okay,” he said.

Noray said the two other directors who are currently on suspension also appeared before the Supervisory Committee for issues with respect to confidentiality.

He said a Special General meeting is to be held to determine their fate in the organisation.

The Eastern Board comprises 12 people and has a quorum of seven.

Noray said he believes the issues in the board has led to the Commissioner of Cooperatives launching an investigation into Eastern.

“I don’t want to make anything against them but I want to put on the record that we have been treated very harshly by the commissioners’ office,” he said.

Noray said he has written the commissioner’s office requesting a meeting since his appointment last March but he still has not been able to have a meeting with Commissioner of Co-operatives Charmaine Mc Millan.

“This board felt that we were treated very harshly by the commissioner’s office,” he said.

He described the situation as “saddening”.

“I have spoken to the (Credit Union) league about it and the league said they would look into the matter too because it is unpleasant,” he said.

Noray said the Commissioner of Cooperatives did an inspection of the organisation April last year which ended in December and, to date, they have not received the findings.

“In February they wrote to say they coming back in, this time it is an enquiry,” he said.

That enquiry, he said, has been completed but still the findings have not been presented.

“They just finished that so we are waiting to hear what are the findings of it. Everything they asked for they were given,” he said.

Noray said he has discussed the matter with attorneys.

“I am an open book. Once you know you have nothing to hide then there is no need to try to hide what there isn’t to hide so I will meet with anybody,” Noray added.

Noray said he tried to codify the rules of the credit union because these things were not implemented before and were a “recipe for craziness.

“That was mainly to begin the process of reversing the terrible governance we met here to begin to put it back on course,” he said.

At the last AGM Noray said a $4 million drawing plan for a property investment known as Las Viviendas in Valencia was written off.

The property cost $5 million.

“It was a blow to me but I had to explain to them in the management address that we were compelled to do that because it was the correct thing to do,” he said.

Eastern’s assets are valued at over $2 billion and is the largest credit union in the country.