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Brien Holden Institute chairman resigns

07/10/2018
By Coleby Nicholson
Professor Brian Layland has resigned as chairman and director of the Brien Holden Vision Institute (BHVI). His decision to step down from the high-profile charity follows weeks of confusion surrounding a $1 million payment to a long serving staff member.

The controversy was first revealed earlier this year when a letter, signed by ‘concerned staff’, was sent to Layland and then-CEO Professor Kovin Naidoo, questioning the appropriateness of a “substantial bonus” and requesting an investigation.

The anonymous letter, which was sent to various media outlets including the Sydney Morning Herald, asked Layland “How can this be fair to the rest of us or correct for a charity organisation that has little money?”

During a wide-ranging interview in September Layland denied the bonus was $1 million continually telling Insight it was “nowhere near” that figure. Although Layland refused to reveal the figure, he explained the total payment was a commensurate reward given the amount of royalty income the staff member had secured for the institute.

He added that it was not “a big deal” and “Whoever wrote this letter, in my view, should be hung, drawn and quartered.”

Layland’s explanation about the board and management processes in the lead up to awarding the staff bonus were vague; he was unsure whether all board members and senior management were informed of the magnitude of the sum or were consulted prior to making the payment.

BHVI CEO Ms Yvette Waddell categorically refuted these statements and produced a February 2013 resolution confirming the board had decided to award the employee a $1 million bonus in the form of a house owned by the charity. However, this exposed new governance issues as it was revealed the bonus hadn’t been recorded as a liability in the BHVI annual reports.

Furthermore, the house was never transferred to the employee, which complicated the situation as the value of the property had more than doubled by the time the board attempted to finalise the transfer four-and-a-half years later. As such, the bonus was renegotiated and the recipient was offered the choice of keeping the house by paying the difference between the 2013 value of the property and the new valuation in July 2017 ($2.5 million), or accepting a cash payment.

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According to board documents, the recipient “elected” to be paid $1 million in August last year, less tax and other expenses.

Layland received the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 1979 for services to the profession of optometry. His resignation takes effect 31 October while Mr Frank Back has been elected the new chairman. Back, along with Mr Anthony Chapman-Davies and Mr Charles McMonnies, has been a director since 1998.

Ms Sandra Bailey, who holds a board position on the Brien Holden Foundation, will be formally appointed to the BHVI board at an extraordinary general meeting on October 31 and will assume Layland’s functions and powers as alternate director

In announcing Layland’s resignation on Friday October 5, Waddell said, “Frank Back, new chair of the Institute, joins me and our fellow directors in expressing our profound gratitude to Brian for his leadership and significant contribution to the Institute over more than 30 years.

“Professor Layland will remain closely involved with the institute. He will continue his consultancy role and we are delighted to announce that Brian has accepted a new position as Patron of the Brien Holden Vision Institute.”

 

More reading

Million-dollar bonus, governance concerns at Brien Holden

BHVI chairman wrong about million-dollar bonus, more governance concerns emerge

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