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Rumblings within ODMA; three long-serving directors resign

05/11/2015
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Three long-serving directors of the Optical Distributors and Manufacturers Association have resigned their positions in protest over communication issues with the association's chairman, Mr Richard Grills, and its chief executive officer, Ms Finola Carey.

The three former directors are Ms Gaye Wymond (Eyes Right Optical), Mr Paul Stacey (Shamir Australia) and Mr John Toouli (Bollé Australia), who each resigned separately in early October. All served as directors for periods ranging from nine to 14 years.

Ms Wymond was tipped to succeed Mr Grills as chairman at the annual general meeting (originally expected to be held in October but put off until 11 November) but obviously that is no longer the case.

The first trigger for the resignations (unprecedented in ODMA's 51-years history) was a claim by Ms Carey to a member during the week following the ODMA2015 trade fair in July that she had ended the association's relationship with the organisers of the event, Expertise Events, without the approval of the board of directors to do so. That soon leaked to interested parties and was found not to be the case; there had been no sacking.

However that led to an email from the managing director of Expertise Events, Mr Gary FitzRoy, to the chairman and seven other directors, advising, inter alia, that his company was withdrawing its services from ODMA for a number of reasons, including serious concerns about the behaviour of the association, and that he could not work with an organisation that conducts itself in such a manner.

A post-trade-fair meeting was held in July, however that meeting, whilst attended by the chairman and other directors, was not attended by the CEO, who by then had gone on what ended up being three months leave of absence.

Another meeting was held in August, at which Mr FitzRoy responded to all items on a list of claims by the CEO that at best could be described as "trifling".

According to figures sighted by Insight, the published attendance figures for the three-day event on 3-5 July seemed to be about 20 per cent higher than they actually were.Mr FitzRoy said there had been no response to his claims, yet the chairman had invited his company to tender for ODMA2017, which had left him "speechless".

The serious issues raised should be investigated independently and the fact that has not happened is another reason why he will not offer the services of Expertise Events while the current CEO and board remain in their positions, he said.

Mr FitzRoy said he believes Expertise Events made a major contribution to stopping the decline of the show and successfully repositioned it for success in the current challenging times.

Furthermore, he said that until such time that the ODMA board begins to adopt best practice and addresses inherent management flaws, Expertise Events cannot afford to sully its reputation or integrity.

After all, it's not every day that a professional exhibition company announces that it will hand back a peak industry show and declare firstly that they don't want to continue working with the association and, in addition, be prepared to declare the reasons why, Mr FitzRoy said.

 

Interpretation of press release causes angst

An interpretation by Mivision magazine of a press release issued by the chairman of ODMA by caused Ms Gaye Wymond to demand a correction and apology from its publishers, particularly over the heading of a report of 16 October 'New ODMA Board to Review Events' and reference to the three directors as 'retired' and not 'resigned'.

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Ms Wymond said that when read together it could be interpreted that the three were complicit in something underhand and that as a consequence their individual reputations and those of their companies were at risk.

She requested this statement and correction be published on the front page of Mivision's next print version: "In Mivision, published online on 16 October 2015, the article 'New ODMA Board to Review Events', we wrote Gaye Wymond, Paul Stacey and John Toouli had 'retired' from the ODMA Board. This was an error.

"All three directors, Gaye Wymond, Paul Stacey and John Toouli did not retire from the ODMA board but resigned due to increasing business commitments and the lack of effective and consultative communication amongst the ODMA Board members."

Mivision refused to publish the Statement and correction, however agreed to change the heading to 'New ODMA Board to Plan Future Events' and to make some minor amendments to the body text of its online report.

 

Media release from chairman

A media release dated 15 October and issued by the ODMA chairman, Mr Richard Grills, at the end of the first paragraph said Mr Grills "has led the association from strength to strength".

 

The first paragraph said Mr Grills will hand over the helm as chair of ODMA to a successor at the upcoming ODMA AGM to be held on 11 November.

"Whilst Richard is stepping aside as chair, he is still standing for re-election to the board for a final two-year term before he retires. Richard has been the chair of ODMA for 10 years and a director since 1996 and has led the Association from strength to strength.

"ODMA's membership numbers vary between 70 and 80 wholesalers in any given year and are representative of equipment companies, frame companies/ sunglass companies, lens companies and accessory companies.

"The nine-person board … has usually been approximately represented by three frames/sunglasses companies, three lens companies and three equipment companies.

"Three long serving board members Gaye Wymond ( 2001)Eyes Right Optical (frames), Paul Stacey (2001) Shamir Australia (lenses) and John Toouli (2006) Bolle (sunglasses) are moving on and a number of ODMA members are showing a keen interest in submitting themselves for election to the board.

"Incumbent directors Duy Phuong Nguyen (Essilor Australia), Lionel Minter (Mimo Australia), Robert Sparkes (Optimed) and Nicole Perry (Safilo) are all re-standing for election.

"At the AGM, Richard will be paying a special tribute to the three outgoing directors who have worked tirelessly for the association. It should be noted that the nine-member executive not only serve unpaid, but the cost to them in business time and incidental expenses should be recognised.

"The first order of business for the newly-elected board will be managing the tender process for ODMA2017 which will include a full review of past events and an analysis of exhibitor and visitor research to determine the future direction of the show."

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