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Rohan Stowe was fired as CEO of GECCU on June, 26, 2023, after three years on the job.
Rohan Stowe was fired as CEO of GECCU on June, 26, 2023, after three years on the job.
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By Kenton X. Chance

Members of GECCU, the nation’s largest credit union, have written to Linus Goodluck, secretary of the board of directors, demanding answers about Rohan Stowe’s sudden departure from the post of CEO in June, after three years on the job.

The 80 members, citing specific by-laws of the credit union and the Cooperative Societies Act, have demanded that a special meeting of the members of GECCU be held within 21 days of receipt of their Aug. 8, 2023 letter to dispense with the matter.

“The meeting shall provide, inter alia, a plausible and sound explanation of the material facts that led to the ‘apparent abandonment or termination’ of CEO, Mr. Rohan Stowe,” the letter said.

iWitness News has obtained documents showing that Stowe was fired on June 26 – 20 days after the decision was taken to dismiss him.

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Members noted that the 57th annual general meeting of the credit union, held on June 8 — two days after the decision was taken to fire Stowe — reported that the credit union performed credibly well over the last financial year and the CEO and staff were lauded for their performance.

‘unethical, bullying … highly unprofessional behaviour’

However, another document obtained by iWitness News is an eight-page letter written on March 28, 2023 in which one female staff member, who has since resigned her post, complained to the board of directors about “unethical, bullying and very highly unprofessional behaviour” by another female staff member in a supervisory position. 

The staff members said she had reported the matter to Stowe in March 2023 and he advised that she take it to the board, since it involved his office and he did not have the authority to deal with it. 

The junior staff member complained to the board of directors that the superior officer had shared with her “shocking details” allegedly about Stowe.

“… I could not understand why she would be saying such things that would defame his character,” the junior staffer wrote to directors, saying that she felt as though she was being spited after being appointed to act in a certain capacity at the credit union.

The former employee told iWitness News that the board of directors of the 50,000-member-strong credit union responded to her letter on May 16, saying that they would invite her to a meeting, but she has not received any such invitation. 

‘deep concern’ over apparent abandonment or termination’

Meanwhile, in their letter, the GECCU members expressed “deep concern” over the “‘apparent abandonment or termination’” of Stowe’s services as CEO.

“We were quite surprised and shocked to learn, in the public domain, that Mr Stowe was no longer the CEO of GECCU,” the Aug. 8, 2023 letter said.

On June 26, a memo was circulated among staff of GECCU, saying that Stowe was no longer CEO, a post he took up on Oct. 1, 2020, replacing Lennox Bowman, who retired from the post after 21 years. 

Stowe, an economist who worked at the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) for over 15 years, before joining GECCU, did not return to the post after leaving for lunch and staff was not told whether he resigned or was fired.

However, iWitness News has been able to confirm that he was fired on June 26, 2023, — reported after he refused to resign, as the board of directors had requested.

8 reasons given for Stowe’s dismissal

The dismissal letter, a copy of which has been obtained by iWitness News, gives eight reasons for the dismissal, and detailed the compensation that the former executive was to receive.

The letter, which was signed by Goodluck, said that the board made the decision to fire at their June 6, 2023 meeting.

The number one reason the board gave for firing the chief executive was:

“We consider there to be a mis-match (the word conflict is proposed) between your management style and the spirit and needs of GECCU as a member owned organisation.”

The letter alleges that there had been “a general failure to consistently carry out your duties as outlined in paragraphs 3 and 4 of the job description” and that there had been “repeated complaints from members that they have not been able to feel your presence in the management of the organisation.”

The board complained that “the work environment, staff cohesion and team spirit” had not been “enhanced nor maintained” during Stowe’s tenure, amid “internal and external lapses in communications, lack of responses to emails and phone calls from staff and members of the Board of Directors.

“These issues have given the impression that you are either unaware of or reluctant to address concerns which have affected staff morale, performance and health, and the overall well being of the organisation.”

The dismissal letter said that the President of the Board of Directors — Michael Sayers — had not been “sufficiently and or consistently advised on pertinent and or relevant matters” as required and outlined in paragraph 19 of the CEO’s job description.

It said that representation of GECCU in its dealing with external bodies had been “inadequate” and Stowe “also appear[ed] to be reluctant to identify fully with GECCU and take advantage of the opportunities to enhance his knowledge of credit unionism.

“This is inclusive of interacting with key stakeholders as described in duties at paragraphs 28 & 29 of your job description. Overall, there is an apparent display of a lack of understanding of the culture of the Credit Union movement, and a reluctance to make the necessary adjustments.”

Geccu
GECCU, which is said to have 50,000 members, is the nation’s largest credit union.

The board said there continued to be “a deficiency of the soft skills we are looking for” in the management of a member-based organisation like GECCU.

The letter raised the issue of the alleged issuance of a correspondence to the Financial Services Authority on GECCU’s behalf on May 31, 2023, which directors said “contradicted the explicit directives of the Board of Directors”.

The dismissal spoke about the affixing of e-signature of the president to that correspondence “without his prior knowledge and/or consent”.

Directors also cited the alleged “lack of regret and tone” of a letter Stowe allegedly addressed to the president and board of directors in response to their request for an explanation in reference to Stowe’s alleged actions as regards the correspondence and use of the e-signature.

The members, however, noted the plaudits given to the CEO and staff of the credit union at their June 8 annual meeting.

“Given that there was no allusion to any concerns regarding the post of the CEO then, you would appreciate the level of confusion when the Searchlight Newspaper reported on 30th June 2023 the caption, ‘The CEO of GECCU leaves office suddenly’,” the letter said, adding that the article reported that Stowe left office for lunch and did not return to work.

The GECCU members acknowledged that the general membership elected the board to act in the interest of the shareholders who are themselves the owners of the credit union, and by virtue of this, the board would make decisions accordingly.

The members, however, said, “we have found it quite disturbing that after five weeks, the board which was elected to act on members behalf have not provided any explanation to the owners of the Credit Union on what transpired or to allay any fears that may have been caused by the sensationalization of the matter in the media and by extension the general public.

“We are therefore seeking to clarify whether there were irreconcilable differences between the BODs and the CEO. Furthermore, we would like to know whether there were matters of wrongdoing by the CEO whom you confidently charged in 2020, with the responsibility of managing the affairs of our Credit Union.”

The members said that while they can speculate about why matters of this nature were not disclosed during the annual meeting, “we firmly believe that the BODs is accountable to its owners, and as such, a Special Meeting of shareholders should have been convened to dispense with the matter, among other things.

“We, the members, feel disrespected by the lack of communication by the BODs to the owners of the Credit Union on this grave matter. Five (5) weeks have elapsed since Mr Stowe’s ‘apparent abandonment or termination’ and speculation abound, yet there has been no indication from the BODs to apprise the membership, given particularly, the critical role of the CEO in managing the day-to-day functions of our Credit Union.”

iWitness News was supplied with a telephone number said to be Stowe’s mobile number, however, repeated calls to it since Sunday, and including on Thursday morning, have gone unanswered.

A source who is said to be familiar with Stowe’s plan of action told iWitness News that the former executive was unlikely to comment to the media.

‘a level of professionalism, rigor and work ethic that was different’

Meanwhile, a source familiar with the situation told iWitness News that Stowe was appointed CEO of GECCU “through a rigorous recruitment process”.

The source pointed out that among the people who had failed in their bid to fill the post was a director who was a board member for a significant period of Stowe’s tenure.

That person had applied, went through the recruitment process but was not hired but subsequently contested a position on the board and was elected.

Since Stowe’s dismissal, GECCU is being managed by its accountant Maxine Johnney who has also failed in her bid to fill the CEO position.

Before joining GECCU, Stowe worked at ECCB for over 15 years and rose through the ranks as an economist in the research department to hold management positions such as advisor in the governor’s immediate office and deputy director in the research department.

“Stowe, coming from the Central Bank, being an economies and deputy director came in with a level of professionalism, rigor and work ethic that was different from the culture for the credit union and those are some of the things that were different for people in the organisation,” a source commented.

“There were back and forth between Stowe and the board on a number of issues, including interaction with FSA, staffing issues, addressing issues with some staff, including line managers,” the source said, adding that GECCU, the CEO “cannot deal with issues with line managers.

“That is for the board to deal with and that sometimes creates an issue because you can’t manage in the way you want to because your hands are tied.”

The source said that Stowe also wanted to implement some reforms, based on his experience, but “the board had a different way.

“Some of those are issues that could have been trashed,” the source said, and speculated that some members of the board might have been conflicted.

The source said that Stowe was written to regarding the alleged use of the e-signature and he responded “strongly, professionally”.

“When you look at the dismissal letter, there is no issue of misappropriation, sexual misconduct. There were issues that could have been resolved among professionals,” the source said.

“Words were used it appears — not embracing the culture of credit unionism. Most of them were subjective and as far as I am concerned, they were weak points for dismissal.”

The source noted that the decision to fire Stowe was made before the annual meeting at which Stowe was lauded as the credit union had made some EC$3 million in profit.

“… members had no idea that that was in the making, given what was coming from directors at the AGM,” the source said, emphasising that members of the credit union still have not been told anything about Stowe’s departure.

“We only saw a newspaper highlight saying he demitted office suddenly — went for lunch and hasn’t come back.

“The whole issue has raised a lot of concerns for members. The board is tight-lipped and that makes for uncertainty. Persons are questioning …  It was not clarified whether he abandoned office, whether he left or was fired.”

The source said that a memo was sent to the credit union’s staff saying that the accountant would act as CEO.

“… and members who are the owners have not been mentioned. Nothing was mentioned at the AGM. They could have said there is an issue with the CEO that they want to discuss. They deceived members; we were thinking that all was well when they had decided to dismiss the CEO.”

Michael Sayers 2
President of GECCU, Michael Sayers. (Photo: Facebook/GECCU)

Board yet to deal with members’ letter – GECCU president

On Thursday, iWitness News contacted Michael Sayers, president of GECCU, who said he had “heard about” the letter demanding an explanation about Stowe’s departure from the credit union.

Sayers said that “to my knowledge” he was familiar with the contents of the letter.

“The thing about it, it is not something that has been discussed so I can’t comment on something that the board has not dealt with as yet.”

He told iWitness News that he was not sure when the board was likely to  discuss the letter. 

“I know we have several things that we have scheduled to deal with so I am sure that we will get to that soon.”

Regarding Stowe departure from the credit union, Sayers said:

“I think we released a statement to all of the parties who would have had any connection to the credit union itself already. Not necessarily the members directly, but members were informed.”

Asked if he would be willing to share the statement with iWitness News, Sayers said he did not have it with him.

Asked again if he would be willing to share it, Sayers said:

“I am not really in a position to discuss or comment on this particular issue at this time. I would prefer not to …  I would say this much. It is not any issue that affects the financial position of the organisation or its members.”

iWitness News noted that the members of the credit are concerned to the extent that they have written asking for an explanation.

“And so we would deal with that in due season, shortly,” Sayers said.

2 replies on “GECCU members write board demanding explanation about CEO’s dismissal”

  1. Fuss mi ah hear bout dis. I hope mi dear C/U of decades ain’t gwine like build-in-end-lone r N*S. Is all I have in mi name.

    Because like when certain ppl get too close in friendship wid monetarry institushan is like downhill.

    I don’t kno, but if d fella bin ah put tings strait to prevent drainage, lef him.

  2. It is sad that in 2023 the “credit union culture” appears to be more prioritised than the financial soundness of the instituition, given that it was clear that Mr. Stowe was competent in his abilities realizing notable profits in very difficult financial times

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