Members of the Athenian Association of NSW hold meeting over constitutional concerns

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Members of the Athenian Association of New South Wales have held two meetings recently to raise concerns over alleged “unconstitutional actions” made by the Executive Committee.

According to a ‘Notice of Outcomes’ from a Special General Meeting (SGM) on Sunday, April 30 – which has been signed by Athenian Association members Christine Stavropoulos and James Tsolakis – those present voiced their concerns around:

(1) The appointment of two members to the Executive Committee; and the removal of Mr Tsolakis as Secretary / Public Officer.

(2) The arrangement and agreement to host a joint venture event with the Greek Orthodox Community of New South Wales (GOCNSW) without appropriate disclosure or costing. The proposed event was planned to mark the Athenian Association’s 70th anniversary this year by bringing dance groups from Greece to perform at the Greek Festival of Sydney.  

On point (1), members at the SGM said the removal of Mr Tsolakis occurred after he had taken a 12 month leave of absence from his position. Under the NSW Associations Incorporations Act 2009 (No.7. Section 35), the position of public officer is only vacated in instances such as death, a written resignation, bankruptcy or if removed by resolution of a general meeting of the association, among other things.

According to the ‘Notice of Outcomes,’ the appointment of Treasurer Kathy Stojanovic and Secretary Sotiria Plakias to the Executive Committee was also “unconstitutional” as current President Cathy Valis did not follow legal protocols to fill the casual vacancy.

On point (2), the current constitution of the Athenian Association states members must vote on any expenditure spent over $5,000, and the proposed joint venture was estimated to significantly exceed this amount.

In response to these concerns, members present at the SGM moved a motion to “censure the Committee for its unconstitutional actions.” The motion was carried by a majority of more than 75 percent of people who voted.

This passing of the motion meant the Executive Committee needed to hand in their resignation within seven days and an Interim Committee was appointed with Ms Stavropoulos as President and Mr Tsolakis as Secretary.

The next steps:

Following this meeting, the Executive Committee of the Athenian Association of NSW held an Annual General Meeting on Saturday, May 6. Ms Valis fronted the group on the day and addressed the accusations laid against the committee.

Regarding the expenditure for a joint venture event with the GOCNSW, Ms Valis said her decision was made following consultation with members of the Committee. Ms Valis also said there was no intention to use funds for the event as GOCNSW would cover costs, the Greek dancing group would pay their own travel expenses, and any profits from the event would have been shared between the Athenian Association and the GOCNSW. In the end, Ms Valis said the event had not eventuated and no money was spent, as provided in the financials of the Association.

In response, Ms Valis put forward a motion to amend Clause 40 of the Constitution – Funds Management in two ways: (1) add a new Clause 40(3) which said “all electronic funds transfer must be approved by 2 members of the Committee,” and (2) replace the term ‘expenditure’ in Clause 40a with “any donation exceeding $5,000 is to be passed by way of a Special Resolution.” Both motions were passed.

On the concerns around Mr Tsolakis and his removal as public officer, the Executive Committee alleged he breached his duties as Secretary, and offered to stand down from the Committee as of March this year. Ms Valis said any further decisions she made to elect committee members were made after seeking “legal council.”

When asked by members how this conflict would be resolved, Ms Valis said she would not be standing down as President and the Executive Committee would not be resigning. A legal advisor present on the day, Mr Stojanovic, said the Committee had three months to resolve the concerns before a mediator was appointed from the Community Justice Centre.

Mr Tsolakis said he would like to find an amicable resolution for the benefit of the Athenian Association.

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