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ShelterBox releases 'sacking dossier' as row escalates with founder's family

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 16, 2012

Ian Munday the Chairman of the ShelterBox trustees

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Trustees of an international charity based in Cornwall have released a dossier on their reasons for dismissing the former chief and founder of the organisation.

Disaster relief organisation ShelterBox yesterday attempted to put an end to months of speculation following the dismissal for gross misconduct of Tom Henderson by breaking their silence to explain why he was fired.

However, Mr Henderson's son John, who is named in the report, has demanded "hard evidence" to support their claims and issued a robust denial of any wrongdoing.

ShelterBox released a Serious Incident Report sent to the Charity Commission in the immediate aftermath.

It revealed that their concerns surrounded a possible conflict of interest between Tom Henderson and a business they believed his son was involved in, which was about to receive a major order.

The Helston-based charity said trustees had lost confidence in their boss after he refused to clarify the extent his son John was involved with a company in line for a £650,000 order.

The report went on to say that the following year Tom Henderson was putting "more pressure than usual" for the charity to place a £650,000 order for tents and tools with a new firm which the board came to believe had links to John Henderson.

The order was not placed and the matter put under investigation by a different firm of solicitors.

However, the Serious Incident Report said that both Tom and John Henderson had demonstrated a "lack of cooperation" and in the light of "unanswered questions" and "contradictions" the board had lost confidence in their chief executive and sacked him.

Tom Henderson is abroad at present, but his son issued a robust denial of any wrongdoing.

"We truthfully have nothing to hide," said John Henderson.

"The key here is hard evidence, whether that is e-mails or written invoices.

"We need to see that hard evidence that my father did wrong, because (we say) it doesn't exist."

He added they had 2,500 pages worth of documents about the affair and that they had read "every single page."

"The public should be asking questions of ShelterBox," he added.

"They should be standing on their doorstep asking to see evidence. As far as we are concerned, this is not over yet and we will fight on."

His words have upped the stakes at the internationally famous charity which is trying to contain the damage done by the episode while continuing its lifesaving work in some of the world's worst trouble spots.

Tom Henderson created ShelterBox in 2000 but was dismissed on July 23, an event followed by the death of his wife, Jane, less than a fortnight later. Ian Munday, chairman of the board of trustees, said Tom Henderson had been asked repeatedly to clarify and explain the links but had not done so.

The charity said that the onus was on their chief to make the situation clear.

"We believe as a board that Tom Henderson found himself very conflicted between his duties and responsibilities at ShelterBox and the business interests of his family, particularly his son, and he was unable to extract himself from that conflict."

Mr Munday went on to say: "We asked Tom and he had more than adequate opportunity to explain to us whether there was any relationship and he was unable to do so."

According to the Serious Incident Report prepared for the Charity Commission by a London-based firm of solicitors, for a number of years ShelterBox had used stoves and a multi-tool developed by John Henderson.

However in 2010, the Charity Commission received a complaint about the transactions and as a result rules over potential "related party transactions" were tightened up.

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  • SHEILARICHARD  |  November 21 2012, 9:59PM

    As a donor to Shelterbox, this is how I understand it. The Chief Executive (a highly paid role) was asked, by the board (made up of volunteers)to justify a potential order that may or may not be with his son. He was unwilling or unable to provide satisfactory answers. Trust therefore broke down between the board of trustees (who are ultimately responsible for good governance and ensuring our (donors) money is well spent) and the CEO, hence the CEOs role is untenable and he must either resign or, in this case, be dismissed. Whilst this is very sad for Mr. Henderson, I would not want to give my money to a charity who I could not trust my donation with. By their boards actions, I still have faith in Shelterbox.

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  • jamesfoster  |  November 19 2012, 7:16AM

    I think that the board of directors are on very shaky ground. Dismissing a man with no evidence to present to his wrong doing flys in the face of natural justice. Of course Cornwall is famous for its witch hunts. I feel Mr Henderson and the public should be calling for the resignation of the whole board for the damage done to the charity

  • LonyTilly  |  November 16 2012, 11:42PM

    I don't normally comment on these news items but with Shelterbox having the reputation it has I will air my view. From an outsider and only knowing what I have read I can see some building blocks that do, unfortunately, make me side with the charity. Firstly, I know the present Chairman of the trustees and he is a man of principles who would not in any way do anything without giving an individual ample chance to clear their name. Secondly, it is interesting that John Henderson leans so heavily on ''hard evidence'. In fact, so heavily that its pointing towards ''no matter what we've done you've got no proof'' Real shame all round and no winners in Helston. The winners are those that won years ago when the charity was formed and they are the main concern.