Is the fifth co-op mystery the tip of the iceberg? What happened to transparency and truth?


The mystery surrounding the exit of Richard Samson from the East of England Co-operative Society was read by many on this website. However, following unconfirmed reports of a major disagreement with his board, he was put on gardening leave, with the society stating in its annual report in October 2011 that it recognised an expense of £450,000 relating to employing Mr Samson until the end of this year.

Two and Three

We also reported that a dispute over governance and strategic issues within Chelmsford Star Co-operative led to the President and Vice-president of the society, Maurice Austin and Chris Fegan, resigning as directors and standing for re-election on April 30. During the campaign, Mr Austin told the Essex Chronicle: “I have just received the postal ballot and included with the list of candidates and our election statements is a separate note, which I regard as an unjustifiable attempt to deter people from voting for me. I also had no right of reply”.

Vanessa Howard, the society’s media relations chief, merely said –  “We have no comment to make.”


A local reader sent links to Essex newspapers which told more than could be read in the Co-operative News, adding more news about the Austin/Fegan case and a reference to a fourth mystery: former Braintree Quadrant manager Fiona Mockett was claiming unfair dismissal through being made redundant shortly after questioning last year’s society elections. Her lawyers wrote to the society asking them to disclose their case for an upcoming employment tribunal – the rest is silence . . .

Five – and a very different matter

There have been rumours that a highly respected employee of another independent society had left and a personal visit to his office found only a very nervous colleague who said that she could give no information.

This case is different because the writer has known the individual in question for several years and found him deeply committed to the co-operative movement, honest, hard-working and highly respected in the city in which he worked.

A call to the Members’ and Community Relations Manager at head office elicited no further information and I suspect that he also had been very strongly ‘leant on’ not to divulge any hint of what was going on.

Does the co-operative movement have to follow the sort of dishonest secrecy/denial tactics indulged in by politicians and multinationals alike?

Should not an ethical enterprise be open and transparent, sorting out these issues in a couple of weeks and allowing both sides to state their cases to those members who are said to own and control their societies?

This entry was posted in Co-operative movement, Co-operative News, Democratic participation, Problems and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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