North Melbourne Football Club director Trevor O’Hoy has defended himself against spam allegations after the club sent thousands of text and email messages to club members spruiking his unrelated RACV board re-election bid.
North club members received the messages plugging Mr O’Hoy’s tilt over the past few weeks, with some recipients suggesting they could be in breach of the Privacy and Corporations Acts. The text message read:
“Attn RACV Members — support NMFC director & long time supporter of the Kangaroos Trevor O’Hoy, & vote for Trevor for the RACV board …”
Two weeks ago, the club also backed Mr O’Hoy via its “Roo eNews” letter:
“North Melbourne supporters who are members of the RACV should be aware that one of our Directors, Trevor O’Hoy, is up for re-election to the RACV board.”
Mr O’Hoy is in the midst of a bloody re-election battle for the roadside services section of the RACV board alongside Paula Piccinini, the wife of Crikey co-founder Stephen Mayne. He was drafted on to the North board in 2008 by club president and AFL Footy Show host James Brayshaw.
The eNews story contained a link to a PDF document produced by Mr O’Hoy and Ms Piccinini, hosted on Mr Mayne’s website The Mayne Report.
Mr O’Hoy told Crikey that the North Melbourne communications department sent the message on its own volition, and that he did not approve it. Crikey contacted North Melbourne to verify this but the club declined to comment.
The former Fosters CEO defended the decision to Crikey this morning.
“I have personally given hundreds of thousands dollars to the club via auctions and have supported it through the years.”
Mr O’Hoy said the cost of sending out the text messages was “minimal”.
But some North Melbourne members have accused Mr O’Hoy of a breach of board solidarity. One influential blogger, Reverend Shinboner, wrote a scathing post on the issue on his Roo Beauty website last night.
Mr “Shinboner” said that following the text message barrage, North Melbourne members may ask to be removed from the club’s mailing list, denying it a future outlet to promote legitimate activities.
Under both the Corporations Act and the common law directors are required to serve the interests of the company and its act in its best interests. The decision to spam members spruiking an unrelated board tilt could be interpreted as a prima facie breach.
The decision is also a curious one given the small overlap in RACV and North Melbourne memberships and the fact that only around 5% of RACV service members traditionally vote in elections. Twelve per cent of the club’s members live in Western Australia.
Former liquor licensing lawyer Tony Joyce, who is challenging Ms Piccinini and Mr O’Hoy for a place on the RACV board, accused the former Fosters CEO of desperation.
“Mr O’Hoy is completely desperate and will use whatever methods are appropriate to stay on,” he told Crikey.
Mr Joyce said annoyed North Melbourne members can vote with their feet. He said RACV president John Isaac recently sent a letter to members urging the re-endorsement of the current board and that a separate re-election letter signed by the five existing directors, including Mr O’Hoy, had been paid for with members’ money.
Crikey understands Joyce is pushing for the current campaign to be halted, saying the RACV was making excessive profits that are not returned to members in the form of lower fees and better services.
Fellow challenger Peter Anderson said he would have “to worry about his [O’Hoy’s] intentions”. In addition to the North Melbourne database, Mr Anderson said Mr O’Hoy and Ms Piccinini had privileged access to the RACV membership database and would be referring the latest allegations to the election returning officer.
Barbara Phelan, who is challenging incumbents on a separate section of the RACV board, slammed the system saying it protects incumbent directors.
“I’m realistic, incumbents always get back on and you don’t really have the opportunity to run a proper campaign because you can’t send out things to every RACV member,” Phelan told Crikey.
“There seems to be an extraordinary amount of activity from the current sitting directors in the way they have electioneered. They must be fairly worried.”
But Ms Piccinini defended Mr O’Hoy, who has a strong record in corporate philanthropy.
“As the old Mrs Crikey, the only question I have is why Crikey hasn’t yet plugged this PDF pointing out the excellent platform and credentials of Trevor O’Hoy, my running mate in the 2009 RACV service members election.”
“The RACV is Australia’s biggest remaining mutual. It is well run, much-loved and Trevor O’Hoy is one of the best credentialed directors ever to have joined the board. He should be supported, especially by North Melbourne members,” she said.
The RACV board elections conclude next Tuesday.