Guide Dogs Victoria CEO resigns
1 June 2022 at 12:04 pm
The resignation comes just weeks after Guide Dogs Victoria launched an internal investigation into the CEO’s election campaigning.
Karen Hayes AM has resigned from her position as CEO of Guide Dogs Victoria.
Hayes announced the decision in a statement on Tuesday – which was preceded by a statement from the organisation itself, announcing the change.
In her statement, Hayes said the decision to resign had been “difficult” and that it had been a “great privilege” to work with community leaders during her 10-year tenure.
“I have given the organisation my all,” she said.
“I’m incredibly proud of my drive and leadership and the amazing efforts of the fundraising team in securing $30 million through our capital campaign for the campus redevelopment program. This achievement now sees our collective dreams for GDV and the Guide Dog community come to life.
“I am overjoyed at what we’ve achieved, and will watch from the sidelines with enthusiasm and support to see the program through to finalisation.”
Hayes promised to “forever be the strongest of advocates for Guide Dogs Victoria”.
Earlier in the day the Guide Dogs Victoria board had announced the resignation, noting Hayes’ “incredible contribution” and work on the campus redevelopment program.
“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Karen for her innovation, passion and commitment to Guide Dogs Victoria. Karen has always set out to make a difference and to help those that need support, and that is exactly what she has achieved during her decade in the role,” said chairman Iain Edwards.
“Her dedication and enthusiasm can’t be under-estimated. We are incredibly grateful for her unrelenting desire to help the Guide Dog community and to make life better for those that need our support and to give them greater independence.
“Karen has made a long and lasting impact in our community, and we wish her all the best in the future.”
Campaign material raises eyebrows
The resignation follows a turbulent few weeks during which the board has investigated Hayes for her participation in election campaign materials.
In April, Hayes appeared in electoral materials supporting then-treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s re-election bid.
The flyer included a picture of Hayes with a guide dog puppy and quoted her as saying, “Time and time again, Josh has shown his genuine care for Guide Dogs Victoria and the people with low vision and blindness we serve.”
When the flyers came to light the board issued a statement saying it had no prior knowledge of the material, and did not endorse it. It then launched an internal investigation into the circumstances surrounding the material.
Concerns were raised that Hayes may have breached the Charities Act, which permits charities to “promote or oppose a change to any matter of law, policy or practice, as long as this advocacy furthers or aids another charitable purpose”.
At the time, ACNC commissioner Dr Gary Johns told ABC Radio Melbourne that charities were not permitted to endorse political candidates.
When asked where the line could be drawn between the charity and an individual, Johns told Pro Bono News in April that “those responsible for running charities need to be confident that they comply with the ACNC’s governance standards”.
“One of the standards, Governance Standard Five states that responsible people must act honestly and fairly and in the best interests of the charity and for its charitable purposes,” he said.
Guide Dogs Victoria confirmed that Charlie Spendlove will continue as acting CEO while the organisation searches for a new CEO.