Can a Board of Directors Ignore Anonymous Emails Accusing Executive Staff?

Question:

Our board of directors recently decided to terminate our agency’s executive director and temporarily elevate our CFO into the ED position. Soon after we made this decision, three of our board members received anonymous emails accusing the CFO of cheating on her expense account and also undermining the former executive director.

While we take these types of allegations seriously, several of us suspect our former ED wrote these emails. Our board chair insists that since these emails were anonymously sent we can simply ignore them. Can we?

Answer:

You can’t.

If these allegations are true, you may have traded one problem manager for another. Even if you suspect the allegations are mean-spirited attacks from a terminated individual, you need to investigate them. According to former employment attorney turned HR consultant Rick Birdsall, “Your board has a fiduciary duty to your organization. If your board ignores a report, even an anonymous one, concerning your CFO’s alleged lack of integrity, your board breaches its duty.”

Next, allegations such as these, even if they’re false, may represent the tip of an iceberg that — if you try to sail past — can sink your organization. Clearly, someone either knows something you need to know or wants to undermine your CFO. Drama such as this negatively impacts your staff and thus your programs and clientele. You and your staff will breathe easier once you get to the bottom of this story.

Finally, remind your CFO and others not to delete or alter records, and ask your IT professional to make a ghost image of your CFO’s computer so you’ll be able to complete a valid investigation.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as Regional Director of Training and Business Consulting for The Growth Company, an Avitus Group Company. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com.

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