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Christ Church Dean row reignited amid calls for dismissal

Academics have called for the Dean of Christ Church to be dismissed, accusing him of “unsound judgement” and “consistent lack of moral compass”.

In a letter seen by The Telegraph, members of the college’s Governing Body have called on the Charity Commission to help remove the Very Rev Prof Martyn Percy from the Board of Trustees.

The letter claims he has “hampered the day to-day-day operations of the institution” and that “he is not fit to remain a trustee”.

Signed by 41 out of the 65 members of the Christ Church Governing Body, the letter accuses Percy of breaching his duty of confidence to the College and his duties under the Conflict of Interest Policy and the Harassment Code. It also claims he has disclosed “confidential material to the press.”

“There is also now an established and well-documented pattern of behaviour which we believe shows the Dean to be sacrificing the best interest of Christ Church to his own,” the letter adds.

A source also tells The Telegraph that Percy has been offered £1 million to resign his position, however, Christ Church states that this claim is inaccurate.

In December 2019, the Dean lost a no-confidence vote by 38 votes to two. However, as he was appointed by a Letters Patent, only the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury can request his resignation.

The Telegraph also reports that the Governing Body has asked the Charity Com-mission to “step in”, as “scope within our statutes to replace the Dean is very limited. A failure to act now will oblige Christ Church to spend more money on attempts to resolve an unsustainable situation.”

The letter reignites the ongoing row amongst the college’s Governing Body.

The dispute is thought to have started in 2017 when Percy complained that his salary was insufficient and below the median for Oxford heads of colleges. Percy was subsequently suspended after being accused of “immoral, scandalous, or disgraceful conduct” but was reinstated last year, according to the Guardian.

The Dean’s current salary is just under £95k and he and his family have rent-free use of the 12-bedroom deanery.

The College hired former high court judge Sir Andrew Smith to conduct an internal tribunal, who dismissed the complaints against Percy. The tribunal’s full judgement has not been published. Speaking to the Financial Times, one member of the Governing Body claimed the college was “virtually ungovernable”.

Percy has launched an employment tribunal against the college, claiming he has been victimised. He retains the support of some members of the Governing Body and alumni, including former cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken. Aitken told Cherwell: “The letter is a foolish own goal by the Governing Body. It is full of windy assertions attempting to denigrate the Dean which are unsupported by any evidence.”

“This letter will cut no ice with the Charity Commission. It has been well briefed by many other sources who are angry about the continuing failures of governance and the recklessly extravagant expenditure of charitable funds by this bitterly divided Governing Body. Last week the respected and hitherto neutral Christ Church Association Committee (CCAC) which represents 9,000 alumni wrote to the Charity Commission saying that it had lost confidence in the Governing Body and the Censors.”

He went to say: “As for the future I believe the Charity Commission will soon intervene to impose an independent inquiry and its own interim management.”

In a statement, Christ Church said: “We are aware that over 40 trustees and members of Christ Church Oxford’s Governing Body have appealed to the Charity Commission to intervene in the current dispute with the Dean. Christ Church is fully committed to achieving a solution through independent mediation, to avoid the considerable cost that will otherwise be incurred through responding to the Dean’s Employment Tribunal claim against Christ Church.”

“The Dean has suspended the mediation process, but Christ Church remains ready, open and willing to restart it whenever he wishes. The Charity Commission may be able to help bring him back to the negotiating table. The sooner the Dean’s Employment Tribunal claim can be resolved, the sooner Christ Church will be able to undertake the independently-chaired Governance Review it is commissioning in consultation with the Charity Commission.”

Image credit to charlemagne/ Pixabay

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