herald

Sunday 21 October 2018

Unicef denies Verwoerd row linked to Gerry

VACANCY: Hunt for new boss starts

UNICEF Ireland is already seeking a replacement for Melanie Verwoerd -- as a former chairman said her controversial sacking has damaged the charity.

Technology entrepreneur Chris Horn, who chaired the committee that appointed her executive director, said he was "very surprised and very saddened" at her firing.

Current chairman Paul Connolly was today reported to be leading efforts to find a replacement for Ms Verwoerd. A spokesman said there was no shortlist and the process could take weeks or months.

Mr Horn, co-founder of Iona Technologies, said Ms Verwoerd had approached him and the board of Unicef to tell them of her relationship with Gerry Ryan before it became public.

"It was agreed that as long as it didn't affect her work or commitment to Unicef, it was her personal business," he said.

She was very well qualified to be appointed, being a former ambassador of South Africa, as well as having an excellent character and personal attributes, he said.

He was now concerned the controversy was proving a distraction at a time of crisis in East Africa.

Ms Verwoerd has claimed she was informed she was dismissed because her relationship with the late Gerry Ryan was proving to be a continuing distraction from the work of the charity.

Sources within the charity have denied her relationship with Gerry Ryan was the reason she was dismissed.

"Gerry, with respect, is in the past. This whole situation arose over a disagreement about the future. It wasn't about one person, or even about Unicef," the source said.

The source claimed Ms Verwoerd was on "a different trajectory" to what the board wanted.

"Where someone comes to an impasse with their board as to where the charity is going, should it be the case that the board rolls over for one person, where that person can vote down the wishes of nine others? An organisation cannot run on that basis," said the source.

"These differences couldn't be resolved so it was unanimously decided to end Ms Verwoerd's contract. There were negotiations with her solicitor with termination conditions of her contract paid in full, and, in addition, two years' salary paid in respect of the settlement," he said.

Ms Verwoerd has denied that there is any settlement, has said that she has not cashed any cheque and says she intends to take an action for unfair dismissal.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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