A furore has erupted over a letter sent to Murray Irrigation Ltd shareholders from the company’s board that is trying to influence the current election of board directors.
The letter, signed by three members of the seven-member board, says the board does not endorse renominating director James Sides’ candidature for the board.
However, fellow director Chris Brooks has broken ranks and supports Mr Sides and two other candidates seeking a seat on the board.
Murray Irrigation is a private company which manages the delivery of water in the southern Riverina to about 1200 family businesses.
Mr Brooks says in a letter published in the Deniliquin Pastoral Times: ‘‘I want it known that I am not at all in support of this statement (from the board), and do not support what I believe to be a flawed process, or in my opinion a breach of confidentiality and unity of a board of management’’.
The controversial decision and subsequent letter, which is signed by MIL deputy chairman Ben Barlow, is unprecedented at the company.
Mr Sides is one of three sitting board members seeking re-election, and one of five candidates in total.
The MIL letter says: ‘‘The board declined to endorse the candidature of Mr Sides whose conduct, in the board’s view, has failed to meet the minimum requirements of a director of the company. The board is constrained from commenting further on Mr Sides’ performance.’’
The letter lists current chairman Bruce Simpson and director Tim McKindlay as its ‘‘endorsed candidates’’ and says it has welcomed the candidature of first-time candidates Waander van Beek and Phillip Snowden.
Mr Sides said he was not interested in engaging in the motives of the letter ‘‘that was distributed by some members of the Murray Irrigation Board’’.
‘‘My interest in Murray Irrigation Ltd is serving the shareholders of a business whose job and purpose is delivering consumptive water to the farm gate of our irrigator shareholders,’’ he said.
Mr Sides said he did not want to make any further comment on the matter.
In a media statement authorised by Murray Irrigation executive manager corporate affairs Pete Smith, the company said it had chosen to endorse only Mr Simpson and Mr McKindlay.
‘‘In setting its governance practices the board is guided by the Australian Securities Exchange corporate governance guidelines which recommends that a board disclose whether it supports the re-election of a director,’’ the statement read.
‘‘The board did not endorse the re-election of Mr Sides because directors did not believe his conduct met the minimum requirements of a director of the company.
‘‘Directors subject to re-election abstained from discussing or voting on the matter.’’
Ballots for the MIL election must be returned by 5pm on October 24. Those elected to the MIL board will start their term from the conclusion of the AGM, to be held November 16.