Will reveal size of Leitner’s golden parachute – if he is elected president of Ifla

5 apr 2023 • 4 min

For the first time an Ifla representative directly involved in last years turbulence has agreed to answer Biblioteksbladet’s questions. Hans Ulrich ”Halo” Locher apologizes for the lack of transparency and promises to make secret compensations and golden parachutes public – should he be elected as president of Ifla.

Last week, Hans Ulrich ”Halo” Locher announced that he is suspending his participation at the Ifla board. As a board member and acting general secretary after Gerald Leitner was relieved of his duties last spring, he has had a central position during the last year’s turbulence within the organization. Like other representative of the IFLA management, he previously declined all interview requests but has now agreed to answer written questions.

You describe the lack of fundamental documents for a well-founded decision as the deciding factor for you leaving the Ifla Governing Board. What explains this unconventional way to handle the recruitment of a person to a key role?
– Quite simply, it is an interpretation of the recruitment process by the GB search committee. The last approved minutes state: “The search committee will conduct the interview, but the whole board will be involved in the decision process.” If, when asked, I am not allowed to see CV, letters of application and references, this is not only contrary to the decision but also to any professional selection procedure, for which the whole GB is responsible according to the statutes.

When I asked for an example of other decisions of the GB that you can not reconcile with your conscience, you mentioned that the GB decided to negotiate the contract for the dismissal of Gerald Leitner instead of leaving this to the court. Apart from the responsibility landing on the GB, what other consequences did this lead to?
– You describe exactly the problem I wanted to avoid. The current GB did not conclude the contract with Gerald Leitner. But with this decision took the responsibility for the costs of the dissolution and decided on a certificate that I cannot sign.

Is it your opinion that the settlement with Gerald Leitner would have been different if it had been solved in court?
– This question cannot be answered. It would have been important for me to get a court to determine the conditions for the termination of the contract. This possibility no longer exists due to the settlement.

Would the dismissal have been less costly if the negotiation had been handled by the court?
– This question, like the previous one, cannot be answered.

What is the cost for Ifla to break the contract with Gerald Leitner?
– I get the Code of Ethics slapped in my face every time I make a critical comment from GB members. Therefore I cannot answer. However, if I am elected as IFLA President-elect, these figures will be made public and transparent, as with every NGO and NPO publishes the compensation of the managing directors and especially a golden parachute.

There has been reasons to ask many questions about the management of Ifla since the message about releasing Gerald Leitner from his duties almost a year ago – but very few answers has been presented. What was the reason to choose this rather untransparent strategy concerning the management of Ifla?
– Shortly after taking office, the current GB encountered a catastrophic situation for which it is not responsible. It courageously took the only possible consequence and decided to dismiss the General Secretary and communicated it badly. As a result, we have been caught in a storm that has overwhelmed the GB, which is scattered all over the world. So it was not just to do with the problem of discretion but also to negotiate with a GB scattered across all time zones with members who have other work to do. I regret this development and feel partly responsible for it. For that, I formally apologise.

You have been a part of the way to handle the situation. The agreement with Gerald Leitner was negotiated 4–5 months ago. Why didn’t you leave then?
– In recent months, I have repeatedly entertained the idea of resigning. I have rejected this for various reasons. In particular, I wanted to at least know what was going (wrong) – as far as this is at all possible with the leadership of the GB. I have repeatedly made it very clear that I do not support important decisions – especially the condition of dismissal the SG. Unfortunately, the GB prefers to discuss whether I am violating the Code of Ethics or whether I should resign during 90 minutes but does not discuss my proposals. It is also interesting to note that three out of 11 members have resigned during the current term…

How would you describe the state of the organization you began to lead when you took over as the interim secretary general after Gerald Leitners dismissal?
– The situation corresponded pretty much to the second investigation report: no structure, no planning and no communication. At least the staff is for the most part very cooperative and competent. The majority had also demanded the immediate replacement of Gerald Leitner. Only now did another problem become apparent: some of the staff had contracts from SIGL, the majority from IFLA with SIGL financing a percentage of the salary. SIGL rejected the dismissal of Gerald Leitner and me as interim SG from the beginning. The President of SIGL played an illegal recording of a meeting of me with the whole staff on a meeting in Dublin. This is a criminal offence under Swiss law as a violation of my personality, which is why I refused to continue in the position. Gerald Leitner is still listed as Secretary General SIGL on the website…

Are you, despite your decision now to leave the GB’s work, still a candidate for the role as Ifla president?
– Yes – I remain a candidate for President-elect. I have only suspended my activity in the GB. I want to send a signal that the decisions of the GB are not unanimous, that they contradict my understanding of fundamental rules of corporate governance and that I cannot support the policy.

In what way would the internal work of the GB change under your leadership?
– As President, the most important task is to ensure that all possible proposals and ideas come to the GB table, are carefully deliberated, clear decisions are minuted and, above all, executed. I have tried to bring together a new GB that does not preach transparency but lives it. Unfortunately, in the current situation, it is not easy to find people who are willing to take responsibility for the IFLA ship and steer it into calm seas.

IFLA president Barbara Lison and SIGL president Gloria Perez Salmeron have both been offered the possibility to answer Biblioteksbladet´s questions.

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