HE was at the helm of a unique institution that helped raise more than £1.2m for charity over the last 27 years.
But Paul Fisher has resigned from the committee of the Hayling Charity Cycle Ride after he is said to have racked up huge personal expenses on the organisation’s credit card.
As co-president of the ride, it is understood he made several large cash withdrawals over the past six months.
The card was intended for paying for the organisation and running of the ride, but according to the charity the cash was withdrawn for personal use.
Mr Fisher was chairman of the ride for more than 20 years and is also the long-running chairman of Hayling Island Residents’ Association.
The ride, which involves cycling from Hayling to parts of northern Europe, become a well-respected fixture on the calendar, with more than 2,000 cyclists taking part since it began.
More than 500 charities, including Cancer Research UK, Age Concern and The Rowans Hospice, have benefitted.
Mr Fisher went on the bike ride to Holland this year but was reported missing on July 14 after the ride had finished.
Islanders were shocked when police officers went into Hayling Island Community Centre looking for him.
It is understood he has now returned to Hayling Island.
He has offered his resignation to the bike ride committee.
Peter McQuade, the founder and president of the Hayling Charity Cycle Ride, has written a statement about what has happened.
It says: ‘A number of committee members became concerned about Paul towards the end of the ride and indeed he went “missing” for a number of days upon return to the UK.
‘Since that time we have undertaken a detailed review of our finances and discovered that in recent months Paul Fisher has run up significant personal debt using the Bike Ride credit card. He has admitted doing this and has resigned from the Ride.
‘I know many of you will be deeply shocked; a feeling shared by all of us.’
The letter states that Mr Fisher made ‘a significant and unique’ contribution to the organisation.
It adds: ‘We can confirm that our finances remain sound and that neither our operations nor our charity bank accounts have been impacted. Within the past few days Paul has made contact with Barclaycard to arrange repayment of his debt to them.’
Jon Tawse, chairman of the cycle ride, told The News members decided not to involve the police.
He said: ‘We had to consider that but we knew that provided he sorted his debt out with Barclaycard, there would be no positive outcome to us going to the police.’
He added: ‘It’s a tragedy on every level. People I have spoken to are amazed. He has been such a pivotal member.
‘Everyone would acknowledge without his input over the years there probably would be no bike ride.’
Mr McQuade said the ride would go on next year.
He added: ‘It’s a very sad situation but we have been encouraged by the support we have had from various quarters over the last few days.’
When contacted by The News, Mr Fisher said: ‘The approach taken by Peter McQuade is regrettable and was avoidable. The debt to the Bike Ride will be repaid.
‘It remains to be seen what will be the fallout for the Bike Ride, which I have served so well.’