Ex-town clerk fights St Neots Town Council at employment tribunal
07:00 09 July 2014
A former town clerk was treated as a “liar and malingerer” and sacked from her role with St Neots Town Council, an employment tribunal heard.
Helen King, who held the position until December 2011, is claiming unfair dismissal, disability discrimination and breach of contract.
The conclusion of the case was heard at Huntingdon Law Courts on Monday (July 7), after being adjourned in April.
Mrs King was sacked after accusations of gross misconduct. She had appealed against her dismissal in early 2012, but following two hearings by the council’s appeal committee, the decision was upheld.
The town council claims that she had put pressure on a colleague to leave his job and had shown behaviour that amounted to bullying.
It also said that she had removed ‘day books’ and other items from the council’s premises without permission, had submitted overtime claims that were “unwarranted and excessive”, had failed to carry out the necessary recruitment for a deputy town clerk and had deleted evidence from a computer.
Simon Forshaw, the barrister acting on behalf of Mrs King, said that the charges were “wholly inadequate”, as was the way in which the evidence had been gathered. He described her as a long-serving employee of seven years with a clean disciplinary record.
He added: “The decision and dismissal was a foregone conclusion. Everybody in that meeting knew that the claimant was going to be dismissed. The personnel were chosen to make sure it happened and the charges were such that it would amount to gross misconduct. That’s an enormous problem and renders the process entirely unfair.”
He explained that Mrs King had been off work on sick leave due to depression – before any charges were levelled against her – and that the town council had discriminated against her due to its refusal to delay meetings in light of her illness. He said that she had not been attending on medical advice and had been “unfavourably” treated as a result.
He added: “Very early on in this case those dealing with it came to the conclusion that Mrs King was a liar and a malingerer and that anything she said was not to be believed on that basis.”
Paul Strelitz, the barrister acting on behalf of the town council, said Mrs King “did not get on” with the new Conservative-dominated council, after there had previously been a Liberal Democrat majority.
He added: “This wasn’t some kind of witch hunt in order to get rid of the claimant but was a manifestation of general concerns harboured by Mr Chapman [town councillor Barry Chapman] and other councillors about the conduct of Mrs King.
“She was deliberately trying to act in a way which may prejudice the running of the council by trying to pressure this particular individual to leave through conduct which did not appear to have a logical explanation.”
The bench – whose chairman was judge Valentine Adamson – retired to make a decision, which will be announced in about 28 days.