THE former Ski Centre Manager at Pembrey Country Park Eirian Morris has won his unfair dismissal case against Carmarthenshire County Council. The judgement made at Cardiff Magistrate’s Court between the 6th and 10th of February found that Morris had been unfairly dismissed. The unanimous judgement of the tribunal found that:
The claimant made protected disclosures to the respondent.
The claimant was dismissed by reason of redundancy and not because he made disclosures
The claimant was unfairly dismissed
If a fair procedure had been adopted there is a 50% chance that the claimant would nevertheless been dismissed.
A claim for detriment on the grounds that he had made disclosures was not pursued by Morris. During the five day hearing evidence was heard from employees of Carmarthenshire County Council including Head of Leisure Ian Jones, Deputy HR Manager Robert Jones Young, HR officer Kirsty Nixon, Noelwyn Daniel, Auditor Helen Pugh, former Director of Regeneration Dave Gilbert, John Aeron Rees and Jake Morgan.
The whistle blowing itself revolved around activity at Pembrey Country Park and Burry Port Harbour. Morris claimed that he had provided information to Contact Officer Noelwyn Daniel. That information Morris claimed highlighted council staff profiting from unauthorised activity. Regarding the evidence provided to Noelwyn Daniel about this activity the panel stated
Insofar as the claimant’s typed documents did not clarify the allegations he was making in every particular the allegations he was making, we are quite satisfied on the evidence we heard that Mr Daniel was in no doubt about the content of the allegations. Mr Daniel in due course passed the information he had received to the respondent’s internal audit department and the investigating officer, Helen Pugh.
The respondent’s whistle-blowing policy provides: Although you are not expected to prove the truth of an allegation, you will need to demonstrate to your Contact Officer that there are reasonable and sufficient grounds for your concern.
It is evident from the manner in which Mr Daniel proceeded that he was satisfied that such reasonable and sufficient grounds existed.
The panel stated that
‘It is pertinent to observe that the degree of care with which Mr Daniel performed his duties was not impressive.
Noelwyn Daniel could not explain what had happened to the hand written notes Morris claims to have given him. The panel stated that if they were to believe the evidence of Noelwyn Daniel then they would not expect such an officer to lose an important document which should clearly have been passed to those investigating. The panel chose to believe the evidence of Morris
Commenting on the evidence Morris supplied to Noelwyn Daniel including photographs of the alleged activity the panel commented:
We would expect an officer charged with collecting evidence to collect such photographic evidence also.
In 2014 Helen Pugh conducted an investigation into matters raised by Morris and submitted her findings to Dave Gilbert. Those allegations relating to the caravan and camping site and to the unauthorised disposal of council property she said were difficult to establish conclusively whether there had or had not been any misappropriation of monies or other property because of the poor procedures and documentation held by the respondent in connection with these matters.
Helen Pugh’s findings led to a full review of procedures within the country park.
The panel stated that based on the evidence they heard that, like Noelwyn Daniel, Helen Pugh was satisfied that there were reasonable and sufficient grounds for the claimant’s concerns, that she took them with due seriousness and investigated them thoroughly.
Focusing on the issue whereby Morris found himself in a pool of one for redundancy the panel stated:
Those proposals were reviewed by Kirsty Nixon a human resources officer, who became involved on 11 November 2015. It is not correct, as Ms Nixon says at paragraph 4 of her statement, that the officer’s executive decision report “had identified a pool of one employee for the selection of redundancy”.
The conclusion of the panel was:
The evidence in the case clearly pointed to the conclusion that the information disclosed by Morris did, in his reasonable belief, tend to show that (X) had committed a criminal offence or offences and/or that (X) had failed to comply with a legal obligation or obligations to which (X) was subject.
The panel also found that there was no animosity towards Morris from Mr Gilbert, Mr Jones Young or from anyone else because he had made disclosure. Those disclosures were not the reason for his dismissal.
Llanelli Online has a full interview with Eirian Morris, which we will be publishing here soon.