Just when the charity sector thought it could not get any worse, Terrence Higgins Trust has found itself humiliated in court after an employment tribunal ruled that its chief executive was unfairly dismissed for blowing the gaffe on a former trustee’s lewd behaviour at a charity auction.
CEO Rosemary Gillespie was asked to step down in July 2015 mainly because she made disclosures about Paul Jenkins, a former deputy chair of the charity.
Gillespie reported Jenkins after he got drunk and tried to kiss and place his hand on the crotch of a senior staff member following a fundraising auction in aid of the charity. Gillespie insisted Jenkins’ actions raised safeguarding concerns.
The employment tribunal opened in London in March. Its judgment, released this week, unanimously found that Gillespie had been dismissed by the trustees principally because she made disclosures about Jenkins.
She had also raised concerns about the cost and length of time taken for an investigation into allegations of misconduct against two senior managers – referred to in the tribunal judgment only as J and B – after they were suspended.
Gillespie’s dismissal came three months after she received a glowing email from Robert Glick, the charity’s chair, in which he said he wanted to “underscore what a tremendous pleasure it has been, and I know will continue to be, to work with you”. However, at the tribunal Glick claimed he did have serious doubts about Gillespie’s performance but the email was intended to boost her confidence.
But the three-man panel rejected the claim and said his explanation seemed to be “an inaccurate after-the-event rationalisation” that indicated “an attempt to show that performance was in issue in April 2015 when, as we have found, the reality was that it was not”.
The judgment says the tribunal concluded that the charity’s evidence about the reason for dismissal was unsatisfactory and could not be accepted. “The tribunal therefore found, as a matter of probability, that Mr Glick’s reason or principal reason for pressing for the claimant’s dismissal was that she had made disclosures,” it added.
Jenkins stood down last month.
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