Rumours are rife that TDC Chief Executive Madeline Homer is in discussions with councillors about a severance package that will allow her to escape potential disciplinary action for alleged gross misconduct.
If true, it means that in exchange for a confidentiality agreement between both parties, Homer could walk away from TDC with a payment of at least £300,000 (based on payment received by the recent departure of her deputy Tim Willis), a clean reference, and the freedom to continue her alleged bullying in another organisation.
But TDC should not be too fast to flash tax payers cash.
Published last week the Government’s Statutory guidance on the making and disclosure of Special Severance Payments by local authorities in England makes it tougher for local councils to stuff the pockets of bad bully bosses with piles of tax payers cash, to get rid of them quickly and quietly.
The Statutory Guidance makes it clear that:-
“The government is of the view “special severance payments” do not usually provide good value for money or offer fairness to the taxpayers who fund them and so, should only be considered in exceptional cases”
It requires councillors when approving special severance payments, including non-disclosure agreements to consider:-
“How the exit payment will be perceived by the public and whether it is in line with the duty to manage taxpayers’ money appropriately. What alternative use could be made of that expenditure. All Special Severance Payments necessarily reduce the funds that would otherwise be available to deliver important public services
Interestingly, the advice also refers directly to Homer’s situation, by instructing councillors responsible for making decisions about payoffs to:-
ensure that these payments are not used to avoid management action, disciplinary processes, unwelcome publicity or avoidance of embarrassment”
TDC is already up to its neck in bad publicity and embarrassing headlines brought about by Homer’s alleged bullying and abuse of power. It is also likely that when it eventually becomes available to all councillors, the report of independent Monitoring Officer, Quentin Baker, may lead to disciplinary action against Homer.
So if Homer really is in talks with the council about a severance package, any potential severance offer must now, in my opinion, be withdrawn until due process has decided whether she will be disciplined or not.
There should never be a process which permits workplace wrongdoers from avoiding sanction, or a process which allows for tax-payers funded rewards for workplace bullies.
But its not just the Government who believes it to be wrong for bad bosses to avoid discipline and be rewarded instead with piles of public cash.
The well-respected Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) in its code of statutory guidance for settlement agreements sates that employers should never use settlement agreements, special severance agreements or non-disclosure agreements to cover up improper behaviour including:-
All forms of harassment, bullying and intimidation, including through the use of offensive words or aggressive behaviour. Physical assault or the threat of physical assault and other criminal behaviour. All forms of victimisation. Discrimination because of age, sex, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief, transgender, pregnancy and maternity and marriage or civil partnership.
TDCs 56 councillors will be the final judge of whether or not Homer should be awarded the severance.
Under no circumstances should they allow a deal to be done until it is decided whether Homer l face disciplinary charges. If so, then the disciplinary process must been completed before any consideration of payment can be considered. This is called due process.
For councillors to ignore statutory guidance and codes and due process is a very serious matter. It could open individual councillors to standards complaints, and TDC to costly legal challenges and claims and actions by its external auditors and the ombudsman.
TDCs already tarnished reputation, largely the result of Homer’s alleged poor management of the council over the past few years, would be dragged further into the cesspit should the council been seen to be rewarding alleged bullies.
I call on all Thanet Councillors, whatever their political persuasion, to follow the Government and ACAS’s statutory advice if called upon, as they all must be, to decide the future of their CEO.
Codes and guidance aside, I would like to believe that TDC councillors would, when making decisions about sensitive issues such as this, bear in mind that they are obliged to follow the Seven Principles of Public Life which requires them to demonstrate selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership when making decisions.
I shouldn’t have to say it, but my take on the Seven Principles is that they exclude the rewarding or covering up wrong doing whatever the circumstances
Link to Statutory guidance on the making and disclosure of Special Severance Payments by local authorities in England
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