Most people agree that to reward an alleged workplace bully and abuser of power is totally wrong. But at a secret meeting on Wednesday this is likely to be what will happen when TDCs 56 councillors vote to approve a £300k “pay to go away” deal for the council’s Chief Executive, Madeleine Homer.
Few realise that this disgraceful decision is the result of a cynical political stitch up involving Tory, Labour and Green councillors who prefer to cover up and reward, rather than confront and tackle, the toxic and dysfunctional senior officer leadership said by many to be running TDC. Here’s how it happened.
Following the publication of a damning report into the management of TDC by its external auditors Grant Thornton in October 2021, the council agreed at an extraordinary meeting on 3 November 2021 to:-
Commission an experienced, independent Monitoring Officer from a large local authority to report to the General Purposes Committee on:
A risk assessment of the current employment tribunal claims and proposed actions which safeguard the Council’s best interests including a detailed financial analysis of the options available to the Council.
An assessment of the status of all outstanding grievances, alleged whistleblowing complaints and any continuing suspensions and propose a plan of action to address them.
A lessons learnt report collating themes and recommendations from all externally commissioned reports and any other appropriate evidence.
On 16 May 2022 an edited version of the independent Monitoring Officer’s (IMO) report was published on TDCs website. On 19th May 2022 at a secret meeting of councillors the IMO’s recommendations were overwhelmingly agreed. One of the recommendations (4a) was:-
CEO(Madeline Homer) to enter into formal coaching/mentoring arrangement
Bearing in mind that Madeline Homer has been TDCs acting, and then permanent CEO, for a period of 8 years, it would be reasonable to assume that during this time she would have acquired all of the skills and abilities to become a good and effective CEO. To then suggest, 8 years into her CEO career, she needs a formal coaching/mentoring arrangement is astonishingto say the least.
Even more astonishing is that an identical recommendation is said to have been made in a 2018/19 investigation report into Homer’s alleged bullying and that she has already engaged in a formal coaching/mentoring arrangement which, I understand, has been ongoing over several years and which she was still undertaking until recently. Clearly it hasn’t worked.
But the real astonishment lies in the fact that by voting overwhelmingly for this particular recommendation, councillors have knowingly and quite deliberately voted to close down any possibility of taking disciplinary action against Homer, making her pay off, with an unblemished record , almost inevitable.
Just ask yourself how difficult it would be to launch a disciplinary investigation into the multiple and serious allegations which have been made against Homer, when an independent monitoring officer, brought in at the request of councillors and TDCs external auditors, recommended that all she needs is to engage in a formal coaching/mentoring arrangement.
The fact that this recommendation had also been overwhelmingly approved by TDC councillors on 19 May would make this task doubly difficult.
You and I know that against this background any attempt to investigate Homer’s alleged misconduct and to discipline her, should the allegations be prove to be true, would be a virtually impossibility which would likely provide her and her lawyers with the mother of all pay days.
But councillors could have avoided this trap. Instead they could have voted against IMO recommendation 4a, or amended its wording so that it didn’t prejudice any disciplinary investigation and action against Homer.
Had they done so they would never have been forced into a situation which prevented them from investigating the actions of an alleged workplace bully and sacking that person at no cost, should the allegations be proven.
The fact that councillors did not take such action is a clear and compelling indication that Tory, Labour and Green Party bosses at TDC had reached a secret cross party agreement to pay off Homer rather pursue the disciplinary route against her.
Recommendation 4a was the shameful sleight of hand by which it would be achieved.
Clearly it would difficult for Tory, Labour and Green Party bosses at TDC to devise and implement this manoeuvre on their own. I strongly suspect that the IMO, senior council officers, including perhaps Homer herself, and maybe even the council’s external auditors too, had some knowledge of, if not some involvement in, assisting this scandalous stunt.
Whatever the truth might be, I genuinely believe there to be an agreement between Tory, Labour and Green Party bosses at TDC to pay off Homer, rather than pursue the truth about her alleged bullying and misconduct.
This stitch up will ensure that the £300k “pay to go away” deal will almost certainly be approved by councillors at their secret meeting on 8 June. Although this decision is unlikley to be free of some game playing by Labour and Greens.
With an eye to the 2023 elections, I predict, that these two parties will hypocritically abstain or vote against the deal on the 8 June, knowing it that it will go through anyway, and despite the fact that they voted for recommendation 4a of the IMOs report in the first place.
To play politics with a matter as serious as alleged workplace bullying and the abuse of power is sickening, especially when two of the parties involved include Labour and the Greens.
These are parties which both call publicly for stronger legal protections against bullying, harassment, and victimisation in the workplace, yet when multiple and very serious allegations about such behaviour at a council they are supposed to be managing are made, they hypocritically deny the rights to victims to justice, by stitching up a pay-off agreement which prevents legitimate complaints from being prpeorly investigated, and from the truth being kept secret by an NDA.
These actions are hugely disrespectful of all those whose careers, health and in some cases their families and their lives have been destroyed and devesated by covering up abuse in the workplace and by rewarding the perpetrators.