Yesterday’s appointment of Colin Carmichael as TDC’s 3-day a week, interim Chief Executive (CEO) is, in my opinion, an irony fuelled petrol bomb likely to blow up in councillors faces.
Just a month ago councillors voted 47 to 2 to get rid of former CEO Madeline Homer after years of alleged workplace bullying and mismanagement.
She was sent packing with a £327,000 pay off, an agreed reference , and a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This will allow her to secure new employment elsewhere where she could once again indulge in her alleged “bullying, intimidating, victimising and humiliating”, style of management.
Enter Colin Carmichael, former Canterbury City Council Chief Executive, who was appointed by TDC councillors last night as Homer’s replacement. Interestingly, Mr Carmichael, played a not-insignificant role in the selection of Homer as TDC’s CEO 2015.
Even more interesting is the allegation that Mr Carmichael is said to have witnessed two sexual assaults on female council workers by a drunken senior officer at a Camden Council "management away" weekend in 1994.
It is claimed that he did not intervene to stop the alleged assaults and that he swore those present to secrecy.
The assaults are reported to have taken place in 1994.
The alleged assaults were reported in article in the Independent newspaper of May 1998 which says that Camden Council’s Deputy Chief Executive and Borough Solicitor, Amanda Kelly, claimed as part of an employment tribunal hearing against the council for sexual discrimination, that a senior officer had sexually assaulted her after drinking too much at an "awayday" strategy meeting in July 1994.
“This involved "putting his arms around me and stroking my upper body, breasts and right leg". A senior colleague (Mr Carmichael my insertion), who was sitting across from her at the time, took no action and swore everyone to secrecy the next day. Ms Kelly later told him she considered the assault to be gross misconduct but he disagreed. "I am ashamed to admit that I did not have the stomach for the likely struggle," she said. The official was later made redundant and given a lump sum of £200,000”.
I accept that this was almost 30 years ago and that Ms Kelly’s allegations of assault were not proven by a disciplinary investigation. But that’s hardly surprising at a time when, despite her seniority, she would have not been taken seriously. This is made sadly, and frighteningly, clear if you read the full Independent article which I have posted below.
But irrespective of the time gap and the lack of a disciplinary hearing, Ms Kelly’s allegations and Mr Carmichael's response must be taken seriously by Thanet District Council.
Sexual assault of a female member of staff whether it was alleged to have taken place 30 years ago, or just 30 days ago, is not something something to be swept under the carpet. And most certainly not something to allegedly swear people who saw it, or who were victims of it, to secrecy!
In line with its Dignity At Work policy and taking account of the evidence I have revealed TDC has no choice but to conduct a proper investigation into Mr Carmichael before he is allowed to take up his post. And rather than simply taking Mr Carmichael’s denial as being sufficient, this means speaking to Ms Kelly herself and speaking to Camden Council too.
Bearing mind that TDC has just rid itself of an alleged bullying CEO, who is said to have imposed a “regime of fear” upon council staff for several years, it makes no sense to press the restart button for a bright new future, by employing someone who appears to have serious questions to answer about allegedly witnessing, not intervening to stop, and then covering up, a sexual assault upon 2 female work colleagues by a reportedly drunken senior officer.
And don’t forget that one of Mr Carmichael’s first jobs at TDC will be to oversee the disciplining of ex-CEO Homer’s boyfriend, Corporate Director Gavin Waite, who is said to be facing charges of sexual discrimination and harassment.
Would it be appropriate for someone who is said to have witnessed and covered up two sexual assaults on female members of staff, and who is said not to have considered these acts as gross misconduct, to be a suitable person to be involved in deciding a disciplinary process concerning sexual assaults? I don't think so.
Is it any wonder I steal the Who’s lines “Meet the old boss. Same as the new boss” when it looks as though things haven’t really changed at TDC.
This article was amended on 21 July 2022. The previous version of this article was incorrect and misrepresented Mr Carmichael's involvement in the incident for which I apologise