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Former director sues council for libel and sexual discimination

By iain robinson iain.robinson@thesentinel.co.uk

A £123,000-a-year council director who was sacked while undergoing cancer treatment is suing the authority for libel and sex discrimination.

The Sentinel has learned that Jeanette McGarry is taking Stoke-on-Trent City Council to the High Court and an employment tribunal in two separate law suits.

She has alleged that the council unfairly discriminated against her on gender and disability grounds when it dismissed her as director of housing environmental and neighbourhood services (HENS) in April.

And she claims that a council statement made by chief executive John van de Laarschot to the media about her dismissal was defamatory.

The April 20 statement had questioned Mrs McGarry's performance and conduct in the post.

Mrs McGarry, who had previously been chief executive of East Staffordshire Borough Council, had joined the city council in June last year to take the helm of the newly-formed HENS directorate.

Mrs McGarry had left East Staffordshire "by mutual consent" in December, 2008 after being suspended for alleged misconduct.

It later emerged that the borough council paid Mrs McGarry £121,333 when she left – equivalent to 10 months' basic pay for loss of office – and a further three months' wages in lieu of notice.

After joining the city council Mrs McGarry was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year.

She received her dismissal letter on the day she returned from hospital surgery.

Her employment tribunal case is expected to allege that the council refused her request to work part-time while she was undergoing treatment, and she was instead put on "gardening leave".

But the case is also understood to involve allegations of sexist treatment.

The employment tribunal hearing is set to take place in Birmingham in July.

It is expected to focus on whether Mrs McGarry was in an extended probation period when she was dismissed, as the council claimed, or whether this had lapsed, making her a full-time employee.

The libel case, which is due to be heard at a later date in the Queen's Bench Division of London's High Court is being brought against Mr van de Laarschot and the council.

Mrs McGarry was unavailable for comment.

However, a source has told The Sentinel that she has taken the action to try to restore her professional reputation.

He said: "Jeanette feels that her dismissal was unjustified, and that the press release issued to the media afterwards was effectively a career-ending statement, due to the damaging claims it made about her behaviour.

"She also feels she was unfairly made into a scapegoat for delays with the Kier Stoke housing venture, which had been a problem long before she arrived at the council."

=========================================================================

This is the statement.................

Stoke-on-Trent City Council Statement About Director Of Housing Environment & Neighbourhood Services

20 Apr 2010 .Posted by Mike Rawlins

Stoke-on-Trent City Council have this evening released a statement in relation to the news, broken on Pits n Pots, that Jeanette McGarry had left her role as Director Of Housing Environment & Neighbourhood Services.

In the statement John van de Laarschot, Chief Executive, said,

Quote:

I have taken the decision not to confirm Jeanette McGarry in post during her probationary period with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. This is based on concerns around her performance, conduct and behaviour. The City Council has been compassionate in relation to Mrs McGarry's recent illness.

Edited by sleepless

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Sounds like another one of those "my probationary period was 6 months, well I worked 1 then went off sick for 5. When I came back they fired me" cases. How is an employer supposed to judge capability when the employee b+ggers off for whatever reason after a few weeks? She could've come back and been brilliant in which case firing her earlier would've been wrong for everyone or she could've come back and been useless, then it's *technically* outside her probationary period. No winner for an employer. Been there.

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Some could say with breast cancer maybe she won't make it to July to make the hearing?

Not me of course!!

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Sounds like another one of those "my probationary period was 6 months, well I worked 1 then went off sick for 5. When I came back they fired me" cases. How is an employer supposed to judge capability when the employee b+ggers off for whatever reason after a few weeks? She could've come back and been brilliant in which case firing her earlier would've been wrong for everyone or she could've come back and been useless, then it's *technically* outside her probationary period. No winner for an employer. Been there.

On the other hand everything ran fine without her being there - what was the point of her post in the first place? Give the ordinary workers higher wages and give them more trust and duties!

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I have taken the decision not to confirm Jeanette McGarry in post during her probationary period with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. This is based on concerns around her performance, conduct and behaviour. The City Council has been compassionate in relation to Mrs McGarry's recent illness.

He should sack whoever in the HR department approved that, or he should be sacked if he didn't clear that with the HR department. All he should of said was a statement of the facts of her employment, they worked here from x to y, they've left with immediate effect, a replacement will be announced in due course.

Edited by silver surfer

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she should have been on 35k maximum for that council non-job

why is cameron cutting more essential services instead of going after these wasteful councils first?

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He should sack whoever in the HR department approved that, or he should be sacked if he didn't clear that with the HR department. All he should of said was a statement of the facts of her employment, they worked here from x to y, they've left with immediate effect, a replacement will be announced in due course.

Yepp

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£123K!!!!

If she is really worth £123k (in Staffs, so more like £200k in London) I as a tax payer DO NOT want her wasting her very rare talents in government. I want her out in the real world, generating tax income, real employment and wealth for the country,

Sadly, she is probably only worth £40k in the real world.

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The people from stoke are some of the last people who can afford to pay someone that much money, and for just being on housing. I hope she pegs it before she gets a chance to spend it.

Edited by caparn

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He should sack whoever in the HR department approved that, or he should be sacked if he didn't clear that with the HR department. All he should of said was a statement of the facts of her employment, they worked here from x to y, they've left with immediate effect, a replacement will be announced in due course.

Agreed. Not necessary to put out that kind of statement and no-one with any sense would do so.

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What gets up my nose is that in Dec.2008, a few months before landing the £123k housing job with Stoke, she had been paid off by East Staffs Borough Council to the tune of £121,333 after being suspended for alleged misconduct . FFS

How on earth did she get the Stoke job?. And what does this woman do to get fired so quickly?.

Edited by sleepless

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she was only in the previous job 6 months aswell!:

http://www.thisissta...il/article.html

A FORMER council chief who quit her £120,000 a year job after being suspended during an investigation has spoken for the first time.

But Jeanette McGarry, who was chief executive of East Staffordshire Borough Council, has given little away about the reasons for her decision to go.

She left the borough council on December 2 after joining the authority, which covers Uttoxeter and Burton, in April this year.

Mrs McGarry said: "I have enjoyed my time working in East Staffordshire and I am sad to leave.

"I am now seeking to develop my career in a different direction, building on my experience with the council."

Alex Fox, who represents Abbots Bromley and is leader of the council, said her departure followed a busy year for the authority during which time it had achieved a "number of successes."

He said: "Jeanette has only been with us for a short time.

"Nevertheless, we have achieved a lot over the last seven months.

"The council wishes her well with her future endeavours."

The terms of her departure are still shrouded in secrecy, butit is reported she left with 10 months of her basic salary and three extra months of compensation – the equivalent of around £130,000.

She had been suspended from her high profile post last month pending an investigation.

The authority has refused to comment about the nature of the inquiry.

Mrs McGarry, who is thought to live in the Birmingham area, was appointed chief executive in January this year and took up the position in April.

She stepped into the high profile job to replace former chief executive, Marie Ainsworth, who died from cancer.

Councillor Fox claimed she had left the authority by "mutual consent".

He previously admitted: "What's happened is in the best interests of Mrs McGarry and the authority.

"I can understand the concern but I can assure everyone that the directors and senior members of the authority have been given the best possible advice both legally and from professional sources."

Councillors were informed of the move at part of a full council meeting where the press and the public are excluded, last Monday night.

Many members are unaware of why Mrs McGarry was suspended in the first place. They were not given any additional information during the meeting. A council spokesman said: "Under the terms of a legally binding agreement between Jeanette McGarry and the council, both parties have agreed she would leave by mutual consent.

"Under the terms of the agreement, Jeanette McGarry and the council have agreed to say nothing more.

"During the period that Jeanette McGarry worked for the council, we achieved a number of important successes as detailed in recent public statements."

Mrs McGarry had previously been corporate director of community services at Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council.

looks like was at Solihull for quite a few years however.

On those high salaries, at the peak of the troughing game, may well have simply played it for all it was worth. Human nature, however the system is terribly wrong to allow taxpayers' money to be used in this way

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this is nice - she also got a £90,000 grant from english Heritage to do up her pet windmill:

http://www.birminghampost.net/news/west-midlands-news/2008/03/03/berkswell-mill-sails-set-to-turn-again-65233-20551406/

The mother-of-three bought the windmill and the neighbouring miller's cottage - where she lives with her husband and daughters - four years ago. Last week marked an important moment in securing the building's long term future when its five-tonne sails which are rotting away were taken down.

Thanks to a £90,000 grant from English Heritage, they are to be replaced and vital repair work carried out on the structure.

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well she bought it quite a few years ago, fair play buying a derelict property, I have no problem with that, renovate it, work on it, add some value

BUT WHY IN FECK'S NAME DID SHE GET 90K OFF THE TAXPAYER FOR IT!?!?!?!?

Edited by Si1

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Some could say with breast cancer maybe she won't make it to July to make the hearing?

Not me of course!!

I really tried not to reply to this.

I have learnt so much from wise people on this forum however every so often an ignorant asshole turns up. Today - you have won the star prize.

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He should sack whoever in the HR department approved that, or he should be sacked if he didn't clear that with the HR department. All he should of said was a statement of the facts of her employment, they worked here from x to y, they've left with immediate effect, a replacement will be announced in due course.

If its true why should it be libel?. (do agree it could be career ending though, but then maybe thats the point of the statement).

She must have pissed him of really badly! Any suggestions as to why?. As her salary was paid out of public funds, do the residents of Stoke not have the right to know what happened?

Edited by sleepless

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If its true why should it be libel?. (do agree it could be career ending though, but then maybe thats the point of the statement).

She must have pissed him of really badly! Any suggestions?

she might have outbid him to buy that windmill

Edited by Si1

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