The former boss of South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture has won an employment tribunal against them.
Court judges ruled in favor of Gerry Campbell’s claim of unfair dismissal and breach of contract, holding up claims under the Equality Act.
Mr Campbell was SLLC general manager until April 2019 when he was sacked for alleged gross misconduct after a grievance from a leisure trust employee, named as ‘A’ in the ruling.
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But the court ruled that he was “unfairly dismissed,” criticizing SLLC and its political leadership for their handling of the matter.
The ruling states: “We concluded that the procedure used by SLLC was biased against the claimant and that it was well outside the band of reasonable procedures a reasonable employer might have used.
“It follows that the respondent acted unreasonably and that the claimant was unfairly dismissed.”
The court heard that Mr Campbell suffered from depression and was seeing a psychologist, had high blood pressure and a vein occlusion in his eye due to “ongoing issues” at work – as such, he was classed a “disabled person” under the Equality Act.
A legal dispute broke out between SLLC and South Lanarkshire Council (SLC) officials and its administration over who should investigate the grievance against Mr Campbell.
This ultimately led to Councilor David Watson, who was board chairman of the leisure trust, being removed from the post and quitting the SNP.
Councilor Watson has now called for an independent investigation with the “substantial” cost of the claim, which is yet to be decided, coming from the public purse.
He says he was “bullied and put under pressure” in his role as SLLC chairman to pursue a route in the disciplinary case involving Mr Campbell – he said this was contrary to the independent legal advice given by SLLC lawyers, Shepherd and Wedderburn.
In their ruling judges found that Councilor Watson “was put under pressure by SLC to ignore the advice from Shepherd and Wedderburn and that “certain people within SLC were attempt on disciplinary proceedings” against Mr Campbell.
The ruling states that, in October 2018, the political executive of SLC – including Council Leader, John Ross, the Deputy Leader, Maureen Chalmers and Councilor Peter Craig – informed Councillor Watson that he had been removed from SLLC’s board and was no longer a director or chairman”.
Judges were “struck” by the pressure on Councilor Watson by the board to resign after he refused to ignore Shepherd and Wedderburn and hand control of the investigation into a grievance to SLC.
It added: “We noted that as soon as he became interim chairman, Councilor Craig immediately instructed a fact finding investigation by SLC into the claimant’s handling of A’s grievance. It was he who then suspended the Mr Campbell.
It goes on to say the subsequent ‘fact-finding’ report by SLC was “partisan and inadequate”.
Councilor Watson told Lanarkshire Live he was “pleased that his position has been vindicated” and that his “integrity is intact”.
He added: “The tribunal findings are a damming report on the council’s HR department and the actions of its leadership.
“There now needs to be an independent investigation into the actions of council staff who were involved in this fiasco.
“The council’s political leadership should resign or be removed from post as they have shown themselves not fit for public office. They were complicit in the sacking of Gerry Campbell, despite being told the actions they were taking were totally inappropriate.
“If they refuse to resign, the SNP, nationally or locally should remove them from their candidates list.”
A spokesman for SLLC said they will “now engage” with Mr Campbell and his representatives to “discuss next steps”.
A council spokesman meanwhile said: “Our role in the process was guided by the service level agreement we had in place with SLLC at the time and we provided support following the request from the SLLC Board.
“We will, of course, consider any implications from the judgement.”
The SNP Group were contacted for comment.
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