Tribunal finds in favour of Gloucestershire whistleblower

The University of Gloucestershire has lost a tribunal case brought by a manager who claimed she was sidelined after blowing the whistle on the state of the institution’s finances.

Jan Merrigan, business development manager at Gloucestershire’s Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences, said she had suffered professionally after drawing attention to financial problems, particularly at the faculty.

She claimed at an employment tribunal in Bristol this week that public money was being spent inappropriately on overseas travel for academic staff and part-time payments for workers already in full-time contracts. She added that Gloucestershire was losing money on courses run in partnership with London-based international colleges.

In 2008-09, the university’s overall deficit was £6.3 million, and the early indications are that it suffered another large deficit in 2009-10.

The university disputed any evidence of unlawful practice during the tribunal hearing, which also heard claims that Paul Bowler, Gloucestershire’s former deputy vice-chancellor, had “plotted a coup” against Patricia Broadfoot, its former vice-chancellor.

Mr Bowler, who left the post in December after a period on suspension, denied the allegation, although he told the tribunal that when the vice-chancellor had asked him whether he thought she should resign, he told her she should.

Professor Broadfoot retired in August.

The tribunal panel upheld the claim lodged by Ms Merrigan, who still works at the university, and ordered Gloucestershire to pay £6,000 in compensation.

Ms Merrigan said: “I am delighted I have won, but most importantly, that my concerns were taken seriously. I never wanted to take my case to an external tribunal, but the internal procedures were flawed and despite my best efforts, the university did not want to hear what I had to say or address my serious concerns over financial flaws.”

A university spokeswoman said that although the tribunal had concluded that Ms Merrigan had suffered “some detriment” a number of “extremely serious” allegations in respect to financial irregularities were “neither upheld nor featured in the verdict”.

She said the university was considering whether to appeal against the decision, adding that “the tribunal cost the public purse over £150,000 at a time of severe cuts to public spending”.

john.gill@tsleducation.com

Readers' comments (3)

  • A summary is available from a public web site at http://www.oldsquare.co.uk/ca/cases/1/?c=1200567 This is a public interest item and suggest staff, in particular, do need to read the full judgement. The Judge of tribunal does make 'suggestions' in respect of certain management behaviour. Yes, I too find the detail of this case quite shocking. The University, as the employer, has a duty of care to its staff and is responsible for the welfare of its students.

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  • Summary now appears on the Bullied Academics blog (www.bulliedacademics.blogspot.con). Nothing like good news to remind everybody of anti-bullying week (15-19 November 2010).

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  • Time moves on. Have the Judge of tribunal recommendations been enacted (see above). If not will they be so by the reported new VC and Chair (and presumably a new Vice Chair)? 'Gloucestershire turns to BIS for new v-c' http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=415341 'Move over dons, administrators now rule, says v-c' http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?storycode=406110 For damage to come to an end, and for people 'to regain pride in the institution', all outstanding matters need to be fully resolved.

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