Thanet council’s deputy chief executive is to leave the authority today (October 15).
The departure of Tim Willis, who oversees the Housing and Planning service, Communications and Digital, Finance and Procurement and leads digital transformation across the council’s services, was discussed by councillors last night (October 15) after a requirement to exclude press and public from the chamber.
Mr Willis has been with the authority since 2015.
In August 2019 he was subject to a shock suspension from his role. No reason was publicly given for the suspension and it provoked an outcry from many councillors.
Mr Willis was reinstated a month later and cleared of all gross misconduct allegations.
That same month Thanet’s head of operations Trevor Kennett left the authority.
This followed his lodging of a grievance naming both chief executive Madeline Homer and Director of Operational Services Gavin Waite in a list of 10 complaints including bullying and harassment.
He then lodged an appeal over the way his grievance was dealt with. The appeal was submitted to Deputy Chief Executive Tim Willis, who had not been involved in the grievance, but he was then suspended from his role.
Mr Willis, 61, is understood to have been carrying out his role away from Thanet council offices, working from Dover council when necessary.
His departure and £280,000 severance pay follows mediated talks with Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee.
The news comes just days after the publication of a report by auditors Grant Thornton which said there have been “a number of interlinked instances of whistleblowing, lodging of formal grievances and disciplinary action including examples of serious allegations made by senior officers without adequate, or in some cases any, supporting evidence.”
The report added: “that people raising grievances and whistleblowing complaints with merit have been “subject to disciplinary action prior to the substance of their complaints being formally considered,” and that “Senior officers’ behaviour was found to fall below the standard expected on a number of occasions.”
The issues have already led to Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee calling in central government to step in to deal with the culture at the council amid on-going disciplinary and grievance proceedings at the authority which have racked up a legal bill of more than £733,000.
Future anticipated/potential costs are split between £78,000 to conclude Thanet council internal processes and £408,000 for external employment tribunals.
There have been complaints and counter complaints involving all four of the top management team – CEO Madeline Homer, Gavin Waite, Mr Willis and monitoring officer Tim Howes, who has been suspended from his post since last December.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Tim Willis, Deputy Chief Executive and Section 151 Officer is to leave the organisation. Tim’s last day will be today (Friday 15 October).
“The council has arrangements in place to ensure that the statutory elements of the S151 role will be covered by the council’s Deputy S151 Officer. As is entirely appropriate to respect confidentiality, we will not be commenting further on internal staffing matters.”
UPDATE_ Council leaderAsh Ashbee said: ““Tim Willis was suspended by the council in August 2019. This should not have happened and on behalf of Thanet District Council, I apologise to him for that. The council’s General Purposes Committee subsequently unanimously dismissed all allegations against Tim Willis. He leaves the employment of the council with a spotless employment record, and I would like to thank him for his service.”