Council leader issues apology over top officer suspension and chief exec says investigation leads to ‘no action’ recommended against her

Statements have been issued

Thanet council chief executive Madeline Homer has issued a statement to say no action against her has been recommended following an investigation.

The statement comes on the heels of a damning report by auditors Grant Thornton which brands Thanet council’s governance  around whistleblowing, grievances and disciplinary procedures as “inadequate” and highlights the ‘serious breakdown’ of  relationships between the authority’s top four officers as well as listing failures within the council including using disciplinary action against staff who have made complaints.

Complaints and counter complaints involving all four of the top management team – CEO Madeline Homer, Gavin Waite, Tim Willis and monitoring officer Tim Howes – have seen Tim Howes suspended since last December and Tim Willis exit the authority on October 15 with a £280,000 ‘retirement’ package.

Mr Willis’s departure comes after he was subject to a suspension in 2019 but subsequently cleared of all gross misconduct allegations and reinstated a month later.

Mr Willis, 61, is understood to have been carrying out his role away from Thanet council offices, working from Dover council when necessary.

His exit follows mediated talks with Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee.

Cllr Ashbee issued a statement yesterday (October 18) apologising to Mr Willis for the suspension, saying: ““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.”

The report by auditors Grant Thornton says 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.”

Thanet council CEO Madeline Homer said: “The council takes all allegations seriously and investigates them properly in accordance with both the council’s procedures and the duty we have to all staff under employment law.

“Quite rightly those procedures are not under my control and have been looked at independently. Due to the complicated nature of these issues the process has taken some time, however I can confirm that following a thorough investigation there were no actions recommended against me.

“During this time I have successfully led the organisation through the Pandemic, have the support of staff and members and continue to oversee a Council that is delivering a good level of service to the residents of Thanet. Contrary to some of the public commentary, our staff, including the management team, work very well together and are incredibly supportive of each other.

“In respect of the External Auditor’s report, I fully respect the role they carry out and entirely support the four recommendations they have made, but it will be for council to consider and decide on the recommendations on November 2. Like any organisation there will be lessons for us to learn and we want to move forward on that basis and be stronger for it.”

The meeting will take place at the council offices at 7pm. A public protest  calling for the CEO’s resignation has been organised and will take place outside the offices from 6pm.

Damning report lists failures, “bullying,” “allegations without evidence,” and use of disciplinary action against staff raising grievances at Thanet council