Thanet council’s monitoring officer Tim Howes has been dismissed from his role with immediate effect following a ‘behind closed doors’ extraordinary council meeting last night (April 5).
Mr Howes has been absent from the authority since the end of 2020 although a reason for his suspension was not made public.
In January 2021 a meeting of the General Purposes Investigations & Disciplinary Sub-Committee was held. The function of this committee is to “ consider allegations/issues regarding disciplinary matters” and “suspensions” that may relate to top tier management.
A letter sent to council staff in February 2021 confirmed the suspension.
It is understood the issue was connected to an ‘unsubstantiated’ report made to Kent Police.
Mr Howes, who had been at TDC since 2015, is the second senior management team officer to leave the authority in the past six months.
Last October Thanet council’s deputy chief executive Tim Willis left his role with £280,000 severance pay following mediated talks with Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee. An apology over his suspension was publicly made by Cllr Ashbee following Mr Willis’ departure, iterating that he left with a “spotless record.”
The same month as Mr Willis left his job in the agreed ‘redundancy’ a report by auditors Grant Thornton said there had 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 led to Thanet council leader Ash Ashbee calling on central government to step in to deal with the culture at the council amid on-going disciplinary and grievance proceedings at the authority. The request was not granted but an independent monitoring officer is working at TDC to bring outstanding complaints to a conclusion; finding savings for further grievance and whistleblowing costs and create clear agreement on officer and member responsibilities.
There have been complaints and counter complaints involving all four of the top management team – CEO Madeline Homer, Gavin Waite and now ex-employees Mr Willis and Mr Howes.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Last night’s council meeting was a closed session and we cannot comment on confidential internal staffing matters.”