The former Scottish Borders Council manager who won damages of £56,581 from the local authority has said the whole experience left a “catastrophic” black mark on his career.
Anthony Carson, 51, who was sacked from his £44k a year job as regulatory services manager in December 2016, maintains that the allegations against him of office bullying and micromanagement were untrue.
After his appeal to the council failed, he took the authority to an employment tribunal.
And while the tribunal’s judge, Ian McFatridge, did not go as far as to clear Mr Carson of wrong-doing, he slammed the council for their handling of the situation as “woefully inadequate”.
Mr Carson, from Hawick, told us: “You can imagine the stress and anxiety me and my family have been put through during this process.
“My mother and father are still alive, and it has been an extremely challenging time for them and my partner.
“My partner and I were thinking of starting a family when all this began, but with the uncertainty of it all, it had to be put on a back burner.
“But such a clear statement from the judge vindicates the stance we have taken throughout.
“When you lose your job in the Borders, it’s not something you can easily rectify.
“I have had a career of 27 years in public service, and this process has had a catastrophic effect on that.”
Mr Carson, who is now a director of an environental consultancy, is in the process of setting up a kilt-making business.
He said: “I think that is one of the few things I have taken from this process. Life is short, so you really should spend it doing the things you love doing.”
He added: “The only reason I managed to get through this appeal process is through the support of Unison, especially Janet Stewart, the regional organiser.”
In a statement today, Tracey Logan, chief executive of the council, insisted sacking Mr Carson was the correct one, and that she believed the council did follow it’s own “rigorous procedures” throughout the process.
She also talked of “factual inaccuracies” in the judgement and said the language used was “unnecessarily personal and emotive”.
She told The Southern: “Notwithstanding the decision of the employment judge, we are content that the decision to dismiss Mr Carson was the correct one for our organisation. This decision was also upheld by the appeals committee.
“While acknowledging that there are lessons to be learned from the judgement, we believe there are a number of factual inaccuracies within the judgement and the language used is, in many parts, unnecessarily personal and emotive. We are taking advice on the possibility of an appeal and will provide feedback to the employment tribunal service on the language used in the judgement.”
Ms Logan said that the council would continue to have a “zero-tolerance approach to bullying behaviour” and claimed that history had shown there were “no flaws” in its procedures for handling this.
She said: “As an employer of over 5,500 employees, it is unfortunately inevitable that there will be instances when investigation and disciplinary action is required into allegations raised by staff concerning bullying and intimidation by management. The council has a duty of care to thoroughly investigate such allegations and we have a zero tolerance approach to bullying behaviours.
“We pride ourselves on dealing with these matters fairly and thoroughly, using rigorous procedures agreed with the recognised Trades Unions. We believe we followed agreed process in this case.
“In the last six years, 18 employment tribunal claims have been brought against the council, including that of Mr Carson. Of the other claims, one was settled, five were withdrawn by the claimant before a hearing and 11 resulted in judgements in the council’s favour.
“It is therefore extremely disappointing to see the comments from Unison, as clearly the council’s record demonstrates that there is no fundamental flaw in the process that the council has in place. However, lessons can always be learnt, and we will look at the judgement in full and reflect on where any improvements to the process can be made.
“I have already agreed to meet Unison and hope that we can go forward in a constructive manner.”
Janet Stewart, the regional organiser for Unison said: “I have worked with Scottish Borders Council for seven years. Anthony’s case was being handled terribly and I did everything I could to stop what was happening. There was complete ineptitude from the very start of the process and arrogance on the behalf of the investigating officers
“I have since contacted Tracey to see how we move on from this, but her reply was disappointing at best. She said merely that the decision to dismiss Anthony was the right one.
“I’m not really sure how we go forward with this.”