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Arbroath Town Mission directors ‘disappointed’ after sacked Wilma Swankie awarded £19k+

wilma swankie
Wilma Swankie.

The board of Arbroath Town Mission has expressed its disappointment following a damning employment tribunal judgement.

The group also said it wanted to draw a line under the matter after sacked former manager Wilma Swankie was awarded £19,298 for unfair dismissal.

The mission said it believed it had acted lawfully but it would not be appealing the decision which was made following a tribunal which lasted more than eight months.

wilma swankie
Wilma Swankie.

However, Miss Swankie’s solicitor Nick Whelan has lodged a fresh complaint with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) questioning whether the directors are fit and proper people to be running a charity.

Miss Swankie, who had been employed at the mission since 1987, took legal action after claiming she was fired in July 2017 for going to the charity regulator and making protected “whistleblowing” disclosures.

She raised concerns with OSCR over the mission’s constitution, following a difference of opinion over membership and voting rights.

Miss Swankie, Arbroath’s Citizen of the Year in 2015, believed the town mission was acting illegally in excluding people from becoming members if they did not regularly attend church.

Nick Whelan.

The judgement said Miss Swankie did “nothing wrong” and her dismissal was “completely unfair”.

It said Arbroath Town Mission had made “a complete mess of things” from “the very beginning” and added that the tribunal did not feel that any of the mission’s three witnesses “were either credible or reliable”.

Arbroath Town Mission.

A spokesman for the mission said the board of directors believed it was acting lawfully and in accordance with the Acas Code of Practice.

“We’re obviously disappointed at the ruling,” he added.

“The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) conducted a full investigation of the changes to the constitution that led to this disagreement and found we had no case to answer.

“We are however glad we can move forward and get on with our important work in the community.”

Derek Marshall.

The judgement said one director Moira Milton “kept changing her evidence” and another, Derek Marshall, “sought to back-track” and “similarly changed his evidence considerably on re-examination”.

It said fellow board member Andrew Inglis “appeared unwilling to answer questions” and when he did “he appeared to give whatever answer he thought would suit”.

Miss Swankie’s solicitor Nick Whelan said he has now referred the matter to OSCR “to ensure they have complied with the legal obligations incumbent upon them”.

He said: “In particular, the tribunal has found that the trustees acted unlawfully with their interpretation of the mission’s constitution that appears to have prevented members from exercising their right to vote at a crucial time for the mission’s future.

“Additionally given the highly critical findings by the tribunal regarding the evidence given under oath by three of the trustees who sought to justify the decision to dismiss my client, I feel it is appropriate these findings are considered by the regulator to determine whether these individuals are meeting their legal obligations to hold such a position.

“I am very concerned that the tribunal found that my client was legally justified in reporting her concerns to the regulators and lost her job as a result of this.”

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