Man awarded £100,000 compensation after unfair dismissal by Camden Council

Camden Town Hall.

Following the unfair dismissal of a council employee, an employment tribunal has ordered Camden Council to pay the street lighting and drainage manager over £100,000 in compensation.

A lump sum of £100,618 was awarded to Mr J  Thornhill in lieu the wages he would have received had he remained employed. 

Mr. Thornhill was fired for misconduct in 2017 following a tendering contract scandal where he was asked to lower the contract prices so they would suit the council’s budget. 

This led a competing bidder, FM Conway, to take legal action forcing Camden Council to pay out over £2.4 million to them.

Following an investigation into the process, Mr. Thornhill was found to mishandled commercial information that impacted on the tender. 

Employment tribunal judge Kimbra Welch, however, said the council’s investigation led by chief executive Mike Cook was “seriously flawed” adding that: “There is no evidence the claimant would have been dismissed if a fair procedure had been followed.”

Prior to his dismissal, Mr. Thornhill had been employed by the council for 37 years.

The lawyer conducting the investigation only provided minutes for two of the five meetings with Mr. Thornhill which were so redacted “as to be meaningless,” according to the judge. 

The audit report also lacked key information, such as the fact that Mr. Thornhill had asked to be excused from the tendering process panel due to family issues.

Mr. Thornhill was dismissed in absentia although he had made clear he would be unable to attend.

Criticising the council’s investigation, the judge Kimbra Welch stated: “No one ever identified to the Claimant that he was himself being investigated for dishonesty or fraud.” 

This meant that by the time of the disciplinary hearing (around 2 years after the event), Mr. Thornhill was unwell and too poorly respond to the allegations made at it – allegations which could have been put to him far earlier.

The judge was scathing of the council, stating:“A reasonable employer would have concluded that there was insufficient evidence of dishonesty and insufficient evidence of gross misconduct.”. 

Mr. Thornhill told the Camden New Journal the whole process  “had destroyed his life”, with legal bills amounting to around £50,000. 

At the time, the Council told the Camden New Journal that it was disappointed with the outcome of the hearing and was considering whether or not to appeal, adding that it believed disciplinary action against Mr. Thornhill and others involved in the bidding scandal was appropriate.

When asked by the Citizen to comment now on the new remedy judgement, Camden Council responded with a statement that said: “This was a very serious matter and we have thoroughly considered and acted upon the judgment.

“While we have always prided ourselves on our practices and procedures we of course accept that in this case we got it wrong.

“We have therefore conducted a thorough review of our processes and systems, making changes to our procedures and putting in place new training for managers.”