Friday 22 September 2017

State worker 'forced out' of job over emails to TDs

Mark O'Regan

Mark O'Regan

AN employee was effectively "drummed out" of a state agency after he circulated "disparaging" emails about its CEO and his "penthouse office" to a number of TDs.

John Flanagan, a married father of three from Clontarf in Dublin, started his career at the National Educational Welfare Board (NEWB) when it was established in 2002.

One year later, he was promoted to senior educational welfare officer, an employment appeals tribunal in Dublin heard yesterday.

NEWB, which allows parents to home-educate their children, registers children as home-schoolers and ensures they are being educated.

In February 2010, Mr Flanagan emailed "numerous" Oireachtas members from his private email address, criticising then CEO, Eddie Ward, and the running of the organisation.

The tribunal heard the email made allegations of waste of public funding, serious mismanagement and abuse of power in the statutory body.

He claimed Mr Ward's management style had created a "powerlessness" within the organisation, "poor morale" and "dissatisfied staff".

He also accused management of "disempowering its employees and managers to allow Mr Ward dominate proceedings from his penthouse office".

"The NEWB is a public service owned by the State and is not a personal fiefdom without accountability," he added.

Mr Flanagan insisted he had issued the emails "in the public interest, as an alert".

In the same month the NEWB chairperson wrote to Mr Flanagan and said the 54-year-old had "impugned" the integrity and reputation of Mr Ward and the board by making "factually incorrect statements".

He asked Mr Flanagan to apologise to Mr Ward, withdraw the email's contents and send a copy of the apology to recipients of the original email.

Instead, in the same month, Mr Flanagan said he felt "pressured" to send a second email to a "large group" of Oireachtas members in which he sought to "justify his statements made in the first email by providing examples".

In doing so, he showed complete disregard for the chairperson and the board and "put into the public domain further false, inaccurate and misleading statements", the tribunal heard.

In October 2010, Mr Flanagan wrote to then-Taoiseach Brian Cowen describing how the matter had caused him "extreme psychological distress". He said he had been "drummed out of the NEWB for whistleblowing."

Mr Flanagan, who is currently unemployed, claims he was unfairly dismissed in September 2011.

The hearing resumes today.

Irish Independent

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