'Supervisor hid recorder in flower pot at meeting'
Published 18/06/2015 | 02:30
A community education group fired a supervisor after finding that she secretly 'bugged' a board meeting by placing a recorder in a flower basket.
Limerick-based St Mary's Community Adult Education Group Ltd sacked Community Employment (CE) Supervisor Mary Donnelly after concluding that Ms Donnelly placed the recorder in the flower basket.
Ms Donnelly brought an unfair dismissal action against the group to the Employment Appeals Tribunal (EAT). It found, in a majority ruling, that Ms Donnelly was not unfairly dismissed but that she was entitled to outstanding holiday pay of €1,545.
The board of the adult education group was meeting on March 26 2013 to discuss a separate disciplinary issue relating to Ms Donnelly's work.
However, the device recorded less than two minutes of the meeting before it was discovered by a VEC teacher, identified as EM, after she removed an A4 sheet of paper that was covering the recorder.
The device was taken to the gardaí.
Ms Donnelly was suspended on April 4 2013 with pay and told there would be a disciplinary meeting, where a decision was taken to dismiss her.
At the EAT hearing held over three days in February and April of this year, a director of the centre, known as BT, said he was "quite shocked" that such a device was in the basket.
He said that EM was "visibly shaking and very upset" after discovering the recorder and he assumed that "the device had been part of an attempt to elicit information from the Board meeting".
EM told the hearing that she saw Ms Donnelly enter the room with the flower basket holding it close to her in a deliberate and controlled way and place it in an area where there were decommissioned computers.
In her evidence, Ms Donnelly said that she never put a recording device in the basket and that she had no motive. She said that she was unaware of any meeting scheduled to take place, but admitted she had problems with two of the directors on the board and this had been going on for five years.
In its determination, the EAT noted that there was a conflict of evidence in the case.
It found that "not one person witnessed the placing of a recording device in the basket in the computer room but on the balance of probability the tribunal is satisfied that the device was placed there by the claimant".