Saturday 24 February 2018

Senior AIB bank manager denies bullying colleague, court told

A SENIOR manager with Allied Irish Bank (AIB) does not accept that he bullied anyone, despite an internal investigation that upheld 11 complaints of bullying against him, the High Court heard.

John Heapes, AIB's  Head of Commercial Banking with AIB in Galway, denies bullying colleague Sean McHugh (54), who was employed also as a senior manager at the bank.

Mr McHugh, Ballard, Barna, Co Galway, has sued AIB for damages arising out of his alleged treatment by his superior. He claims the bullying commenced in late 2010 and during 2011.

An investigation conducted by AIB upheld 11 complaints of bullying against Mr Heapes, made no decision in respect of four others and dismissed a further nine.

A report into the bullying made several recommendations, which Mr McHugh claims were not implemented.

He further claims that the bullying continued while the matter was under investigation by AIB.

Mr McHugh says he was subject to bullying and harassment by Mr Heapes who was appointed to his position  in October 2010. Mr McHugh says he and other staff were isolated and intimidated by Mr Heapes.

Mr McHugh had originally claimed he was suspended on full pay in September 2012 in retaliation for making the bullying claim against Mr Heapes.

Mr McHugh is prepared to go along with AIB's investigation into allegations against him.

These include that he had a conflict of interest over the sanctioning of loans of up to €100,000 to directors of former League of Ireland team Galway United.

Mr McHugh, who denies any conflict of interest, was the club's Licensing Officer.

He says he held that voluntary position with the full knowledge of AIB, and had no day-to-day involvement with the club's financial management. He says the loans were made for valid reasons and had the approval of his superiors.

On the fourth day of the action,  Mr Heapes denied he had bullied any staff members in Galway.

In reply to Brian O'Moore SC, for AIB, Mr Heapes said he was shocked when 11 complaints of bullying were upheld against him.

He said he was moved to Galway as acting business manager  and had held a similar position in Sligo. No allegation of bullying was made against him during his time in Sligo, he said.

He said he was moved to the business centre in Galway at what was a difficult time for AIB.

There were concerns about the bank's survival. He said as a result of the fall-out from the boom years, changes to rebrand the bank were required.

Some people working in AIB Galway accepted that change was required, others didn't, he said.

Following his appointment, Mr Heapes said, Mr McHugh chose to isolate himself and he denied he had isolated Mr McHugh.

He said during the investigation of the bullying allegations he believed he had given full explanations to all the complaints against him.

While he did not agree with the findings of bullying, he did not appeal them. He wanted to draw a line under the matter and move on.

He was required to undergo a course given by Tom Savage of the Communications Clinic following the investigation.

The case continues.

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