I lodged my final appeal at the beginning of May and a panel of the three was appointed to hear the appeal. The panel members were Geoffrey Claydon, Peter Moore and Richard Sykes. I presented my appeal to the panel late in July in the company of my wife and the financial controller whom I had asked to attend as he was present at the two previous meetings and could confirm detailed facts. I had prepared my case as a written document which I presented and then gave copies to the panel. I received a copy of the panel’s report in mid October.
It was a detailed report with 9 findings and 6 recommendations.
Finding number 2 stated: “ The Board at their meeting on 21 March 2009 did not intend to override existing disciplinary proceedings, but it was not made clear to the curator what course of action he was being authorised to take or how to take it.”
Finding number 3 stated: “The meeting on 24 March 2009 should have been arranged and conducted in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedure, but this was not done either because the curator was not aware of the procedure or did not think it appropriate in the light of the Board discussion. This prevented the various safeguards and options available under the Disciplinary Procedure from being observed.”
Finding number 5 stated: “The failure to adopt the Disciplinary Procedure process did not nullify the appeal proceedings since Mr Lomas accepted the use of the Grievance Procedure at the outset of the appeal.” (The problem is that at the time I was told that there was no alternative. I either accepted the situation or the interview would be terminated and the matter would be closed)
Finding number 8 stated: “Dismissal [of Mr Lomas] was an inappropriate sanction and the DP sanction of formal suspension would have been the correct option, as the curator has acknowledged.”
The report stated then that “the panel feels there were mitigating factors, such as the harshness of the penalty for what was in disciplinary terms a “first offence” and irregularities in the disciplinary process that was followed. These considerations, combined with Mr Lomas’s seemingly considerable enthusiasm to serve in the library, lead the panel to put forward the possibility of Mr Lomas being allowed to work in the library on clearly specified terms at weekends when the staff are unlikely to be present. Waiving of the suspension to this degree should be made conditional on Mr Lomas observing specified terms. This solution obviously has its sensitivities and practicalities which the panel is not best placed to judge, so it invites the Board to remit this proposal to the curator for consideration.”
The report accepted faults on both sides and reduced the penalty from dismissal to suspension. I felt that the door had been opened for a solution of this bitter dispute which would benefit everyone concerned and be in the long term a benefit to the Museum. However I was kept waiting until mid December when Colin Heaton wrote to me with the following bombshell: “The Board have accordingly unanimously decided that the suspension should be permanent.”
For the record the Board members at the time were Ian Dougill, Colin Heaton, Peter Moore, Bob Pennyfather, Karen Rigg, John Shawcross, Richard Sykes, Andrew Willis, Lynda Wright and Malcolm Wright.
So there we have it. I was wrongly dismissed in March, in September the penalty was reduced to suspension but then in December I was banned for life because the curator was not prepared to discuss a compromise and the Board closed ranks.
With the benefit of hindsight I should have insisted that the meeting with Karen was adjourned and taken legal advice on disciplinary procedures. Also it is worrying that my repeated offers to apologise for having given offence were not taken into account.
Finally Karen Rigg called for situations of unacceptable conduct to be dealt with swiftly and fairly in her report at the beginning of May. A decision signed by Colin Heaton on 14th December was hardly swift and I don’t think it was fair.