Charity boss slammed for an ‘insulting’ attempt to mislead a judge at tribunal

Councilor Angie Wilcox
Councilor Angie Wilcox

AN employment judge has slammed an under-fire councillor for her “dishonest” attempts to mislead him with a botched-up effort to review the initial outcome of a tribunal.

Employment judge Andrew Buchanan said he was insulted by Councillor Angie Wilcox’s attempt to falsely show Manor Residents’ Association had responded to legal proceedings brought about by a former cleaner at the charity.

But Judge Buchanan saw through Coun Wilcox’s efforts to mislead him - as she claimed a response had been sent in the post 12 days before the deadline - and upheld his initial decision for the charity to pay nearly £9,000 to Lynda Gooding.

Mrs Gooding, 56, wept with joy and relief after the outcome of yesterday’s review at Teesside Magistrates’ Court, where Judge Buchanan labelled Coun Wilcox’s evidence as “tainted with dishonesty”.

Mrs Gooding was awarded £8,805 in April this year after a tribunal heard the 56-year-old worked 37 hours a week for the charity for just £5.40 an hour - under the national minimum wage of £6.19 per hour – and for the last seven weeks in the job received her wages either late or not at all.

During her 32 months in employment at the charity from February 2010 to December last year Mrs Gooding says she never once saw a contract of employment and the last payslip she received was in May 2010.

Coun Wilcox, a labour councillor who represents the Manor House ward, presented two contracts of employment in court yesterday with Mrs Gooding’s signature on.

But Mrs Gooding claimed the documents to be false and said she never signed any contract of employment.

The mum-of-three and grandmother-of-seven said: “I know the seriousness of my allegations but I have never in my life had a contract of employment at Manor Residents Association and I believe these documents to be false.”

The charity had until March 7 to respond to Mrs Gooding’s claims ahead of a tribunal but a letter wasn’t received by the tribunal service until March 8.

Coun Wilcox claimed that the charity had responded to Mrs Gooding’s claims for unfair dismissal by post and said she had confirmation of when a letter was sent rejecting Mrs Gooding’s application.

But Judge Buchanan said an entry into a ‘postbook’ - used by staff at the charity to record all sent post - was a “dishonest entry” after he spotted a glaring error.

Coun Wilcox had incorrectly wrote into the book that the letter was sent on February 23, 2012 instead of 2013 as she attempted to deliberately cover the charity’s tracks.

But the envelope in which the letter arrived at the court on March 8 shows the response wasn’t in fact sent until March 6 by second class post.

Judge Buchanan said: “It is plain to me that this letter which purports to show that this letter was sent on February 23 is a false entry.

“It is an entry which was made to mislead me. It is a false entry.”

Judge Buchanan said it was an “insulting attempt” to mislead him.

After the tribunal, Mrs Gooding told the Mail: “I just feel so relieved, it’s dragged on for the last seven months and I haven’t been able to sleep and barely been able to eat.

“I’m shocked by the way Coun Wilcox has acted, I loved my job there and the last thing I wanted was for the charity to get dragged through this but I wasn’t going to be treated like that.”

Coun Wilcox said: “I’m disappointed because I didn’t do anything to mislead anybody.

“We have followed the process but we have never been through a tribunal before and I think it’s a bit of naivety on our part.”

Asked when she accepts Judge Buchanan’s criticism, she said: “I don’t accept it but I can see where he’s coming from.”