Hartlepool highways inspector takes council to court over sacking for 'gross misconduct'
A long-serving council highways inspector has taken his former bosses to court after he was sacked over claims of gross misconduct.
John Carroll is claiming unfair dismissal against Hartlepool Borough Council at an employment tribunal after he was sacked following 20 years service.
It was after council chiefs questioned how he was spending his time while at work over a three week period in October 2018.
The council began an investigation after a council worker claimed Mr Carroll had carried out an inspection of one road while in his van instead of on foot.
Council officer Sarah Scarr, who led the investigation, said it highlighted other issues including the low amount of work recorded by him on some days, the amount of time spent in certain locations and returning to some locations multiple times.
But Mr Carroll claims his dismissal was unfair and through his solicitor said bosses had never raised any concerns about how he did his job in 20 years.
He was one of two highways inspectors along with his son Mark Carroll. His job entailed carrying out checks of roads and pavements across the town and identifying if they needed to be passed on to the repairs team.
Ms Sacrr said on one day Mr Carroll recorded details of just one check on a system called Confirm.
But Sam Healy, representing Mr Carroll, suggested not all checks had to be recorded on the system especially if there was nothing to action.
He said: “You can’t rely on Confirm as an accurate reflection of his job and work on one particular day.”
Ms Scarr said it was her understanding all checks should be recorded and said she also looked at the movements of Mr Carroll’s van, call and email logs and from speaking to Mr Carroll and his own written records.
The tribunal heard Mr Carroll sometimes recorded details on the system the following day and his solicitor gave an example.
Mr Healy said Mr Carroll could be called to different areas of the town at short notice and while on the job would follow up on concerns raised with him by members of the public.
“That doesn’t sound like gross misconduct,” said Mr Healy.
Ms Scarr conceded that may be acceptable but added: “The pattern that was apparent was that Mr Carroll was travelling from one side of town to another but then there was periods when he was parked up and there was no explanation for why he was in that part of town.”
Mr Healy described the van as Mr Carroll’s ‘mobile office’ and spent all the working day in it.
Ms Scarr accepted that the highways officers had a ‘degree of autonomy’ about how they worked.
The tribunal at Teesside Justice Centre in Middlesbrough is expected to last at least three days.