“It was about winning and clearing my name” Ex parish council clerk wins fight for wrongful dismissal
11:09 21 February 2013
© Archant Norfolk 2013
A former north Norfolk parish council clerk says she has cleared her name after winning an employment tribunal for unfair and wrongful dismissal.
The tribunal found that Sandra Craske, who was clerk of Briston Parish Council for 23 years, was not guilty of gross misconduct and the council had not followed correct procedure in dismissing her.
But her compensation was significantly reduced after the judge found she had contributed to her situation.
The judge did not order that Mrs Craske, 54, be reinstated.
Mrs Craske, who was awarded £2,500 in compensation at the employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, had said she was willing to accept £26,000 if the council chose not to defend its position.
Mrs Craske was suspended from the parish council at Briston, near Fakenham, in July 2011 and later sacked.
The council compiled a list of things that she was alleged to have done. These included using council headed paper for her own use, not keeping a rational filing system and failing to prepare minutes or external accounts correctly.
The council also alleged that Mrs Craske behaved in a way that would cause councillors to lose trust and confidence in her ability to work for them.
The council said Mrs Craske walked out of a parish council meeting without explanation following a row with a councillor, was abusive to council members, swore at council chairman Tony Serne and posted inappropriate comments on Facebook.
But the judge found Mrs Craske was unfairly and wrongly dismissed.
Her compensation was reduced by 40pc in accordance with sections 122(2) and 123 (6) of the Employment Rights Act 1996 – which means the judge found her actions had contributed to her own situation.
Back home, Mrs Craske told the EDP: “The money is not important. It was about winning and clearing my name. There were rumours around the village I’d been involved in some sort of embezzlement, which was clearly not the case.”
Mrs Craske believes she was sacked because of personal disputes between herself and some members of the council – in particular Mr Serne.
She said: “I want my job back but I’ve been told that is not likely to happen.
“I think it is only fair that I do get it back and I think I could still do the job well. I’ve been amazed by the amount of support I’ve had from the local community and I want to thank everyone for that.”
The tribunal process has cost the council several thousand pounds. The money will come from the council precept.
Mr Serne said the exact figure was not yet known but it was expected to be made public at the council’s meeting on March 4.
He said: “The judge did not rule that we were wrong to dismiss Mrs Craske but that we did not follow the correct procedure. Mrs Craske takes all the council’s actions regarding her to be personal attacks from me.
“She kept making standards boards complaints against myself and other councillors when the council was attempting to go through the disciplinary process and this made that process extremely difficult.
“At the point of going to tribunal the council knew it had unfairly dismissed Mrs Craske but it had a responsibility to resist the claim because otherwise she could have gone ahead with it uncontested and would have received a lot more money.”
He added: “I do not see reinstatement as a viable option. One parishioner has expressed concerns they wish to raise at the next meeting relating to Mrs Craske.
“These will be dealt with but, after that, as far as I’m concerned, the matter is over. The council has to move on and focus its energies on working for the good of the village.”
But Mrs Craske said: “The matter is far from over. Anyone who thinks that does not know me well at all.”
The EDP has previously reported how in 2011 Mrs Craske’s husband, Kevin, who is a Briston parish councillor, was carried out of a council meeting while still sitting in his chair after refusing to leave following a disagreement with Mr Serne.