Governor in 'witch-hunt' claim

13th April 2001 at 01:00
A GOVERNOR has lodged a formal complaint claiming he has been subjected to a "witch hunt" for failing to support the sacking of a principal.

Bill Dickinson, of Blackpool Sixth Form College, claims his colleagues have been attempting to stop him speaking to the press, excluding him from meetings, failing to provide him with minutes and attempting to remove him from the board.

His complaint to the Department for Education and Employment is against the corporation and its chairman John McGlynn, a Blackpool property developer.

It follows the college's dismissal of principal Chris Fulford for having an "inappropriate relationship" with an ex-student, which she denies, and allegations of financial irregularities, which he intends to contest at an employment tribunal on August 28.

The student wrote to the college, before the dismissal, protesting that Mr Fulford had merely been providing her with support after she was diagnosed as having a brain tumour.

Documents seen by The TES show the governors had been planning before Christmas to act against Mr Dickinson. Minutes from a special meeting on December 21 described him as being "like a wild cannon". They continued:

"Mr McGlynn said he felt all governors knew we had a problem with Mr Dickinson . . . we need to address that issue once the Fulford problem is ended."

Mr Dickinson claims he was unlawfully excluded from a governors' meeting on February 15 and told that he would not be allowed to attend governors' discussions about the former principal.

In a letter to the DFEE, he said: "As a result of not conforming to the party line in the quest to remove Mr Fulford, I have become the subject of a witch hunt."

Minutes from the college's administration and finance committee on Januar 29 show the board was planning to "tighten" procedures to stop governors speaking to the press and to introduce a rule making it easier to remove governors for non-attendance at meetings.

"All I have been trying to do," said Mr Dickinson, "is to ensure proper procedures have been followed. My advice about procedure has been disregarded. The fact that they also disregarded the letter from the student and described it is 'not holding water' beggars belief. Students were told that the principal's door is always open but perhaps they weren't told that, if they walked through it, they might be accused of having an inappropriate relationship with him."

Mr McGlynn insists proper procedures have been followed over Mr Fulford's dismissal and says the college is entitled to take action against governors who make unauthorised statements to the press. "The last three of four meetings," said Mr McGlynn, "have taken place without him because of his other commitments. We have concerns about Mr Dickinson's frequent public comments about the work of the governing body."

The college was contacted by the Further Education Funding Council shortly before the sector was taken over by the Learning and Skills Council at the end of last month but Mr McGlynn claims he was able to reassure chief executive David Melville's office that the college was acting properly.

The learning and skills council for Blackpool, which now funds the college, says it is aware of the controversy only through press reports and has not raised it with governors. The college has been attempting to settle with Mr Fulford through its solicitors, Eversheds.

It is understood the student is considering making a separate complaint about the college's failure to respond to her letter.

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