EXCLUSIVE: Council sacked director over 'vexatious and malicious' police report

By Chris Mahony | 20 April 2022

Thanet DC sacked its director of corporate governance and monitoring officer after he submitted ‘vexatious and malicious’ allegations about a senior colleague to the police, The MJ can reveal.

The council approved the recommendation of its investigation and disciplinary sub-committee (IDSC) to dismiss Tim Howes after police found a referral made by him ‘was (or could be perceived as) malicious and vexatious’.

Mr Howes had submitted allegations to the police about his colleague Tim Willis, the council’s then deputy chief executive and section 151 officer who left Thanet with a £280,000 pay out in the autumn after being exonerated.

An independent investigator found Mr Howes’ decision to unilaterally allege to the police that Mr Willis submitted a fraudulent expenses claim was ‘disproportionate, ill judged, inappropriate and unreasonable’.

Police told Thanet in October 2020 that no crime had been committed by Mr Willis.

Officers said the allegations ‘could be construed as vexatious and malicious’ and that Mr Howes’ failure to provide relevant information to investigators seriously undermined his position.

A confidential report to Thanet’s independent persons panel read: ‘The failure to consult colleagues or members adds to the impression that TH was not acting reasonably or exercising the impartial judgement required of a monitoring officer.

‘TH’s actions were obviously wrong and, as monitoring officer, he should have known that they were wrong.

'Throughout the hearing TH demonstrated a complete lack of insight or remorse.

'He continued dogmatically to assert that TW was guilty of a criminal offence in the face of all other professional opinions.

‘It should have been obvious to him, as a responsible monitoring officer exercising professional judgement and acting in the best interests of TDC, that a decision to report another statutory officer to the police (the nuclear option as the independent investigator described it) required proper consultation given the seriousness of such action and its potential impact on the council.’

Despite the findings, Thanet chief executive Madeline Homer insisted she ‘retained trust and confidence’ in Mr Howes and argued against his dismissal or demotion.

The IDSC rejected this, stating the ‘allegations found proved were extremely serious and had the potential to damage significantly the reputation and functioning of TDC’.

Tensions among the council’s management previously prompted external auditor Grant Thornton to issue a rare Section 24 notice voicing ‘serious concerns about the ability of senior officers to work together’.

There had been complaints and counter-complaints involving all four of the council’s most senior officers, leaving Thanet with legal costs of more than £700,000.

Ms Homer previously claimed the council’s management team worked ‘very well together and are incredibly supportive of each other’.

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