Former Dairygold chief looks for €8m in damages
Counsel says client’s employment terminated for ‘spurious’ reasons related to monies owed
Mr Henchy had said on January 16th, 2009, he would pay some €40,000 and was awaiting a tax rebate of some €150,000 from which he hoped to clear the account. He was told then the problem about the account was not with the co-op’s auditors but with Vincent Buckley, who “would not let go” of the issue and held on to it “like a dog with a bone”, counsel said.
While it may be legitimate to raise concerns about the account, that was not done before this, he argued.
Mr Buckley had said that, unless the €159,000 was paid on January 19th, he would go to the board about it, counsel said. Mr Henchy said this was inappropriate and disastrous given the existence of more pressing issues, including the sale of Breeo Foods to Kerrygold which was at a delicate stage and involved disagreements between the boards of Dairygold and Reox.
At the board meeting, Mr Henchy had affirmed his commitment to clear the account before leaving the board to discuss the matter and the account was later cleared after Mr Henchy negotiated a bank loan, counsel outlined. Mr Henchy was “mystified” to have learned Mr Buckley told the board the account had become an audit issue for 2008, as he had never been told that.
It was not until January 21st, 2009, when he was asked to meet Mr Buckley and Mr O’Leary in a Cork hotel, that “the penny dropped” with Mr Henchy that his employment was at risk, counsel said. He later realised the decision to terminate his employment was “all but made” on January 19th and the hotel meeting was to try and get him to resign voluntarily before they sacked him.
Mr O’Leary had told Mr Henchy he was a “big boy” who always said he would prefer to avoid “a slow death”, counsel said.
Dairygold contended Reox was Mr Henchy’s employer after 2006 but, “whatever way you look at it”, Dairygold controlled Mr Henchy’s s employment, counsel said.
In its defence, Dairygold denies Mr Henchy’s claims, including that he was subject to an orchestrated campaign to procure his dismissal. It has also advanced several pleas concerning his contracts of employments, including that his contract of employment was transferred in June 2006 to Reox which, it is claimed, from then on regulated his employment.
It is denied Mr Henchy was chief executive or an employee of Dairygold after June 1st, 2006, and it is pleaded he was employed by and acted as chief executive for Reox.
The case is listed to last four weeks before Mr Justice Daniel Herbert.