Former charity boss awarded €50,000 for unfair dismissal

WRC rules on case taken by Barbara Flynn against Ataxia Ireland, which is being closed down

 Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

Photograph: Alan Betson / The Irish Times

 

The Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) has found that the former chief executive of the charity Ataxia Ireland, Barbara Flynn, was unfairly dismissed from her post.

WRC adjudication officer Eugene Hanly ordered that Ms Flynn be re-instated to the role and that her outstanding remuneration be paid to her.

Ms Flynn, who took up the role in December 2001, was dismissed for gross misconduct on March 30th last. The amount owed to her was some €43,190, based on her monthly pay of €5,390, and Mr Hanly has also ordered the charity to pay Ms Flynn €9,950 as she was entitled to eight weeks’ notice.

However, it is not clear if Ms Flynn will have a job to return to as Ataxia Ireland told the WRC it is in the process of closing down.

Mr Hanly said Ms Flynn’s dismissal was substantially and procedurally unfair based on the uncontested evidence heard as the charity did not attend the hearing. He said the charity had not discharged the burden of proof and he was obliged to accept the complainant’s evidence.

‘Trust’

Ataxia Ireland was set up in 1980 to support people and families living with Friedreichs Ataxia, a genetic and progressive disorder of the central nervous system .

The charity announced its closure in May of this year stating that it “no longer has the trust of its members or the wider public and this makes fundraising impossible both currently and into the future”.

It was hit by controversy last year after a report by the Charities Regulator uncovered €84,009 in payments to the founders of the charity, former trustees Clare and Tim Creedon, who are Ms Flynn’s parents.

The report also highlighted €38,000 in payments being made to Ms Flynn’s pension fund from charity funds rather than being deducted from her salary.

She was suspended by the charity pending an independent investigation in October of last year. The charity later abandoned the investigation after Ms Flynn started judicial review proceedings.

Misconduct

In February the charity started a fresh investigation into the payments to Ms Flynn’s parents and her pension payments. At the end of March she was informed by the charity in writing that she was being dismissed for gross misconduct as trust had irretrievably broken.

Ms Flynn told the WRC she was not given an opportunity to defend herself or offered the right of appeal. She told the WRC the €38,000 pension over-payment was caused by a software error and she offered to repay the money.

On the payments to her parents, Ms Flynn stated her father received the payments from 2005 to 2015 and her mother from 1990s to 2016.

She stated that the charity was founded by them and run from their home and that these payments were approved by the management committee and received approval from the auditor and Revenue.