My attention has been drawn to Minutes of Brent's Audit Committee which give further infromation on Cara Davani's 'pay-off' from the Council. The Minutes do not explain why no disciplinary action was taken against her in 2014 after the Employment Tribunal and why (and by whom) a decision was made in May 2015 to seek legal advice on ending her employment with Brent Council.
Extract from minutes of Brent Council’s Audit Committee meeting held on 30 June 2016 (item 7 – Draft Statement of Accounts, 2015/16)
‘The Chair drew attention to note 30 of the draft accounts, which appeared on page 56 of the printed agenda, and asked officers to clarify the process by which the exit payment to the former HR Director had been agreed, as this was known to be a matter of interest to some members of the public.
Conrad Hall explained firstly that the Council acknowledged that the entire sequence of events reflected poorly on the Council. He added that the Council was not required to publish the figure, but had chosen to do so. Technically under regulations the note was only required to disclose the remuneration of the Chief Executive, officers reporting directly to the Chief Executive and statutory officers. The Council’s former HR Director met none of these criteria in 2015/16, the year of account. Nonetheless, officers had decided to publish the figure because of the known interest in it, which was felt outweighed the statutory obligations.
In terms of process, Conrad Hall explained that in May 2015 advice had been sought from a leading QC specialising in employment law. The QC had been recommended by the Council’s Monitoring Officer from a framework contract operated by the London boroughs legal alliance. His advice, in conference, had in summary been that the Council lacked good grounds to conduct a fair dismissal of the Council’s former HR Director for a variety of reasons, and had it attempted to do so it was likely to have been found to have acted unfairly by an Employment Tribunal. Conrad Hall further advised that had such a course of action been attempted then the Council had been notified that a substantial claim would have been submitted by the former HR Director and that under those circumstances the decision had been taken to seek to settle matters by way of a compromise agreement. Conrad Hall added that the terms of the final settlement, essentially one year’s salary plus notice, (which were broadly similar to payments to some other senior managers) had been notified to the external auditor. Whilst the auditor was not required legally to ‘sign-off’ such payments, he nonetheless had the power to intervene in cases where he felt the Council was acting inappropriately, for example if he considered the payment excessive. Phil Johnson confirmed this and that he had chosen not to exercise his powers to intervene. Conrad Hall concluded that the terms of the settlement had therefore been negotiated bearing the commercial considerations in mind. In response to a question from a member of the committee, Conrad Hall confirmed that the Council’s former HR Director had not been subject to disciplinary or capability proceedings, which would have been a decision of her then line manager.
Members asked why the situation had reached the point it had and further enquired of the process followed. The Chief Executive explained the circumstances at the time and pointed out the improvements that had since been made to the HR procedures concerned, as referenced in the Annual Governance Statement reported under item 9 on the agenda. The Chair suggested that consideration be given to what information could be made available on this matter that would provide a time line and demonstrate to members how lessons learnt had led to new improved procedures being introduced.’