John Sizer, chief executive of the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council, has avoided giving evidence to an industrial tribunal on his investigation into mismanagement at Glasgow Caledonian University.
The Glasgow tribunal is hearing an unfair dismissal claim by GCU's former principal, Stan Mason. It had granted a witness order for Professor Sizer to give evidence on his report, which found Dr Mason had abused his authority and misused public funds. But in a move believed to be unprecedented, Professor Sizer sent James Peoples QC to make submissions that were heard in private and resulted in the witness order being revoked.
Ken Macaldowie, vice chair of GCU's court, told the tribunal that Professor Sizer had "improperly" suggested before his report was finished that Dr Mason should be given no money.
Dr Mason gave up his post in May 1997 and was sacked for gross misconduct in September. Dr Macaldowie said court convener Malcolm Campbell had contacted Professor Sizer in June, saying the university was having to pay the former principal Pounds 10,000 a month, and asking when the report would be complete. Dr Macaldowie had then met Professor Sizer informally.
"He said there was to be no cash to be paid to Dr Mason. I said he will receive what he is entitled to by his contract, and as we had no evidence as to his wrongdoing up till now, I could not comment further."
Cross-examined by Dr Mason's solicitor, Alistair Cockburn, Dr Macaldowie said: "I thought Professor Sizer's comments to me were totally improper."
Court members had initially supported Dr Mason, but following "vibes" from an internal inquiry, it was suggested to Dr Mason that he consider early retirement. "He didn't accept what we were saying," Dr Macaldowie said. "He said he had done nothing wrong."
Court members had been shocked by the inquiry's findings that Dr Mason had interfered in appointments procedures. When he did not resign, he was dismissed. The tribunal continues.