THE head of Keele University's only 5-star rated research department has been sacked for gross misconduct.
Peter Rolfe, head of Keele's hospital-based bioengineering and medical physics department, was dismissed last October after a disciplinary hearing into allegations linked to the setting up of an "inappropriate financial account".
Two other people have also lost their jobs over the issue.
Professor Rolfe is claiming unfair dismissal and has taken his case to an industrial tribunal with the support of his union, MSF. An industrial tribunal official said the hearing could take place as early as mid-February.
Professor Rolfe was employed by North Staffordshire Hospital Trust, like most of Keele's postgraduate medicine teaching staff, but held an unpaid titular appointment within the university. He has also lodged an appeal against his dismissal with the trust. This appeal is due to be heard next Thursday by senior lay directors.
Minutes of an audit committee meeting of the hospital trust, which were approved at a public meeting of the trust on Tuesday, confirm that Professor Rolfe and another employee were dismissed and that another subsequently resigned. The minutes go on to state that the hospital's internal auditor had met with police at Keele to try to identify "ownership of funds", and that this was "proving difficult". The internal auditor was asked to "undertake a joint audit of the trust and Keele to ensure that all the issues had been covered."
Hugh Jones-Glass, the MSF official representing Professor Rolfe, has said that Professor Rolfe feels very aggrieved because he alerted the university to the problem, but he "has been made to suffer for going through all the correct procedures". He added: "At the tribunal we will seek full reinstatement plus his salary due from the date he was dismissed."
He said Professor Rolfe's application to the industrial tribunal will proceed only if his dismissal by the hospital is not overturned at an appeal hearing on January 22.
A spokesperson for Keele said: "The university is cooperating with the related internal investigations of the trust and of the police. We have taken our own internal investigations as far as we are able at this stage. However, the trust has been legally advised to await the outcome of the appeal before releasing information which will enable us to complete our own enquiries.
"A joint audit of the trust and Keele will be done to ensure that all issues arising from this matter have been covered. Further comment would not be appropriate at this stage bearing in mind that the case is still under formal consideration."
The hospital trust said it would only comment after all proceedings had finished.