Sacked professor settles out of court

March 11, 2005

A senior academic who helped the Charity Commission investigate mismanagement at the European Business School has won an out-of-court payment to settle his claim that he was victimised after raising the alarm.

Gerald Vinten, who was head of business at London education charity EBS, was due to allege at an employment tribunal later this year that he was victimised and to claim unfair dismissal under the law to protect whistleblowers.

But The Times Higher learnt this week that the case has been settled out of court. Professor Vinten is understood to have received a high five-figure sum from EBS, but he has signed a gagging clause as part of the deal and cannot discuss the case.

The Times Higher reported in February 2004 that the Charity Commission was investigating the payment, for services, of millions of pounds by EBS and its sister charity, Regent's College, to companies owned by its former president, Gillian Payne.

The Charity Commission opened a formal investigation into the two charities in October 2002. Although it has confirmed that it officially closed the inquiry in February 2004, it has still not made public its report on the case.

Charity Commission documents obtained by The Times Higher this week show that the commission deemed it "unacceptable" that Ms Payne, who had financial interests in contracts with the charities, had the power to remove and appoint trustees. It has also been examining other "very complicated" issues.

Professor Vinten, a specialist in internal audit, had been instrumental in assisting the Charity Commission's investigations. In his employment tribunal claim, he says that in January 2003 he was persuaded by Eric de la Croix, the chair of trustees, to "blow the whistle to the Charity Commission".

In April of that year, he was suspended on full pay for allegedly "revealing confidential information" at staff meetings, although this came to nothing. But he was subsequently selected for redundancy.

The official note from Professor Vinten's appeal against redundancy, obtained by The Times Higher , shows that his union representative, John Allen, had stated that the redundancy process appeared to have been inadequate and did not conform to legislative requirements.

A spokesman for the trustees said: "(ProfessorJVinten's) redundancy was not linked to theJcontact he had with the Charity Commission and resulted from aJgenuine restructuring of EBSET... Professor Vinten was not subject to any disciplinary process concerning his contact with the commission. The trustees of EBSET decided to offer Professor Vinten a settlement after considering... the likelihood of unrecoverable costs involved in defending the claim."

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