Whistleblowers: Liverpool professor wins large settlement

July 4, 2003

Liverpool John Moores University has reversed its decision to sack Lewis Lesley for gross misconduct, after The THES highlighted staff concerns that the disciplinary action was "grotesque and contrived".

It emerged this week that Professor Lesley, a high-profile transport science expert with 25 years' service at the university, will be given voluntary severance and will be recommended for an emeritus professorship. He has now been fully vindicated and it is understood he will receive a five-figure settlement.

The THES reported in May that lecturers' union Natfhe had condemned the sacking. The union said that the university had ignored proper disciplinary procedures and had conducted a "trawl" going back more than ten years to find incriminating material against Professor Lesley for a disciplinary hearing in March this year.

It is understood that among the charges he faced was the claim that he was "impossible to work with". But staff in his school signed a petition insisting that he was not.

It is also understood that one charge related to a series of minor incidents that took place up to ten years ago, which had not been raised as an issue at the time but had remained on his file.

In a newsletter to highlight the issue, which did not name Professor Lesley, Natfhe says the sacking is "disgracefully contrived" and represents a "gross flexing of managerial muscle".

It says: "This brutal sacking effectively tears up the university's disciplinary procedure... Many a lecturer could be trapped if old complaints, which were never exposed... to the scrutiny of the agreed procedure when they were fresh, can be stored in their personnel files and produced as coffin nails to destroy careers years later."

Natfhe also warns that the university breached procedures by vetoing the usual disciplinary stages and moving straight to dismissal.

Neither Professor Lesley, Natfhe nor the university was prepared to comment this week.

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