A city council assistant classified as a "gold digger" after establishing a personal relationship with an elderly, married city councilor and later firing her won an unjustified dismissal petition.
Relations between the four staff members on Barnard Castle, County Durham Town Council cooled after it was discovered that staff member Jane Woodward had gone on vacation with then alderman Roger Peat – his wife Rosemary in a nursing home with Alzheimer's disease was.
Ms. Peat died in October 2020, Mr. Peat, who is over 60 years old, resigned from the council in May 2019, and Ms. Woodward, who is over 40 years old, was fired later that year.
She later took the small community, which had only 12 councilors, before a labor tribunal.
In a lengthy written verdict following a six-day video link hearing, Labor Judge Seamus Sweeney found that then Mayoress Sandra Moorhouse had viewed Ms. Woodward as "something of a femme fatale."
Relations between the four members of the Barnard Castle Councilor in Durham cooled after it was discovered that Jane Woodward (pictured) had gone on vacation with then-Councilor Roger Peat
He said, “It was this sense of moral indignation that would mean the final doom of the applicant.
The applicant said in … her statement: "My private and personal relationship with Councilor Peat is at the heart of this whole case." Do we agree? & # 39;
As evidence, Ms. Moorhouse said, "People made comments like," Oh, I see the gold digger has a sugar daddy.
The judge remarked, "While this was a comment that Moorhouse Councilor made about her, we conclude that this was indeed a view of the applicant that was also shared by her."
The tribunal heard that then Mayoress Sandra Moorhouse had viewed Ms. Woodward as "something of a femme fatale".
Ms. Moorhouse recalled a meeting in the council offices about the ongoing relationship and told the tribunal she heard Ms. Woodward's high heels cross a room.
The judge said the reference to high heels was derogatory.
The tribunal found that there was malaise in 2018 when Mr Peat and Mrs Woodward went on vacation with their children while his sick wife was living in a nursing home.
Ms. Woodward was known to her employers to suffer from anxiety and depression, and she was the subject of gossip, the Tribunal heard.
Anonymous letters strongly disapproving of her relationship with Mr. Peat were sent to the council and investigated by police.
The judge of the tribunal stated: “It was a situation that required sensitive and frank discussion. Unfortunately that didn't happen.
Instead, gossip and rumors spread and people made unfounded, subjective, and ultimately extremely harmful and unfair assessments of the applicant's character.
"When he saw that the applicant was on vacation with Councilor Peat while his wife was incarcerated, and learned of gifts Councilor Peat had bought for her, the view prevailed that the applicant was manipulating him."
Ms. Woodward was suspended from her role in February 2019. She asked not to be suspended and said the work helped her fight her depression and anxiety.
She was finally released in August 2019 and her appeal against the decision was dismissed the following month.
Barnard Castle City Council dismissed her on the grounds that working relationships had irreversibly broken down.
Barnard Castle became famous after former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings visited the town during the lockdown
The tribunal found that she had been wrongly dismissed and agreed to her claim to discrimination on the basis of disability because the council had failed to make an "appropriate adjustment" for her depression and anxiety by not lifting her suspension.
But it was recognized that colleagues found the situation difficult.
Judge Sweeney said, “We need to make it clear that we recognize that the applicant's staff and community councils found the applicant's relationship with Mr. Peat to be truly troubling and uncomfortable given his personal circumstances.
“We find that the applicant was impervious to her colleagues' sensitivity to the relationship.
"She hasn't seen other people unsure whether she is establishing a relationship with Mr. Peat."
A financial settlement hearing will take place later.
Following the verdict, Ms. Woodward told Barnard Castle's local newspaper, The Teesdale Mercury, “The longer the suspension went on, the worse my anxiety became, as my job was my main coping mechanism.
& # 39; Listening was an extremely stressful and emotionally demanding experience. It brought back everything I had been through.
"I was confident in my answers to the questions, knowing clearly that I had been treated unfairly and that the council had acted inappropriately."
Ms. Woodward has been volunteering at a community center since she was released. Mr. Pete, who was instrumental in the town's Christmas lights and bonfires, resigned from the council in 2019.
According to reports from the then Teesdale Mercury, he resigned, referring to a "loss of confidence in the governance" of Barnard Castle City Council.
When asked if he and Ms. Woodward were in a relationship, Mr. Peat replied, “We are friends,” and declined to elaborate.
Barnard Castle became famous after former Downing Street adviser Dominic Cummings visited the town during the lockdown.
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