Wednesday, 7 May 2008

My Story - Part 3 (Recruitment)

I have been avoiding writing this part of the story for some time. I have even considered giving up writing this blog altogether. Partly because I am tired of fighting and partly because I have been struggling with the moral dilemma of publishing the events that occurred.

That said, I cannot stop here. The truth needs to be told and whilst this information is highly sensitive and perhaps controversial it is none the less part of my story and was a fundamental part of my employment at the Greenfields Secure Centre.

In November 2006 I was asked by Joe Kennedy, along with Micheal Bowyer (Manager of La Preference children's home), to conduct interviews for internal candidates to be promoted to senior grade child care officers.

In a senior management meeting we discussed the process and it was agreed by Joe Kennedy that we did not require anyone from the Human Resources Department to be present on the interview panel as Michael Bowyer held the "Certificate to Practice" (training in conducting interviews so no HR presence would be required), although I did not hold this certificate I had been involved in interviewing staff for a number of years prior to coming to Jersey.

The interviews were carried out and Joe Kennedy played no part in the process whatsoever.
Joe Kennedy did request however that we feed back our conclusions to him at the end.

All applicants were internal and they were all interviewed, therefore there was no shortlisting process. From the interviews we agreed that four candidates met the criteria to be eligible for promotion, and there were three available posts. We ranked the four candidates in order of how they performed throughout the interview process, from the initial application form, their written piece, and the formal interview.

Prior to feeding back to Joe Kennedy, Michael Bowyer suggested to me that Joe Kennedy would not agree with our decision. I stated that this was not an issue as we had conducted the interviews and that I was 100% sure that we had followed all relevant policies and procedures and that our decision was final.

We gave the feedback to Joe Kennedy, but as suspected, he raised concerns about the person that we had ranked highest of the four. I was satisfied that our decision was correct and fair as it had been based on the whole interview process. During this meeting, despite Michael Bowyer having already stated to me that we were likely to receive opposition about our conclusions from Joe Kennedy because we knew that he would prefer to promote certain members of staff rather than others, he backed down and agreed for Joe Kennedy to have the overall decision on who should receive the promotion - this was despite the fact that Joe Kennedy had not been part of the interview process. If this were to be the case why bother having interviews at all?

A long discussion followed and Joe Kennedy made it very difficult for me to stand by my decision and I felt very intimidated, bullied and pressured by Joe Kennedy and said that I needed more time to consider the situation and would get back to him in the morning as a way in which to end the meeting which I found to be very difficult emotionally.

The following morning, having spent considerable time thinking about it, I upheld that the first three should be promoted because the interview process had been fair and robust. However, Joe Kennedy stated that, despite my view, he would make an “executive decision” not to promote the highest ranking candidate in favour of the lowest ranking candidate.

I was not happy with this decision and informed Joe Kennedy of this, he replied by saying that that was what he was doing and if I did not like it then I could make a complaint. This amounted to a short meeting of only a few minutes and Joe Kennedy ended it as soon as this had been said.

I then spoke to Phil Dennett, Joe Kennedy's line manager (that's another story in itself) and the following day Joe Kennedy sent me an email saying that he had reflected on the conversation and suggested that the four candidates be subjected to a matrix style evaluation.

My response proposed that, given the sensitivity of this issue, HR should be involved to ensure that the matter was done fairly and in line with equal opportunities and HR policies.

Despite their involvement, Joe Kennedy still maintained that the person placed lowest should be appointed based on their past experience.

My concern, apart from Joe Kennedy's decision being a breach of the recruitment policies was that I had heard from a number of staff that Joe Kennedy had, or was still having, an affair with the fourth ranked candidate. In fact, according to these sources, this was widely known amongst the staff group and Joe Kennedy had been seen kissing the member of staff on more than one occasion.

I made no moral judgement on Joe Kennedy for this and informed him as such, but if it were to be true, I was deeply concerned that Joe Kennedy had overruled the outcome of an interview process and as such would result in someone being promoted with whom he was personally involved - to the detriment of the highest ranking candidate.

I felt that any recruitment process should be fair, robust, carried out in accordance with equal opportunities legislation and HR compliant as well as being able to withstand scrutiny should this process ever get challenged.

Any deviation from the process at Joe Kennedy's instruction would leave me, as the interviewer, accountable.

After I had raised this in private with Joe Kennedy, he decided they could make both No1 and No4 positions training posts. Although not in agreement with this strategy I felt that this at least provided the highest ranking candidate an opportunity to prove her capabilities, if I had not agreed then this candidate simply would not have had a chance to prove her ability.

Following on from this episode I was shortly placed on Garden Leave after submitting my Serious Concerns complaint.

As a result of my complaint, Madeleine Davies, was asked to investigate, amongst other things, the saga surrounding this recruitment.

He conclusion - Simon Bellwood failed to adhere to the Recruitment Code. Yes, that's right, I was at fault, no mention of the alleged affair at all.

More on Madeline Davies and her fiasco of an investigation another day.

Incidentally though, one of the reasons that Joe Kennedy is currently suspended from his post is to ascertain whether he did have an inappropriate relationship with that member of staff and whether or not he did use his authority to gain this person a promotion.

For the record - I am absolutely 100% sure that I was not in breach of the recruitment code, without question - this has also been confirmed by Gerald White who is investigating the disciplinary issues against Joe Kennedy.

I would welcome any views on this part of the story - this does not sit at all comfortably with me but I am at a loss on how else to tell the true story. I even avoided using names in the employment tribunal so that it would not be publicised by the media who were present, however, the Chair made it clear that it was an issue that needed to be discussed.

The States of Jersey have continually chosen not to listen to me, they have refused my appeals on all counts, and even criticised me publicly - I feel that I have no choice but to use a forum such as this so that I can tell the truth.

Hopefully, the States of Jersey will one day start thinking about what they do to people and realise that they need to listen to those who have genuine concerns and act accordingly.

I appreciate that this information may be potentially harmful to some people, particularly Joe Kennedy, however, I will not allow my story to remain untold for such a reason.

Many people may be feeling sorry for Joe Kennedy at the moment but spare a thought for me - me and my family still struggle to find the money to pay the rent each month because of what this man and others did to me. Lets not forget that I also had a very successful career which I had worked hard for 15 years to achieve, now, thanks to these people, it is all gone - in Jersey at least.