An former member of staff at the Clerk of Tynwald’s office, who claims he was the victim of institutionalised bullying, is suing his former employer for up to £10,000.
Graeme Jones, who this week lodged a petition for redress of grievance on Tynwald Day, has also been pursuing a tribunal claim for unfair constructive dismissal against the Office of the Clerk of Tynwald, where he had worked as a political analyst. The case was heard during May and June this year with the last day of the hearing taking place last Tuesday (June 28). A decision will be published in due course.
Meanwhile, a directions hearing has been listed for October 13 in relation to a small claims court application lodged by Mr Jones.
He is seeking up to £10,000, alleging key documents in a lawful data subject access request were ‘wilfully concealed’ and there was an attempt to cover this up.
In his claim form, which has been obtained by the Courier, Mr Jones, of Onchan, says: ‘I refused to co-operate, resisted institutionalised bullying and filed a formal whistleblowing complaint with the Information Commissioner.’
In February last year, the Information Commissioner ruled that the then Clerk of Tynwald Roger Phillips infringed GDPR data protection legislation by rejecting a subject access request made by Mr Jones.
The Commissioner found that the Clerk of Tynwald blocked the right of access to personal data by applying the Tynwald privilege exemption without justification.
In an enforcement notice ordering the Clerk of Tynwald to comply with GDPR law, the Information Commissioner stated: ‘Failures to comply with the data protection legislation, including the blocking of the right of access to personal data, cannot be ignored.’
In his claim form, Mr Jones says that the Clerk of Tynwald’s office did not appeal the ruling of ‘unlawful conduct’.
He adds: ‘The defendant did not proactively offer any unreserved written apology with a remorseless and reckless disregard (gross negligence) that exacerbated existing cumulative trauma suffered throughout an entirely avoidable ordeal’.
He says the matter had been ‘very stressful and distressing’.
During the investigation into his complaint against the Clerk of Tynwald, Mr Jones was inadvertently handed some confidential documents and was then instructed to return or destroy the paperwork.
In his claim form he describes this as an attempt to cover up the concealment of the key documents.
He said: ‘An external investigating officer and the Office of Human Resources (Cabinet Office) acting as agents on behalf of the Tynwald management committee attempted a cover up by telephone and by letter to intimidate and to cause me to destroy evidence material to future legal proceedings.
‘The Tynwald management committee were acting in an independent oversight role in relation to the Office of the Clerk of Tynwald.’
A copy of the omitted personal data was subsequently provided.
Mr Phillips retired as Clerk of Tynwald in September last year after 13 years in the role.
In its enforcement notice, the Information Commissioner said Mr Phillips had also created a ruling on data access, announced by then Tynwald president Steve Rodan at the October 2020 sitting of parliament.
This stated that the Tynwald privilege exemption was presumed to apply by default where a committee witness or others in relation to committee records exercised their right of access to their personal data.
It followed the rejection of another subject access request from a witness who gave highly-sensitive information to a Tynwald committee.
But following correspondence from the deputy information commissioner and legal advice from the Attorney General’s chambers, Mr Rodan withdrew that ruling at the January 2021 sitting of Tynwald.
Mr Jones’s petition for redress of grievance centres on the government’s digital strategy and wants Tynwald to consider the benefits of a better strategy to rebuild trust and confidence in the public sector.
lFor full coverage of Tynwald Day and the eight petitions, see the Manx Independent, which is in shops now.