A FORMER boarding school principal who is claiming unfair dismissal breached his own social networking rules, a tribunal heard.
Bernie Routledge, who lives in Gwernaffield, near Mold, was principal of Howell’s School in Denbigh for nine months before being sacked in May, 2011.
John Benson, representing Mr Routledge at yesterday’s Wrexham employment tribunal hearing, questioned Howell’s School trustee Robert Locke.
The hearing was told Mr Routledge’s conduct was brought into question after a Facebook page called the Bernie Routledge Appreciation Society (BRAS) was found, which Mr Routledge was said to have used to communicate with children over two days in 2009.
Mr Locke said there were 10 allegations of alleged misconduct against Mr Routledge, number one being about social networking with children.
He said: “Mr Routledge wrote the social networking rules himself, which he breached.”
Mr Locke contacted children’s services and the police, who said it was not a criminal matter and should be dealt with internally.
Mr Benson asked Mr Locke why he never spoke to Mr Routledge about the Facebook page before suspending him.
He also claimed Mr Locke was already “livid” with Mr Routledge after a boarding inspection and said it was the start of a campaign to get rid of him.
Mr Routledge’s partner, Helen Price, former head of pastoral care at the Denbigh school, is also claiming unfair dismissal. Mr Locke admitted there were “procedural flaws for not permitting an appeal for Mr Routledge”.
“And in the case of Ms Price her dismissal was abrupt and because of her conduct at Mr Routledge’s disciplinary hearing there was a complete breakdown of mutual trust,” Mr Locke said.
Alan Locke, Robert Locke’s brother, carried out an investigation into Mr Routledge’s conduct and was the officer who dismissed him.
Robert Locke, who dismissed Ms Price under advice from Alan Locke in May 2011, said: “Ms Price was a child protection officer at the school and in our view she failed as she was in a relationship with the headmaster.
“I am concerned there was no whistleblowing from Ms Price regarding Mr Routledge.”
Mr Benson asked Robert Locke why Ms Price was never given a disciplinary hearing and was never told the outcome of her grievance hearing.
Robert Locke said: “She showed her views at Mr Routledge’s hearing and we did not want to give them another hearing to berate us [the trustees].”
He added it was “because of the seriousness of the allegations against her partner Mr Routledge”.
“We were not going to put Ms Price through an investigation as this puts her under pressure, especially as she was pregnant at the time,”. he said.
Mr Routledge previously taught at The King’s School in Chester.
He was appointed deputy principal at Howell’s in 2010. A few months later he took over as principal.
The tribunal continues.