School Employee Alleges Council Boss Had Her Spied On

Council chief executive, Philip Hygate

A Five Islands School employee has alleged she was harassed, and her home monitored, by the Chief Executive of the Isles of Scilly Council, Philip Hygate.

Julie Hicks, who is the personal assistant to the school head teacher, has described the events in a three-page letter and supporting documentation sent to all councillors and school governors on Tuesday and which was leaked to Radio Scilly.

She said she was called to a meeting in Mr Hygate’s office in July, accompanied by her sister, Debbie Rigby who also works for the Council as HR manager. No representatives of the school governing body were present.

During the meeting, Mrs Hicks alleges Mr Hygate said she would be suspended from her school role for booking personal flights on a specially discounted school rate. She claims he told her that there was a lack of evidence from the auditors to prove that she had paid for these.

Mrs Hicks claims she was offered a secondment away from the school to Park House.

She also alleges Mr Hygate told her that her home was being monitored and that he, “demonstrated detailed knowledge” of who had been visiting her and when. She says she felt so upset about this that she reported it to the police.

Mrs Hicks alleges Mr Hygate made repeated reference to her daughter and daughter’s partner, who are employed and housed by the Council, and she says in her letter that, “it was clear to both myself and my sister that this was an implied threat to ensure we did not ‘rock the boat’ and comply with his demand not to speak of this with anyone.”

It was made clear in the discussion, writes Mrs Hicks, that the good name and integrity which she enjoys in the community was about to be destroyed and that she was “totally devastated and shocked.”

But after the meeting, Mrs Hicks says she was contacted by the Council’s Head of Human Resources, Peter Lawrence-Roberts, and reinstated immediately into her current role.

She has subsequently received written confirmation from Mr Lawrence-Roberts, on behalf of the Authority, that the auditors were not investigating her for any financial irregularity and they had not called for her suspension. He has also confirmed that the school governing body are responsible for all staffing matters, not the Council.

In response to questions from Radio Scilly News, Mr Hygate said he was surprised that the matter was being raised now, so many months after the meeting.

He claimed the meeting had been called at the written request of the acting head teacher, who was away from the islands at the time, and that Mrs Hicks’ sister, Debbie Rigby, had suggested bringing forward the meeting to limit any anxiety building for her sister. Mr Hygate says he agreed to the meeting “with the intention of the benefit of all concerned.”

He said any decision to suspend a member of staff would rest independently with the school governors and not with the Council and that he would not be involved in any such decision. But he added that, “there is always a risk of suspension to those being questioned in a forensic audit.“

He said he had, “no interest in or means of monitoring visitors to Mrs Hicks’ house,” and he was merely repeating concerns made by school staff that she had continued to have contact with the suspended head teacher, Bryce Wilby.

He denies discussing the employment and housing of her family. Mr Hygate says he mentioned “how lucky she was to have her family on the isles, as part of pleasant conversation to normalise, and lighten the atmosphere in an attempt to keep Mrs Hicks at her ease.”

And Mr Hygate claims Mrs Rigby had suggested the secondment, on Mrs Hicks’ existing salary and terms and conditions, to “ease tension within the school and allow her sister to work away from the atmosphere within the school environment.”

Last night, Mr Hygate emailed all councillors and governors with a copy of the questions posed by Radio Scilly and his answers. In an accompanying note he wrote that Mrs Hicks had not chosen to raise her allegations with him or with any officer of the Council over the three months since their meeting.

But that claim is at odds with Peter Lawrence-Robert’s correspondence with Mrs Hicks and his involvement in reversing her secondment to Park House.

Council chair, Mike Hicks, who is also the father-in-law of Julie Hicks, said he is aware of the letter and has handed the matter over to vice chair Amanda Martin for further investigation because of the close family connection.

But he told us he’s concerned that the matter was dealt with in the way it was, especially at a time when the Council was under such intense external scrutiny following the suspension of the head teacher and the subsequent auditors’ investigation.

And Mike says he believes that Julie’s allegations are true.

Mr Hicks says it’s unlikely that this new information will form part of the extraordinary Council meeting, set to be held in secret on Tuesday, that will examine the conduct of Philip Hygate. But he says the matter won’t be ignored and will be dealt with “fully and thoroughly.”

 

46 Responses to School Employee Alleges Council Boss Had Her Spied On

  1. Stavropol October 29, 2012 at 8:36 am

    One would hope all Councillors take note, this man is having a very negative effect on the community and they, being the ones who effect his employment, need to remove him from his role.
    I cannot think there is any other way to take the heat off the Council and for everyone to get on making Scilly a better place in 2013.
    I would also point out this brave stand by Mrs Hicks will most certainly add cement to Mr Wilby’s forthcoming claim for damages.

  2. Todd Stevens October 28, 2012 at 6:40 pm

    Its obvious that this whole mess was engineered and now the engineer is furiously backpeddling and trying to cover his tracks. The Governors have been blamed-the councillors have been blamed-the head teacher has been blamed-Cornwall council has been blamed. I rather suspect that all will point the finger at the real culprit real soon.

    Wriggle wriggle little worm.

  3. Liz Martland October 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm

    The COE – oh dear Ms Green & not just once!

  4. peter scales October 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    If only ‘An Island Parish’ was being filmed now !

  5. Jenny Green October 28, 2012 at 10:15 am

    Julie’s version of events in regard to her meeting with the COE of the I.O.S Councils raises a question.
    Whether this meeting was at the instigation of the COE or the mananger of the I.O.S Council’s HR dept is irrelevant. The meeting should not have taken place. The consistant theme coming from all leaked and unleaked communications from the I.O.S Senior Officers is, that employment issues at the 5 Island Schools is for the 5 Island School Governors to manage not the I.O.S Council Officers.
    Why would the I.O.S Council’s manager of HR, under the management, of the Dir of HR, consider a meeting about an employee of the 5 Island School with the COE was appropriate? One interrpretation is, that the I.O.S Council Senior Officers were the driving force behind the suspension of the 5 Island School Head Master- why else would the manager of the I.O.S HR dept encourage an employee of the 5 Island School to attend a meeting with the COE of the I.O.S Council, unless she believed that the people controlling the suspension of the head Master and subsequent investigations from this were her senior colleagues. What a shameful and ultimately expensive mess this is.

    • Nobby Nobbs October 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm

      I agree, although the governors haven’t exactly covered themselves in glory either and I have a feeling that the forthcoming DofE investigation into the conduct of both the LEA and Governors is going to produce even more examples of misappropriate conduct.

      (I’m going to qualify this statement by stating that there are a small number of governors who ‘HAVE’ followed the correct processes and proceeder’s and HAVE tried to do the right thing but have been fighting a losing battle by swimming against the tide of self interest or ignorance that appears to exist within the govening body as a whole)

  6. Liz Martland October 28, 2012 at 7:02 am

    I cannot remember so many comments & such passion on a single subject on Scilly Today. Feelings are indeed running extremely high. The main issue is about one person who at the moment seems unstoppable. Not even a vote of no confidence yet.

  7. Todd Stevens October 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Cheif Executive Officer? Chief Entertainments Officer more like!!

  8. Diane Cidade October 27, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Mary, I’m sorry if you feel like you’re being attacked but I certainly wasn’t, and hope the following isn’t seen as an attack either. However, what would you prefer to happen then if you don’t feel that this should be discussed in public? That Julie Hicks just kept quiet about the treatment she’s been on the receiving end of? No disrespect to Cllr Bennett or yourself, Mary, but there are many people in this community who have Scilly’s best interests in mind, and that involves not ignoring the facts which this article brings to light.

    It raises a great number of questions. It cannot be denied that this meeting took place, as both parties involved say that it did. It appears the meeting may have been called to discuss Mrs. Hicks’ employment at the school – Why did the Acting Head Teacher call for a meeting when they were away? Why was there no representative from the Governing Body present if Mr. Hygate is aware that employment and suspension of school staff is the responsibility of the Governors? Even if we take Mr. Hygate’s word for it, and Mrs. Rigby did suggest the secondment, surely this should have been approved of by the Governors in the first place if it is a staffing issue? We can’t be sure, but this article certainly doesn’t have Mr. Hygate deny telling Mrs. Hicks she was under investigation and was facing suspension as she alleges, but instead is quoted as having said “there is always a risk of suspension to those being questioned in a forensic audit.” Quite. But she wasn’t even on the auditor’s radar, as Mr. Lawrence-Roberts had to clarify. Things don’t seem to add up.

    I also find it interesting that Mr. Hygate refers to ‘tension’ and ‘the atmosphere’ within the school at the time of this meeting, when many comments from school staff have indicated that things at the school were fantastic, never better.

    Someone must be telling porkies!

    • Rincewind October 28, 2012 at 8:49 am

      Diane,

      Well said, rationale and to the point. You should be the next CEO!

      Mary, wake up!

  9. Jenny Green October 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

    Mary refers to the ‘terrible consequences on Mr Hygate’s family’.
    Compassion over the years has been seemingly lacking from Senior Council Officers in how they deal with the credibility of people in this small community. Mr Wilby for one, was easy prey, for two Senior Council Officers, so much so, he felt he needed to resign from his job and give up his home, which, has consequences for him and his family. Compassion is good, but rather late in the day for all the others victims of Senior Council Officers actions.

  10. Mary October 27, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Well! I’m sorry that you feel the need to join forces and attack me, my point exactly. but really, should we be talking like this in public without knowing the facts, my point is that a well respected senior cllr like Ms Bennett who obviously have scilly in her heart and soul know what she’s talking about and would be able to give an un bias opinion avoiding the lynch mob .

    • Nobby Nobbs October 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm

      Cllr Bennett is NOT a senior councillor nor is she Widely respected and she is certainly not unbiased.
      Cllr Bennett was one of the group of 5 councillors who voted through the contentious 22% payrise for senior officers.

      Just because you like her doesn’t mean everyone else does

  11. Pat Hicks October 27, 2012 at 10:30 am

    And Diane you should think about standing for council next May.!!

  12. John & Kay Banfield October 27, 2012 at 10:17 am

    Mary confused! As you hide behind the anonymity of a first name only, we don’t know who you are or even if you live within the Islands. I can assure you you that from my years of knowing this particular “Scillonian Family” and working with Julie for many years, the fact that she married into a “Scillonian Family” has given her the courage to go down this path, along with the full support of her own side of the family. An injustice not a “Family axe to grind” needs to be righted. It is easy to keep your head down and be subservient but not so easy to have the courage to put your head above the parapet and expose the rest of your family to possible reprisals. From another long established “Scillonian Family” John Banfield

  13. Nobby Nobbs October 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Mary says ” I have a great deal of respect for cllr Marian Bennett”
    Nobby says “you’re about the only one who does”

    Mary then says “cllr Marian Bennett who is both a friend and supporter of Mr Highgate”
    Nobby says “no partisan prejudices when voting through 22% pay-rises then”

    Mary, these complaints are not from one family with an axe to grind, but from numerous people who have all spoken to councillors over many years, only now when pressure is building and evidence is mounting are the councillors doing something about it

    • Pepper October 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm

      Nobby Nobbs, Mary isn’t wrong, you’re not wrong, they’re just your own personal views. Don’t be so rude as to assume everyone dislikes Cllr Bennett just because you do, don’t assume everyone agrees with Mary. However I’m happy to tell you I do! Good for you for sharing your views Mary, they may not be ‘popular’ on this website but at least you’re not giving in to the ‘climate of fear’ these people who tell your opinion is wrong is spreading!

  14. Jenny Green October 27, 2012 at 10:08 am

    If this is the beginning of the process of a root and branch investigation into the practices of Senior Isles of Scilly Council Officers, then it will be interesting to see, if other Senior Officers are held to account for their behaviour, as some have supported the culture of how best to treat people in the way of their agendas. Some Councillors have been in situ for many years, re-elected again and again. Who should face the consequences; the electorate for continually voting for them, the Councillors for turning a blind eye to the practices of their senior employees or the Senior Officers, seemingly untouchable, they who must be obeyed, regardless of the personal cost of the recipient of their perfected form of intimidation.

  15. Diane Cidade October 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

    As we’re in Scilly, surely the likelihood of issues arising with a ‘Scillonian family’ is greater here than anywhere else?

    It’s precisely because it’s an important issue that these allegations should be taken seriously and investigated. I hope the dangling carrot (the ill-informed ‘legal advice’ card) which has somehow provided distraction for so long will finally be cut free and that we don’t have another issue that is painted over for fear of standing up to the legal pitbulls which no doubt will be employed with this issue and others that may arise as a result of the upcoming Policy & Resources Special Meeting.

    What we see here is a set of serious allegations (it’s perhaps worth pointing out again, that there appears to be supporting evidence to back a lot of it up) which must have already brought what you (Mary) call ‘terrible consequences’ onto Mrs. Hicks and her family for the distress it must have caused her for so many months. It demonstrates interference in staffing issues which don’t even fall under the Council’s remit. That a formal meeting has taken place between someone posing to be an employer and someone they don’t have any authority over is absurd enough, but to then mention that this (non)employee is being investigated for fraud is a very worrying prospect!

    Anyone in Government should be respected for, amongst other things, making decisions based on what they feel best reflects the wishes of the Electorate whom they represent and what will best serve the majority. I don’t know how much room should really be made to allow for ‘friendship’ to come anywhere near the equation!

  16. Bill October 27, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I am an outsider looking in but with close family ties to the Isles. Personally I think that there is a lot more to emerge as regards the conduct of Mr Hygate and I hope that similar to the Savile enquiry Julie’s determinaton might encourage others to come forward. The fact that she waited three months before complaining has no bearing on the matter as there could be many reasons for this but primarily fear of retribution, amplified by loss of reputation in a small community. I’m also concerned over the way the issue with the head teacher was handled and also the back claiming (going back to the days of the CITA) of pay in lieu of leave. In my book the working of extra hours goes with the territory and salary of a Ch Exec. I sincerely hope that the ‘boil can be lanced’ once and for all.

  17. KevW October 27, 2012 at 7:58 am

    Maybe now would be the time for Pat, Carmen etc to come forward and express their own problems? Not necessarily in public on here if they’re personal or sensitive matters, but through the correct routes?

  18. Mary October 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Its very confusing, I feel a little disturbed that these complaints are mostly from a Scillonian family with a possible axe to grind and its such an important issue that could have terrible consequences on Mr Highgate and his family, I have a great deal of respect for cllr Marian Bennett who is both a friend and supporter of Mr Highgate and so I will be consulting with her over this matter and I think that other people should do the same rather than tittle tattle here.

    • Rincewind October 27, 2012 at 11:19 am

      Mary,

      Please visit the planet Earth.

      This is not tittle tattle as you put it but serious allegations over his conduct.

      Well done to Julie and Debbie.

      The end is coming for the Dark Lord.

  19. Todd Stevens October 27, 2012 at 12:29 am

    You dont need power to make people live in fear- you only need position and influence. Howabout this for influencing somone in private- “I do hope you continue to gain the support of the council?” or howabout- “I trust your planning permission will run smoothly” Then theres- “Im sure you have done well from council contracts in the past?” However, my personal favourite was a little more direct -”your time on these islands can be made easy or difficult”

    Have you heard any such phrases? if so- be brave, like Julie, and inform your councillors. Maybe, finally, they are now starting to listen.

  20. Carmen Stevens October 26, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    Well done for coming forward Julie (and Debbie). I see many similarities between your and my previous problems with the CEO. I hope his time on the islands will come to an end soon.

  21. Mike October 26, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Work commenced on the Empire State Building in New York on 17th March 1930 and it opened on 1st May 1931 – it took 1 year and 45 days.

    It is a scandal that the current projected completion dates of the Porthcressa Regeneration (Jan 2012 to March 2013) will exceed this time scale. It shows a total disregard of the disturbance of local people/visitors/businesses and a disgraceful waste of £4.5 million + in a period of recession.

    Who is accountable for this shambles ?

  22. Pat Hicks October 26, 2012 at 5:30 pm

    also Perhaps they can look into What’s taking so long at Porthcressa as well as the work still going on down the school…..
    Why are they not using more local tradesmen to help get the work finished……

  23. Pat Hicks October 26, 2012 at 5:25 pm

    Well i think we have all got a lot to learn from this.
    we all need to speak out more
    the councillors need to listen more to the public
    and not the officers.
    All the councillors should be working on behalf of all the people
    on the islands
    not just their island….
    the Govenors, Teachers and staff need to work together.
    [ without the interference from the officers ]

    And then hopefully we will have the community we should have.

    Perhaps then we will be able to agree to disagree
    and still be friends.

    Let us hope the investigaters that are coming over will sort this out once and for all

  24. Fred October 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm

    It’ll be interesting to see who pays for any of Mr Hygates legal advice.
    Can we find out?

    I take it Mr Wilbys legal advice came out of his own pocket?

    Maybe it’s time we called a referendum on the future of Mr Hygate, take it out of the hands of the Councillors and let the community decide.

  25. Stuart Moore October 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    At the very least Mr Hygate should be suspended (as a neutral act) while an investigation is undertaken and if these allegations are proved correct then legal proceedings should be taken against Mr Hygate with the possibility of a custodial sentence

  26. Jenny Green October 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    Pat, thank you; you have proved my point. ”….like a lot of people we felt isolated and did not know who to turn to……”.
    You felt isolated- Julie, thankfully, was able to access a support system within the local authority, which should of been there for you and others targeted by these council officers.

  27. Liz Martland October 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm

    Hopefully this is the beginning of the end. Well done Julie for standing & being counted & to Debbie for her support.

  28. Pat Hicks October 26, 2012 at 12:35 pm

    Also in case you think i dont know what i.m talking about. my family do have a bit of history with the local authrity. but like alot of people we felt issolated, and did not know who to turn to…..
    i think with the media now days it may have some faults, but on the whole it brings things out in the open better….

  29. Cassandra October 26, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    Hopefully we’re now entering the end game for the Hygate regime.

  30. Pat Hicks October 26, 2012 at 12:26 pm

    TO Jenny and Robin. i dont know how long you’v lived here in the islands. i get the feeling not long. so you have no history!!
    Maybe julie and debbie may have had a bit more support form some councillors, we dont know that for sure, but what i will say is that hopefully more people will have the confidence to come forward now and tell there story. and if what i have been hearing is true, there’s alot more to be heard…..

  31. Stavropol October 26, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Well done Julie, I think you should be very proud of the way you and your family have held yourselves together with such integrity since this horrid event occurred. The truth has out.

  32. Jenny Green October 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

    It could be argued that Julie’s ability to raise her concerns in regard to her treatment, which if proven, is unacceptable, was possible because she was enabled and supported to do so. Her father-in-law is the Chairman of theI.O.S Council, her sister, is the senior officer working in Human Resources. The correct supportive and safe environment was there. How many other people who treaded on the ego and agenda of the Isles of Scilly Council Senior Officers; who also faced the possibility of the loss of their professional integrity, home and employment were given the same support to raise their concerns- very few I think.
    I do not wish to take anything away from Julie’s actions, however, if other people were given the same protection as Julie, may be the Isles of Scilly Council Officers would be respected more in the community which provides them with employmemt.

  33. Robin October 26, 2012 at 11:40 am

    Nice of Mr Hicks to hand ” the matter over to vice chair Amanda Martin for further investigation because of the close family connection” and then declare that he believes his daughter-in-law’s allegations are “true”. Nothing like prejudicing an investigation before it begins! However the allegations against Mrs Hicks are serious, whether people believe she’s courageous or not. She has been accused of fraud, and nothing in this piece refutes that charge. Until we have clear evidence either way, she will have this question mark against her – as anybody would no matter who their father-in-law was. If she is innocent, then she has just cause for redress. However, is she’s guilty, then due process must take its cause.

    • Andy October 26, 2012 at 11:51 am

      Robin. We clearly stated in the article that Mrs Hicks, “has subsequently received written confirmation from Mr Lawrence-Roberts, on behalf of the Authority, that the auditors were not investigating her for any financial irregularity and they had not called for her suspension”

      As such, our clear understanding is that there are no allegations against Mrs Hicks.

      Andy Hargreaves Ed

  34. Pat Hicks October 26, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Well done Julie and debbie, i admire you both for making a stand.
    I would like to thank the councillors who have been supporting them in this difficult time. and I am sure you’ll get all the public’s support in sorting this out.
    Go girls…………..

  35. Christian May October 26, 2012 at 9:53 am

    Extraordinary.

    I admire Julie for coming forward with this and I hope it encourages other victims of Hygate’s rule to do the same.

  36. John & Kay Banfield October 26, 2012 at 9:19 am

    Well done Julie, truth will out in the end! Over the years that we have known you your honesty has always been one of your attributes. Maybe this will give others the courage to come forward and bring this sad and sorry episode to a satisfactory conclusion.

  37. sarah October 26, 2012 at 9:09 am

    Well done Julie and Debbie ,this must have been a difficult decison and lets hope the outcome means that people can live here and voice concerns without fear of reprisal

  38. KevW October 26, 2012 at 8:46 am

    Yes, well done Julie for being brave. I’ve heard of several similar allegations recently and I hope that now you’ve come forward it will urge others to do the same.

    And to all those who didn’t seem to understand the ‘fear’ felt by members of the community here – does this explain things a little better?

  39. Liz Cook October 26, 2012 at 8:18 am

    Good for you Julie, It about time something was done about the conduct by the head of council, a change is needed for sure.

  40. Stuart Moore October 26, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Well done Julie for standing up and being counted.

    I don’t know Julie or Debbie that well, but what I do know is that they are not the sort of people to make something like this up.

    There is so much bad feeling within the community about the senior council officers that I would hope that after next weeks meeting if the chief executive does go then those around him go as well.

    Our council needs to be purged, not only of senior officers but also the councillors who voted them a 22% payrise and the councillors who abstain during voting..