Bursar dismissed for lack of experience

The former bursar of St Joseph’s School in Launceston, North Cornwall, has lost a claim for wrongful dismissal after he was fired for not keeping the school’s board in the financial loop and making errors in the accounts.

Ex-bank manager David Mitchell had worked at the private school for nearly two years before he was dismissed for failing to keep the board up-to-speed with the school’s financial shortfallings and for making errors in the accounts, the Cornish Guardian reports.

A budget forecast in January 2011 showed a £26,000 cash flow overspend at the end of the year, but another projection a month later showed a £334,000 overspend. Mitchell was dismissed the next month.

He sued for unfair dismissal and breach of contract because he said he kept the chairman of the school’s board of governors aware of the financial situation and “assumed” the chair had shared the information to the rest of the board.

However, the Employment Tribunal found the dismissal for gross misconduct fair.

“The misconduct does not reflect on the claimant’s integrity as much as his capability to do the job and his appreciation of certain requirements,” said the judge, who felt his prior experience as a bank manager did not equip him with the right skills to deal with accounts and forecasting.

On his first day at the school, Mitchell had been told by the outgoing bursar that the school’s bank had withdrawn its overdraft facility and the school had not paid its suppliers for two months to avoid increasing the overdraft.

Mitchell claimed he kept invoices unpaid because he did not have the budget to pay them.

Meanwhile, the head at the time had been offering discounts to parents, unknown to Mitchell, which reduced potential income.

“The school was in a disastrous situation with the bank threatening to close the school,” said the judge.

Mitchell said he believed he was used as a scapegoat after a major project failed.

The current head, Sue Rowe, was pleased with the judgement.

She told the Cornish Guardian: “The school is thriving under the new management structure and we are pleased to have put this matter behind us.”

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