Belfast Telegraph

Church mission director axed: £50,000-a-year Skainos centre boss is accused of gross misconduct

By Claire Williamson

The director of the church group behind the Skainos centre has been dismissed from his role for gross misconduct.

Mark Houston was removed from his £50,000-a-year post following a finding by an internal disciplinary panel.

The East Belfast Mission (EBM) is the church group behind the multi-million pound Skainos social enterprise centre.

The group was set up in 1985 and engages in community development in east Belfast, offering support services as well as a place to worship.

It employs a staff of around 90, with 100 volunteers.

Mr Houston was appointed as director in 2007 and was responsible for the daily running of the mission since then.

The allegations made by EBM against Mr Houston included the inappropriate use of a company credit card and falsifying documents in relation to travel expenses. According to a disciplinary hearing he also failed to comply with the mission's internet and email policy.

Mr Houston said he did not want to prejudice any future unfair dismissal case brought against the mission and declined to make any public comment. It is understood he strongly denies any wrongdoing and believes the reasons given for his dismissal are "deeply flawed".

In a statement the EBM confirmed that Mr Houston no longer works at the mission.

It said: "Mark Houston has been dismissed for gross misconduct, but this is now the subject of legal proceedings which will be heard in January. You will fully understand that EBM cannot therefore comment further at this time, as you will appreciate that we cannot say anything that might prejudice either party."

Two other members of staff have also been let go following an internal investigation.

The Department for Employment and Learning confirmed in a statement that Mr Houston had lodged a claim with the Office of the Industrial Tribunals and the Fair Employment Tribunal.

Before his dismissal, Mr Houston played a major role in helping to promote the work of the Skainos centre.

In 2013 the then mission superintendent Rev Gary Mason said four members of staff had been suspended pending an inquiry. But he said the suspensions were not for "earth-shattering" reasons.

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