Veteran Unionist Samuel Gardiner faces case over unfair dismissal claim
A political press officer has begun a legal case against an Ulster Unionist Assembly member after claiming he was unfairly dismissed.
William Lloyd Lavery is taking an industrial tribunal against veteran Upper Bann MLA Samuel Gardiner.
Mr Lavery previously worked for Mr Gardiner as a Press officer and advisor.
He now serves as a Press officer for Ukip's Northern Ireland wing.
Mr Lavery is claiming he was unfairly dismissed by Mr Gardiner, and is taking a separate claim for alleged unlawful deduction of wages and breach of contract.
A hearing briefly opened at Killymeal House in Belfast yesterday before being adjourned.
A legal representative for Mr Lavery, Rosemary Connolly, told the tribunal: "It's a case of unfair dismissal and unlawful deduction of wages and breach of contract."
Two claims were submitted to Mr Gardiner's office on May 27 and June 9 this year.
The first claim should have been responded to by June 29. However, the response was not received until July 6 - a week late.
The second claim was responded to within deadline.
Referring to the first, late, response, employment judge Crothers said: "Unfortunately the rules capture us on that, and there is no option but to reject it if there is no request for an extension of time."
The hearing was told that Mark Ovens, a UUP researcher, was assisting Mr Gardiner in dealing with the claims.
Mr Ovens incorrectly believed that the deadline mentioned in the second correspondence, July 9, covered both claims.
A legal representative for the UUP said it was "a simple administrative error".
"He (Mr Ovens) instructs me that he thought the second claim was an updated version of the first one, and therefore they would have benefited from the extension until July 9," she said.
Mr Ovens said: "I accept it was an oversight on my point and an error. I didn't notice the two case numbers."
Employment Judge Crothers said he would adjourn to consider the matter.
Mr Gardiner did not make any comment as he left the tribunal.
Mr Lavery worked for Mr Gardiner for more than 10 years. More recently he has been serving as a Press officer for Ukip.
He regularly issues missives on behalf of David McNarry, the party leader in Northern Ireland.
He was not present for the brief hearing, and declined to comment when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph yesterday.
Mr Gardiner (75), has been an MLA for Upper Bann since 2003.
The case continues.