Belfast Telegraph

Autistic civil servant goes to tribunal in Northern Ireland over disciplinary process

A senior Stormont civil servant has claimed his autism was not taken into account when he was disciplined for sending a highly critical group email about a co-worker
A senior Stormont civil servant has claimed his autism was not taken into account when he was disciplined for sending a highly critical group email about a co-worker
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

A senior Stormont civil servant has claimed his autism was not taken into account when he was disciplined for sending a highly critical group email about a co-worker.

Ken Fraser is head of the Racial Equality and Social Cohesion unit in The Executive Office. He was given a two-year written warning after sending an email about his Civil Service colleague Peter Robinson on June 7, 2016.

An employment tribunal in Belfast heard yesterday that Mr Robinson had sent an email to colleagues about how the Minority Ethnic Development Fund (MEDF) should be allocated.

Mr Fraser said he felt he had been "bounced" by this, as such a decision could not have been taken without his approval.

His pointed response was sent to several colleagues, including Mr Robinson's line manager and several junior workers.

In the email, he claimed that Mr Robinson was "over reaching himself" and that his "fiddling" with the MEDF was not helpful when "I have agreed NOTHING".

Reading a report of an investigation into the incident, a lawyer for The Executive Office said Mr Robinson had considered the capital letters used for the word 'nothing' as "shouting in written form".

Mr Fraser dismissed this as "nonsense" and said he was right to criticise the "cack-handed" manner in which Mr Robinson had sent his initial email.

Mr Fraser said he acknowledged he was subject to the same codes of conduct as other civil servants, but his autism should be considered in all parts of his work including during any disciplinary procedures.

The lawyer for The Executive Office, Mr Doherty, asked if Mr Fraser's email had been meant as a critique of Mr Robinson and to publicly tell his colleagues he was getting it wrong.

"Well, he was," said Mr Fraser, adding that he wrote that Mr Robinson's "fiddling" over MEDF could get him in trouble and expose him to risk. "His work was open to criticism. That's what civil servants do if they're good civil servants," he said.

Mr Fraser claimed that by June 2016, "nothing had been done" about certain MEDF funding decisions taken in March that year.

Asked if Mr Robinson was wasting time over the matter, Mr Fraser replied: "Absolutely."

The tribunal is set to continue until Friday.

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