Donaghy lodges claim for constructive dismissal with tribunal, naming two councillors among respondents
The chief executive of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has made a series of explosive claims against her employer in a case alleging sexual, religious and political discrimination.
In a claim lodged by her solicitors KRW Law with the Fair Employment Tribunal, Anne Donaghy has also named two council officials and two unionist councillors as respondents.
Ms Donaghy claims her suspension from work last month was “unlawful”, and she accuses an official of spreading “untruthful allegations” that she had a drink problem.
In documents filed with the tribunal on Friday, she says she is a Catholic and “perceived as being from a nationalist background”. She details a series of complaints which she alleges individually and collectively amount to discrimination “on the grounds of sex, religious beliefs and political opinion”.
She says: “I believe the respondents, and each of them, have sought to take part in a concerted campaign to undermine my authority and remove me from office.
“The effect of such conduct has resulted in discrimination, to include acts of victimisation.”
Mid and East Antrim Borough Council said: “We do not comment on staffing matters.”
As respondents to the claim, the council and any others named will have the right to reply in writing and give their side of the case.
Last October police investigating allegations of misconduct in public office raided the council’s Ballymena headquarters.
In documents lodged with the tribunal, Ms Donaghy brands the raid as “unnecessary and disproportionate to the issues under investigation”. She adds: “It is clear my employer made communications to the PSNI which were designed to result in this type of response.
“I also believe such representations were designed to cause me the maximum amount of embarrassment and to undermine my authority and position.
“This event is now referred to by my employer and its political representatives as the ‘raid on the Braid’, which is again indicative of their intention to dramatise this event and undermine me even further.”
The PSNI probe related to correspondence about the withdrawal of Larne Port workers operating the protocol last February. Staff were removed from duty after Ms Donaghy said she was worried about threats from paramilitaries.
Police later said they had no information to support claims of loyalist paramilitary groups threatening staff safety.
Ms Donaghy claims the council was involved in a campaign against her. She alleges there was unauthorised briefing of “the media and third parties resulting in numerous newspaper articles, comments on social media and radio and television programmes”, including Radio Ulster’s Nolan Show and BBC NI’s Spotlight.
She accuses the council of failing to “provide any or adequate support, assistance and guidance” in the wake of such media reports. She alleges her employer has failed to investigate the “leaking of my personal information to third parties”, including details of her sick leave.
She also accuses it of failing to investigate or condemn “the online bullying and harassment” she says she has suffered.
Ms Donaghy says: “I have been publicly condemned by a number of council political representatives in an effort to undermine my authority and remove me from office. At no time has my employer sought to sanction this behaviour or provide support, assistance or guidance to me.”
She claims the council also failed to “provide any or adequate support and assistance following personal safety concerns raised by the PSNI in February and March 2021”.
Ms Donaghy is also alleging discrimination as a disabled person who suffers from “stress, anxiety and depression”.
She alleges her employer failed to “investigate the reasons for my absence from work due to stress at work”.
Ms Donaghy was suspended following allegations of bullying against her by three staff members, which she denies.
She has been chief executive for seven years and is claiming constructive dismissal.
In the documents lodged with the tribunal, she says: “Suspension is not a neutral act. The decision to suspend me has and will cause serious damage to my authority and reputation.
“The act of suspension was simply irresponsible and further evidence of the agenda to undermine my authority and remove me from employment.”
Ms Donaghy says the appointment of an interim chief executive “suggests the council envisages I will not be returning to my role”.
As respondents to the claim, the Council and any others named will have the right to reply to the claim in writing and give their side of the case.