Charity Chairman Denies Bullying Claim

The chairman of a charity centre has denied bullying a finance officer who claims she was sacked for not believing in God.

And Brian Holmes, chairman of trustees at the Colne Open Door Centre, claimed that Karen Deighton had told him “all Christians are hypocrites” while being interviewed for a finance and administrator’s post in 2005.

But Mr Holmes, along with fellow interviewers, said he felt that “she was entitled to her views and it did not affect her suitability for the position” and so they awarded her the post.

Mr Holmes, who was involved in setting up the centre with Colne Churches Together nine years ago, told the tribunal yesterday that he always acted responsibly when it came to Mrs Deighton.

“I have never victimised, bullied or harassed Karen Deighton or treated her in any other way than professionally,” he said.

The centre operates a drop-in cafe for the homeless, drug users and other socially-disadvantaged groups in the middle of Colne.

Mr Holmes said that he had concerns over the organisation’s finances, when an estimate for European Regional Development Fund money was found to be ‘wildly inaccurate’.

But he said when he tried to tackle the problem with Mrs Deighton, the centre’s finance officer and administrator, she claimed financial information was being ‘deliberately withheld’ from her.

Mrs Deighton has taken the centre to an industrial tribunal, claiming religious discrim-ination and breach of contract.

She alleges that she was constantly preached at by husband and wife Brian and Stella Holmes.

The hearing was told Mrs Deighton went off sick in early August 2006 and this absence continued into September.

As her one year’s service date approached, trustees called an emergency meeting and decided to dismiss Mrs Deighton immediately, Mr Holmes confirmed.

Giving evidence, Mr Holmes, a former Pendle council engineering manager, denied he had ever said Mrs Deighton did not understand the “Christian work” of the centre, because of her lack of faith.

He also denied Mrs Deighton’s claims that she did not do her Christian duty and help out in her community.

The tribunal heard that Mrs Deighton had interrupted a trustees meeting, in May 2006, where she protested against the appointment of Mr Holmes’ wife Stella as a community development manager.

Mrs Deighton said the move was the result of “nepotism” and “favouritism” and also made a number of allegations about the misuse of centre funding.