Charity Commission has spent £107,000 so far defending unfair dismissal case

David Orbison, a former senior case worker, says he offered to settle the case with the regulator in 2010 for about a third of the amount it has spent

David Orbison
David Orbison

The Charity Commission has spent £107,000 defending a wrongful dismissal claim by the former senior case worker David Orbison, according to information released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Orbison won a claim of constructive unfair dismissal by a majority verdict at an employment tribunal earlier this year but lost on three other claims: for detriment and unfair dismissal, indirect discrimination and discrimination due to a disability, which relates to a clinical diagnosis of anxiety and depression.

Orbison said he offered to settle the case with the commission in 2010 for about a third of the amount that the regulator has spent. He also claimed that the figures disclosed by the commission include only external fees and do not factor in time spent on his case by commission staff.

Orbison claimed that he was unfairly dismissed after a series of disagreements with his managers over the case of African Aids Action, a small charity he was assigned to investigate, in which he felt the chair of the charity was using charitable funds for personal benefit.

His claims eventually led him to make a complaint under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998, which protects whistleblowers. The commission chose to fight Orbison’s claims, won on all but one count and has since appealed on that single verdict.

Orbison said that if the commission had taken his deal, he would also have demanded an apology and pursued the public interest disclosure. He said the commission’s refusal to settle was "a form of bullying using taxpayers’ money".

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said she was unable to give any further details of how the £107,000 broke down.

Dame Suzi Leather, the former chair of the commission, wrote to the Public Administration Select Committee in July after she appeared before it to confirm that the regulator spent £185,000 in legal costs on its High Court hearing with the Independent Schools Council.

Leather said at the time that it was not possible to provide a figure for the regulator’s internal administrative costs.

The Charity Commission spokeswoman said in a statement: "The commission was defending a legal claim made against it. The employment tribunal involving the Charity Commission and Mr Orbison dismissed all claims except one, and we are pleased that the judgment found that the commission’s management acted entirely appropriately in both its management of the claimant and the case in which he made a public interest disclosure."

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