Terrence Higgins Trust 'ignored alleged sexual misconduct', former chief executive claims

Rosemary Gillespie tells an employment tribunal that the charity's vice-chair groped and tried to kiss its medical director at a fundraising auction

Rosemary Gillespie
Rosemary Gillespie

The former chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust was dismissed from the HIV charity after a "nasty, vindictive and sustained campaign of bullying" that began on her second day in the role, an employment tribunal heard yesterday.

Rosemary Gillespie, who is seeking compensation from the charity, claimed trustees ignored alleged sexual misconduct and "potentially criminal behaviour" at the THT, the tribunal heard.

Gillespie claimed that Paul Jenkins, vice-chair of trustees, groped and tried to kiss Dr Mike Brady, medical director of the charity, after getting drunk at a Christie's fundraising auction.

Gillespie claimed she was forced out of the job after 15 months in July last year after she began investigating the behaviour of trustees.

She said she was appointed chief executive in April 2014 "with a clear mandate from the trustees to lead what was widely seen to be much needed changes at the charity", the tribunal heard.

She took the charity to the Central London Employment Tribunal claiming she was dismissed after raising several "legitimate public interest concerns" with trustees.

She told the hearing: "Trustees should have provided support and worked with me and the executive team to deliver the outcomes and objectives including those agreed in the listening exercise.

"Instead, trustees used the destructive behaviour of a small number of staff, resistant to change and scrutiny of their own performance, as a lever to provide legitimacy to their decision to remove me from my post."

Referring to the culture of bullying, she said: "Having been brought in as a change agent to fix the serious problems at THT, including those identified by the listening exercise, starting on my second day I became the subject of a nasty, vindictive and sustained campaign of bullying, harassment and undermining of my leadership, led by two senior managers resistant to the scrutiny and changes the trustees asked me to make.

"The stated aim of this campaign was to achieve my removal from office and undermine senior colleagues."

Gillespie told trustees the bullying had caused her "work-related stress" and led to "sleeplessness, forgetfulness, anxiety and panic attacks".

A spokeswoman for THT told Third Sector that it was unable to comment on the tribunal at this stage. The hearing continues.

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