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The full story of the suspension of Strategic Director Jim Miles and his wife Elaine, a Guildford Borough Council solicitor, is being stifled by a confidentiality agreement signed between them and the borough council. This is the information that has been given to the Guildford Dragon by several sources within and without the council including Alderman Gordon Bridger.
Mr Bridger said: “Jim and Elaine Miles were seen by several colleagues at the Millmead offices to have been escorted from the premises when their suspension was initiated. However, I understand from very reliable contacts that the offences of which they were accused could not possibly be considered as ‘gross misconduct’, which is usually the justification for suspending employees in this way.”
The information corroborates other reports received by The Guildford Dragon. Days after accounts of the suspensions were published Jim Miles issued a statement saying that he had taken early retirement for health reasons and that his wife had also retired to support him.
Mr Bridger went on to say: “Jim and Elaine Miles have served the council well for many years, Jim was responsible for overseeing the huge task of the construction of G Live, and I am sure that their annual reports, if examined, will record their good work.
“To suddenly subject them to the humiliating experience of being marched out like criminals, is unbelievable, more appropriate to a Soviet dictatorship. Whatever the misdemeanors they may have been charged with they could not have been that serious and therefore the law which requires staff to be given a verbal and then two verbal warnings should have been implemented. This being the case, their effective dismissal must be deemed as illegal.”
It is understood that Jim and Elaine Miles were not only allowed to retire with their pensions intact but were given some sort of enhanced financial package. Observers suspect that the Chief Executive, who was the only person senior enough to have ordered the suspensions, may have acted incorrectly or prematurely and the confidentiality agreement was arranged to limit embarrassment and prevent any counter claim from the Miles’.
Mr Bridger continued: “This ejection of these senior long-standing, well thought of public servants reaches a new low in the behaviour of the council towards its staff. The Miles’ must be given a chance to explain and defend themselves, regardless of whether they have been silenced by a large remuneration package.
“The message it sends to other council staff explains the fear and demoralisation which has swept this once well regarded institution. I do not believe that many, if any, councillors knew of this decision before action was taken and they must be appalled by it. It is their chance to take back the council, and insist on decent standards of justice for its employees.”
Guildford Borough Council continues to maintain a wall of silence on the matter, saying only: “We cannot comment on staff matters.”
Another Alderman and former mayor, Lynda Strudwick, said: “For some years I was the councillor for Arts & Culture and worked with Jim Miles. In my opinion he has always been a very good officer. He gave extremely good service to the council and he certainly doesn’t deserve to be treated like this.
“The so-called incident that led to him being suspended was extremely trivial and I think it is something most employers wouldn’t even comment on. I think for him to have been treated like this was appalling, completely wrong and unjustifiable.
“Senior officers in any organisation don’t just work 9 to 5. They have to work many unpaid hours of overtime. I think it is extremely odd behaviour by the council.”