Sacking of Essex fire chief David Johnson was ‘unfair’

PUBLISHED: 16:37 28 April 2017 | UPDATED: 11:23 30 April 2017

Former Essex chief fire officer David Johnson was dismissed after a lengthy suspension and investigation by Essex Fire Authority. Picture:  ARCHANT LIBRARY

Former Essex chief fire officer David Johnson was dismissed after a lengthy suspension and investigation by Essex Fire Authority. Picture: ARCHANT LIBRARY

Archant

The sacking of Essex’s chief fire officer has been branded unfair and unjust by union leaders.

Alan Chinn-Shaw, of the Fire Brigade Union’s Essex branch, has questioned why David Johnson faced further investigations, costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds, after a senior barrister previously found no evidence of misconduct.

Mr Johnson, who was dismissed on Tuesday after being suspended in April 2015 following a period of sick leave, had been cleared of misconduct in a report by Naomi Ellenbogen QC last year, which looked at 10 allegations.

The Essex Fire Authority, which commissioned the report and also dismissed Mr Johnson, who lives in Suffolk, said previously the report was “not the only piece of evidence in the investigation”.

However Mr Chinn-Shaw said it went against “natural justice” for an employee to be cleared by one report only to be overruled by another.

“I don’t think the decision will withstand any sort of scrutiny,” he said.

“It’s clearly unfair that the group of people who commission one report into the conduct of a member of staff then commission a new report to unpick its findings.”

Mr Chinn-Shaw said the costs to the authority, including legal fees, are likely to exceed £1million.

He is calling for the Fire Authority to explain why Robin Allen QC was commissioned for the second report, given the significant sums already spent on Ms Ellenbogen’s investigation.

Mr Johnson said he was not able to discuss the reasons for his dismissal.

He told the BBC he was “utterly devastated”. “I don’t understand the malice in doing this to me, particularly when I’m innocent,” he added.

Essex Fire Authority said the details of the dismissal will remain confidential.

Chairman Anthony Hedley said it followed “a robust process in compliance with the law”.

Mr Johnson’s union The Fire Officers’ Association, said it was “disappointed” by the outcome and “very concerned” it took so long.

“The last couple of years have been very difficult for David and his family to the extent that his health has suffered considerably as a result of his long-term suspension from duty,” it said.

“Since the Fire Authority appears to consider that there is compelling evidence of misconduct warranting dismissal it is extremely difficult to understand why it has taken some two years to reach this point.”

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