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missing money Council was justified in dismissing library worker over missing €9,500, WRC finds

The worker had claimed that she had been 'framed' and that the council did not have enough evidence to suggest it was her

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The Workplace Relations Commission in Lansdowne House in Dublin

The Workplace Relations Commission in Lansdowne House in Dublin

The Workplace Relations Commission in Lansdowne House in Dublin

A County Council was justified in dismissing for gross misconduct a library worker after it found that she was involved in the alleged misappropriation of nearly €9,500 in Council funds.

That is according to Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) Adjudicator, Emile Daly who has dismissed the Staff Officer's claim for unfair dismissal.

The Staff Officer claimed that she was ‘framed’ by a third party for the alleged misappropriation of funds.

However, this theory was dismissed by Ms Daly who stated that no evidence was provided by the Staff Officer to support this proposition.

Ms Daly found there were substantial grounds for the Council to justify the Staff Officer’s dismissal and that dismissal on November 1st 2019 fell within a band of reasonable sanctions that was available to the Council.

Ms Daly found that there was adequate evidence for the Council to decide that, on the balance of probabilities, the Staff Officer either misappropriated Council funds or engaged with others in the misappropriation of Council funds.

Ms Daly also found “that there can be little doubt that a lack of financial oversight of a cash handling process created an opportunity for funds to be misappropriated”.

The Adjudicator however added that “the misappropriation was not caused by the lack of oversight or failure to have adequate checks in place. It was caused because some person or persons misappropriated the funds”.

The Council operates five libraries and the complainant in the case was a Staff Officer at the Head Branch.

It was the Staff Officer’s responsibility to lodge cash received from other four libraries to the Council's bank account from cash deposited in the safe at the Head Branch.

However, in mid-March 2019, an internal audit discovered discrepancies and a search of the safe at Head Branch by the County Librarian and auditor discovered opened envelopes with cash missing and 70 'transfer sheets’ were also missing.

The Staff Officer was called in and informed of what was discovered and told to go home.

A subsequent search of the Staff Officer's desk found 53 of the missing transfer sheets under her desk amongst her belongings.

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A Council appointed investigator determined that the evidence all pointed to a likelihood that the Staff Officer either misappropriated the cash sums herself or had facilitated someone else doing it and that her actions constituted gross misconduct.

At the WRC hearing, the Staff Officer argued that the Council investigation was fatally flawed because wrong assumptions were made at the start and conclusions that were drawn subsequently by the Council should not have been.

The Staff Officer contended that a number of staff within the county branches had access to the cash before it ever travelled to the safe in head branch so there was no way of knowing if what the four other branches informed head office had been transferred, was in fact ever transferred.

The Staff Officer further contended that it was the failure by the Council to implement a cash handling system that led to this money disappearing, for which, she had been cast as the scapegoat

The Council worker could not provide an explanation for the missing sums and was not working in the head branch on the day the missing cash was discovered.

The Staff Officer’s evidence was that she did not know who took the cash but that it was not her and the Council Director’s finding that it was her, was not adequately evidenced.

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