Case 017 - Charity - Nursery

I worked in administration at a Children's Nursery (a registered charity since 1971) for about two years and was also a member of the Management Committee. Many of the members had been on the committee for several years but suddenly they began to resign one by one. The newly appointed Manager turned out to be the reason for their resignations. I eventually resigned myself because of the bullying tactics of the Manager. This is a brief account of my encounter with a Serial Bully.

The Deputy Manager brought it to my attention that receipts that had been presented by the Manager for reimbursement, after a shopping trip, didn't tally. One of the receipts showed a date and time when the Manager was actually on the premises and this was investigated under the grievance procedure. She claimed 'everyone makes mistakes' and talked her way out of the situation with glib expertise. She was let off with a caution, and she agreed to be more careful in the future. The Deputy Manager was not satisfied with this outcome and asked for the matter to be dealt with at the next full Committee Meeting. This resulted in the Manager then counterattacking the Deputy and instructed the Management Committee to begin Disciplinary Proceedings against the Deputy Manager for bullying and harassment, insubordination, libellous and slanderous remarks, saying that she would 'rip her to shreds' and that before she was the Manager she had been on the Management Committee. She sent a letter to myself and the Management Committee saying that she had consulted her solicitor and would be suing the Centre for defamation of character etc. She then began to make life difficult for the Deputy, by adding to her workload without explanation, following her about, sending memos, and generally making her working day a working nightmare.

The written request for Disciplinary Proceedings for Bullying and Harassment prompted me to do some research on the matter. I was pretty naïve about bullying and thought it only went on at school with school kids. I searched for information about bullying on the Internet and found Tim Field's site on the serial bully. How aptly the description of the serial bully befitted the Manager. It was uncanny. This information put a whole new perspective on the situation and I began to be more observant of the activities of the Manager and advised the staff and the Deputy to make notes.

Her constant use of expletives was out of keeping within the environment of a Children's Nursery and I soon began to have my doubts about her abilities overall. Even her desk displayed how disorganised she was and could only be described as a 'desk from hell'. The Manager called a meeting with senior members of staff to point out that I was not the Manager and just a member of the Management Committee and not to impose on my good nature. She told them if they had any gripes that they should go to her and not me.

Her constant "I'm the Manager" really got on everyone's nerves. One day she said "I'm highly academic. I've got a degree." Another member of the Management Committee became suspicious and a letter was sent asking for her 'qualifications'. She dilly dallied and gave many excuses: "They're up in the loft. The Council knows about them." (She had been employed by the City Council). Eventually I contacted the University which she had attended and was fortunate to get information from her tutor. He confirmed that she had completed the first part of the three year part-time course satisfactorily, but due to 'a range of problems' didn't qualify to go on to degree level, and had not been awarded any qualifications from that University. Other staff were requested for their qualifications (including the Deputy Manager) and these were given without hesitation or any excuses.

The question of qualifications was raised by the Treasurer at another committee meeting. Her response was that I knew about them, (I had resigned by this time, and so therefore could not validate or refute her response.). This was yet another excuse to get out of admitting that she didn't have the qualifications that she claimed to have. She made a derogatory remark about the Treasurer, saying he would be "wanting to know the colour of her underwear next." Next day she phoned me to say that she had 'seen something on the computer' and I advised her to call the IT installer, who consequently confirmed that pornographic material was present on the computer. The installer called it 'kid stuff', which from a reliable source was in fact pictures of little girls. This was reported to the police who said that it would have to be reported by the person finding it. Eventually the installer was called in to remove the material and nothing further materialised, despite efforts to alert Social Services, who said "As long as it doesn't affect the children, there is nothing we can do about it." All of which is very disconcerting to those who were and still are trying to expose the Bully Manager. The pornographic material could not and would not have been planted by any of the other members of staff. She lied to the Acting Chairperson (who has given up), that the premises had been accessed on two weekends and implied that this was when the offensive material appeared. The security system recorded that no-one had entered the premises on the dates mentioned. This was another attempt to discredit someone, the target this time being the Treasurer for mentioning her qualifications again.

The position carries a good salary, but the Manager submits timesheets for 'overtime' which is not in her contract. In her contract it states that 'any extra hours worked will be taken as time off in lieu at the discretion of the Chairperson'. The new Chairperson was 'sacked' from another organisation for 'lining his own pocket' and although this position should be police checked, this has been waived because he will not be the named Day Care Provider. Staff are not kept informed of the outcome of meetings by the present Management Committee by the way of minutes. Everything seems to be done 'behind closed doors' and all to support the Manager.

The Trustees of the organisation last year decided to disband after 25 years of loyal support. There remained quite a surplus in funds which they were prepared to donate to the Centre, but questioned the activities of the Manager. They were unsure that the money would be put to good use, and instructed an investigation to be carried out by the council fraud department this has been underway now for eight months and a report will soon be available. In the interim period, the Trustees decided to donate the money to another charity. My impression is that the whole thing will be swept under the carpet to save any embarrassment and to avoid publicity. Staff have now called in the Union to help them and are also considering contacting the Charity Commission to assist. It is truly an almighty mess that only Dyno Rod could clear.

In the two years that I was with the Centre, all of the original Committee Members have resigned, along with the deputy manager, the bookkeeper, a nursery nurse and the out-of-school co-ordinator. Two members of staff in that time were 'sacked' by the Manager.

Although I am no longer a member of the Management Committee I am still endeavouring to help the remaining staff because of their commitment to caring for children.