Fire boss tribunal hears details of 'bullying and harassment' complaint

Stuart Millington was appointed as the interim chief of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service in February 2024. Credit: North Wales Fire and Rescue Service

An investigation into the conduct of the controversial interim boss of South Wales Fire and Rescue Service found evidence "that may amount to bullying and harassment", according to a document seen by an employment tribunal.

Stuart Millington was the deputy chief fire officer at North Wales Fire and Rescue Service before he was parachuted in to run the scandal-hit fire and rescue service in South Wales on an interim basis in February this year.

However, soon after his appointment, ITV Wales was revealed he was facing an employment tribunal related to his time in north Wales.

He is accused of harassing a colleague because of his trade union activities. The claimant, Dafydd Roberts, says Mr Millington had bullied and intimidated him.

In the tribunal hearing on Thursday, 9 May, North Wales Fire and Rescue Service argued the case should be thrown out because Mr Roberts' claim was submitted outside of the permitted deadline.

Dafydd Roberts, who joined North Wales Fire and Rescue Service in 2004, brought a claim against the service after he was allegedly bullied and harassed while working in the service's control room in St Asaph.

Mr Millington and Ros Thomas, the control room boss, are also named as respondent in the tribunal proceedings.

Mr Roberts says he was penalised for taking part in trade union activities and because of his disability. Papers seen by the tribunal say he is disabled due to his anxiety and depressive disorder.

The claim made to the tribunal relates to messages sent to a Telegram group, in which Mr Roberts raised questions about the promotion of the "relative of a senior officer".

According to the documents shown to the tribunal, the claimant's legal representative says Ms Thomas obtained copies of these messages which were later shared with Mr Millington.

Ms Thomas then allegedly questioned staff about the messages. The tribunal papers claim she "had obtained a copy of the Telegram messages and, in an intimidating and bullying manner, proceeded to question control room operators in attendance individually, while in the presence of the group, whether they agreed with the sentiments expressed".

In a subsequent meeting with assistant chief fire officer Mr Millington, it is alleged that he "adopted a very intimidating and bullying manner, raising his voice" and urged Mr Roberts to "agree that he had committed misconduct by raising the matter of nepotism".

After Mr Roberts made a complaint to the service, it commissioned an investigation through a third party investigator.

The tribunal was given a copy of the report. In it, the independent investigation "upheld a number of the factual allegations made by DR (Mr Roberts) against SM (Mr Millington)".

It continued: "The conduct complained of (if upheld) may also amount to bullying and harassment which amounts to misconduct or gross misconduct."

The independent report concluded: "At a cumulative level, the investigator believes that there is evidence to support a prima facie case that may amount to bullying and harassment."

Mr Roberts' witness statement alleges this report was never shared with him until the tribunal compelled the service to provide him with a copy.

The document was raised by Plaid Cymru leader, Rhun ap Iorwerth, in the Senedd at the end of April. He raised questions about whether senior Welsh Government figures knew about the report's contents before Mr Millington was appointed to the South Wales role by four Welsh Government-appointed commissioners who had been drafted in to oversee the service in the wake of a damning culture review.

Stuart Millington, who is South Wales Fire and Rescue Service's interim chief fire officer Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

North Wales Fire and Rescue Service reject that Mr Roberts had experienced any detriment because of his trade union activities and say he was never prevented from taking part in them or deterred from using a trade union's services.

Their legal representative argued the case should be called off because Mr Roberts was too late in submitting his claim to the tribunal.

Jonathan Walters, for the respondents, argued that Mr Roberts was "not someone who was incapable of functioning" during the period when he could have brought the tribunal claim in time. He called for the case to be "struck out".

The tribunal's judge, Stephen Povey, adjourned the tribunal hearing to consider the fire service's "strike out" application.

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