Former HCL chairman ‘utterly betrayed’ by allegations of sexual impropriety
Thu, 26 Apr 2012
The former non-executive chairman of Healthcare Locums (HCL) told an employment tribunal yesterday that he felt “utterly betrayed” by allegations of sexual impropriety made against him by former executive vice chairman of HCL Kate Bleasdale.
On the latest day of the tribunal in which Bleasdale is suing HCL and former colleagues for £12m in damages, Alan Walker was asked for his reaction to Bleasdale’s claim that he had treated her differently and less favourably because she is a woman.
Walker, who resigned as HCL chairman on 18 February 2011, told the tribunal: “That is simply not correct. I have over five years found it pleasurable to be on the board of HCL, to be a guiding influence, receiving the telephone calls and supporting the executive vice chairman.
“I am extremely unhappy and disappointed at the turn of events and the distress caused to my wife and family from accounts of sexual impropriety where none exists. I have given a lot of my time and professional expertise to support the executive vice chairman, and I have to say that I feel utterly betrayed by the events that have happened.”
Testimony during the week has highlighted allegations of a drinking culture at HCL, with references to meetings in bars and clubs. And in an often graphic interrogation on Wednesday, Bleasdale, who is representing herself, queried Walker about specifics of her complaint concerning allegations of both inappropriate touching and conversations about sexual performance enhancement medication and Bleasdale’s body.
Some of Bleasdale’s allegations have been supported by Simon Bennett from Fairfax, then HCL’s nominated advisor and broker, who has not appeared at the tribunal.
Walker responded: “You are making the most serious allegations made against me that I have ever had in my life, and you have said that Mr Bennett was there. I find it astonishing that he is not here as a witness to validate this.”
In response Bleasdale told the tribunal that she had requested that Bennett attend.
Walker then referred to a question asked by David Moffatt, as part of his investigations of Bleasdale, the members of the HCL board and other HCL staff, during which Walker said Moffatt implied that Walker was drunk at the time of the alleged groping of Bleasdale. “David was making the assumption that I was drunk, when he asked me whether I was groping the claimant,” said Walker.
“I don’t do drunk and haven’t done in the last 25 years because I underwent a biopsy after problems with my liver, when my drink was spiked on a rugby tour with [a man’s cologne]. I smelt rather good but it didn’t do my liver any good.”
Walker added: “I certainly don’t do drunk at 5.30 in the evening”, and especially when he then must drive home as was the case on this occasion.
“You said in your witness statement that I was drunk. I was not drunk in any way, shape or form.”
Earlier this week Peter Sullivan, the current HCL chairman, told the tribunal that despite a ‘no alcohol’ policy in the office in HCL there had been wine in the refrigerator at the company’s Old Bailey office. Bleasdale responded: “I never drank wine in the office in the Old Bailey.” Sullivan retorted: “Many people would disagree with that.”
The tribunal continues today, with claimant and respondent presenting their submissions to the tribunal. It expects to take at least a month to reach its decision.