24 December 2019

Richard Dunne's alleged catering racket

At the time of writing this post I am still none the wiser as to why the Good Shepherd Trust removed Richard Dunne from Ashley School at the beginning of Autumn Term 2019.

In his resignation letter, Mr Dunne made it clear he was facing allegations "about my performance regarding procedures and practices."

Mr Dunne has not yet revealed what these allegations are. Neither has the trust, but it looks like we might have got a fix on one of them.

On 18 December 2019, Nigel Stapleton, Chair of the Local Governing Committee (the LGC - Ashley's governors), issued a letter to parents and carers drawing attention to the Good Shepherd Trust's annual accounts.

In those accounts was an extraordinary statement from Alex Tear the CEO of the GST, alleging of impropriety by a senior member of staff at Ashley School and his "spouse".

Could this be the smoking gun?

This is what Alex Tear says in the accounts:
"I confirm that the following instance of material irregularity, impropriety or funding non-compliance discovered to date have been notified to the Board of Trustees and ESFA. Propriety and regularity issue: 
In relation to the procurement by a senior member of staff at Ashley CofE Primary School of catering services from a business operated by that senior member of staff's spouse. Payment for those catering services was authorised by that senior member of staff and made to a company in which the senior member of staff and their spouse were the only Directors (and 50/50 shareholders).  
This was a relevant business and pecuniary interest, but which had not in fact been included on the senior member of staff's Declaration of Interests, or otherwise disclosed by that senior member of staff as a conflict of interest, at any time since the school joined the Trust in the year ended 31 August 2015.  
Payments for those catering services procured through a series of undisclosed related party transactions totalled £6,900 (comprising £3,600 in the year ended 31 August 2015, £2,900 for the year ended 31 August 2016 and £400 during the year ended 31 August 2019)."
There we have it. Richard Dunne has been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Over years he has been materially enriching himself and his family and keeping it all on the QT so no one at the school or the GST knew he was funnelling thousands of pounds from the school into a business he ran!

No wonder they got rid of him. Looks like he's bang to rights. Good riddance to bad rubbish etc etc.

Hold up. Not so fast. On 23 December Charlotte Dunne circulated her take on the whole clandestine affair:
"I wish to respond to a statement made by the Trust in its Annual Report which was signposted to the Ashley School community on the last day of the Autumn Term 2019. 
The statement in the report says there has been material irregularity, impropriety and non-compliance in breach of the funding agreement between the Academy Trust and the Secretary of State. It then goes on to describe a procurement of catering services by “a senior member of staff” to his spouse. 
Although the report has not named the individuals, I am aware that parents have identified them as being Richard and me. The Trust did not allow us to respond to this allegation before making this statement and what has been stated in the report is misleading and I want to address this. 
Firstly, the Trust were well aware of my catering company. Indeed, it was Nigel Stapleton, Chair of Governors and the Trust’s Chair of Finance, who first requested my catering services for a Governors Thank-You meal in July 2012, and again in 2015 and 2018. 
The catering arrangements referred to in the Annual Report are in respect of workshops which were run by the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts, not Ashley School, and they were for teachers from a range of schools. Although Ashley School collected in the monies on behalf of the Prince’s School, it was the Prince’s School that requested my catering services for their workshops. 
For the avoidance of doubt, any payments to my catering company by Ashley School were authorised by Di Goodhugh, the Finance Officer at the time and the current Head of Finance at the Trust, and signed off by the Deputy Headteacher, Jackie Stevens.
The payment total that has been referenced of £6,900 was for 17 workshops and 34 days of work. 
Over half of this cost was for food and equipment. I charged £100 per day and each workshop needed one day of food preparation and one day to run the catering for the workshop. I earned £1,600 in the academic year 2014-15 and £1,600 in the academic year 2015-16. The final £200 was for the workshop in November 2018. 
The Chair of Governors, Nigel Stapleton, was delighted to welcome HRH the Prince of Wales when he visited the school and saw the Prince’s School’s workshop in the Harmony Centre in February 2016 that I catered for. He was fully involved in this Royal Visit. He did not raise any concerns with regard to my catering role or any conflict of interest. 
On Monday, 10th June of this year, the Trust’s Head of Finance, Di Goodhugh, emailed my husband to complete a form for the last workshop catering that I did on Wednesday, 14th November 2018 (a new caterer was appointed in November 2018 some ten months before this allegation even surfaced). 
However, when my husband requested the form for signing, the Trust’s Head of Finance did not send it. This failure to set it out on a declaration of interests is an administrative oversight and it is incredulous to suggest that the Trust were not aware of it. 
As set out above, neither Richard nor I were able to give the above evidence to the Trust before they made their decision. However, Richard wrote to the Trust on 13th December 2019 to refute this and other allegations, but the Trust has refused to consider his evidence. I consider that this allegation has only been raised now and made so public as a means of further discrediting Richard and his reputation. 
This ongoing treatment of Richard by the Trust in its desire to not only get rid of him, but also to damage him and his reputation as much as possible is in stark contrast to the values of trust, love, courage, respect and integrity that the Trust claims to live by.
Richard and I want to thank you all for your ongoing support. It is very much appreciated 
We wish you all a Happy Christmas and we look forward to a happier 2020."
If this was the strongest allegation made against Richard Dunne by the GST, you have to wonder what the rest are.

I note in the above rebuttal Charlotte Dunne states Mr Dunne wrote to the trust on 13 Dec refuting all the allegations against him.

There are parents who, understandably won't be convinced until everything is out in the open, but it's good to see at least one of these terrible crimes getting exposure, so people can start to make up their own minds.

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