'I socialised with staff and students but now realise it's left me open to allegations'
THE former principal of the Grimsby Institute, Professor Daniel Khan, has been at the centre of an employment tribunal involving claims of sexual harassment and unfair dismissal during his time at the town college.
As reported, the Telegraph can now reveal the details of the hearing – at the end of which Mr Khan was cleared of any wrongdoing and the Institute was only found to have failed on one minor issue. The claimant in the case, an ex-employee of the Institute, cannot be identified because of the allegation of sexual harassment. She claimed she was sacked as a result of a complaint she made about Mr Khan's alleged behaviour towards her, which she said amounted to sexual harassment. However, the tribunal, held in Hull between January 16 and February 8, found that she was fairly dismissed as she had committed an offence which led to her dismissal – details of which cannot be revealed to protect her identity. We are now running the details of the hearing – attended by Grimsby Telegraph reporters every day – today, we reveal Daniel Khan's evidence in full.
PROFESSOR Daniel Khan told the employment tribunal how he began his career as an auditor in 1970 before becoming a university accountant, director of finances and then becoming deputy principal of York College in 1996.
In 2001 he moved to the Grimsby Institute to take on his first role as principal.
He said he left in 2010 to become chief executive of the Open College Network London.
Prof Khan, 60, told the tribunal he had also held a number of other positions in the community during his time at the Institute, including seven years as a councillor for North East Lincolnshire Council.
In a statement read out to the tribunal, Mr Khan said he was aware that the claimant had begun working at the Grimsby Institute
He denied promising her the job or supplying her with interview questions, as she had claimed, and said she was the "best candidate".
"We would often be at the same events," he said.
Mr Khan said that for the first four or five months of her employment, she reported to him, but he altered it so that Ray Ellis became her line manager.
He said there were concerns about her performance, but that he chose to redeploy staff rather than "tackle it directly".
"I always believe that people have strength and they may be better suited to another role," he said.
Under questioning from Nigel Grundy, representing the claimant, Mr Khan said he came from a "humble" background in the Caribbean and did not believe in making people redundant.
"There were more redundancies in one year after I left than in the nine I was there," he said.
Mr Khan said: "I can recall that two staff members in her department came to talk to me to express concerns about her ability and the fact she would often disappear without explanation.
"I was concerned that members of staff said they were so fed up and frustrated about it that they were thinking of leaving."
He said he arranged for a consultant to review the department, who deemed that she did not have the "skills or capability" to do the job.
Referring to her post being moved, which she claimed was a demotion and as a result of her grievance, Mr Khan told the tribunal: "I do not understand why she saw it as degrading.
"It is completely untrue of her to suggest she was moved because she rejected my advances."
Mr Khan explained that following another restructure, staff had to apply for equivalent posts.
"She did not apply for any post and she was offered redundancy," he said.
Shortly after this she submitted a grievance against Mr Khan, claiming he had sexually harassed her.
"This was the first time anybody had suggested that there was any problem whatsoever," he said.
He said it was agreed for her to take on a new role, rather than be made redundant.
Mr Khan said he was aware that she wanted to continue with her grievance and was "upset" by her "unfounded" claims.
"I was stunned, aghast and horrified when I read what she had said," he said.
Mr Khan claimed it was, in fact, the claimant, who had made advances towards him.
He said she would sit close to him, stroke his shoulder or rest her hand on his leg.
"I felt a change in our relationship."
Under questioning from Mr Grundy, Mr Khan revealed that the woman told him that she liked the way he was with his kids.
Mr Khan said there was "no truth" in the woman's claims that he had told her he would go to her room while they were away on a conference.
"That is absolutely a million per cent not true," he said. "It is ludicrous."
He also dismissed her claim that he had put his arm around her and kissed her on the cheek, saying: "This did not happen as it would have been completely inappropriate and unprofessional."
Mr Khan said he was "appalled" by her claims that he had touched her.
He said that although her grievance proceedings were dismissed, she then added "50 new allegations" to her claims against him.
He rubbished more of her allegations, saying her claim that he offered a woman a pay rise if she went into a stock cupboard with him was "hilarious" because they were in an open-plan office.
He categorically denied that he ever had any intention of taking the claimant with him on a work trip abroad. As reported, she claimed she was told only one room would be booked for both him and her if they were to go and she refused.
Mr Khan added: "There was never any issue of my booking a single room. It would have been just as easy to book two rooms. Why would a principal decide to add to rumours about him?"
Talking about his reputation at the Institute, Mr Khan said: "I would socialise with staff and students but I now realise that left me open to allegations," he said.
"The claimant has libelled me, stating I have been promiscuous and unfaithful, but I have been married for 35 years."
Mr Grundy put it to Mr Khan that he made many decisions about the Institute on his own.
He denied this and said it was the board of governors who set the strategy for the institute.
Mr Khan denied her performance had anything to do with the fact her post was at risk of redundancy.
He said he was not involved in the claimant's possible redundancy and told Mr Grundy he would need to direct his questions to HR boss Peter Barnard.
Mr Grundy asked whether Mr Khan was aware that Mr Barnard had told the woman there was no point her applying for any positions in the newly-restructured institute and he replied: "I certainly would never have suggested that people should not reapply."
Mr Grundy said: "This was all decided and posts were mapped out for individuals before the restructuring even began wasn't it?"
Mr Khan replied: "No."
He added that it was "ridiculous" to suggest that he ran the institute "single handedly."
Mr Grundy questioned whether Mr Khan had kissed the claimant at a launch party, as she had alleged.
He said: "I cannot recall it but if it had happened it would not have been about a sign of power or control or have been inappropriate."
Mr Grundy then asked Mr Khan whether he was aware that a number of female members of staff felt he acted inappropriately towards them.
"I was never aware of rumours that I behaved inappropriately with staff but I was aware there were rumours that I employed young women, 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink'."
Mr Grundy questioned whether it was true that Mr Khan employed "attractive young women", as colleague Mike Dillon had claimed.
Mr Khan said he employed young males and females who were well-presented and approachable.
"Mike must have interpreted being well-presented as being young and attractive," he said.
Mr Grundy then asked if it was correct that Mr Khan would dance with female members of staff at institute functions.
"I danced with staff at functions and after about midnight it would be mainly younger ones left," said Mr Khan.
"I was tactile with both males and females and would put my hand on them when I was speaking.
"I did not see it as flirting, I saw it as being amenable and social towards people."
Mr Grundy questioned why Mr Barnard was allowed to investigate the woman's grievance when Mr Khan was his boss.
"I was not his boss," said Mr Khan.
"He was appointed by the governing body."
Mr Grundy put to Mr Khan: "It was you who decided that you better make sure you kept the claimant in employment for the time being and that is why the proposed redundancy was immediately revoked?"
Mr Khan replied: "I cannot recall being involved in discussions about her possible redundancy."
After further questioning from Mr Grundy, Mr Khan admitted that he had attempted to find out more about some of the woman's allegations about him.
He said: "There were serious allegations made against me which could have endangered my career, my reputation and my marriage.
"If I had not enquired about some of the claims then I would have been a fool.
"What was more important than procedure was the fact that the allegations were a total lie.
"She was going around looking for more people to besmirch my character."
Mr Khan said that he had "no idea" why Mr Barnard had only questioned four of the 12 people who the woman said had information related to the case in her grievance.
He also explained that he had no involvement in her disciplinary proceedings.
Monday: Peter Barnard takes the stand.