Keble College was found guilty of racism over the dismissal of an Asian head accountant.
In January 2005 Diamond Versi sued Keble College and its Bursar, Roger Boden, on grounds of unfair dismissal, race discrimination, victimisation and breach of contract.
An employment tribunal at Reading Crown Court concluded unanimously that Versi was “unfairly dismissed” and that he was “unlawfully discriminated against” by both Keble College and Boden on the grounds of his race.
Versi now stands to receive over £250,000 from the College and can also demand personal damages from Boden.
The tribunal noted that the relationship between Versi and Boden began to deteriorate around Christmas 2002 when Boden raised concerns about Versi’s ability to access the College’s accounts from home. In a personal note, Boden said, “Diamond seems to have been spending quite a lot of money this year. A few months ago he bought a new BMW. Over the Christmas break he and his wife are going to Sri Lanka for a fortnight’s holiday.”
Keble College said they had contacted auditors Grant Thorntons with these concerns. The auditors suggested that they should “hold the passwords of senior staff as part of their risk management pratices”.
The tribunal, however, found that Boden had conducted a “fraud investigation with no factual background to justify it” and that it was “merely the whim of the Bursar”. The tribunal said Boden had employed a forensic accountant and that consequently, “It was more than a routine investigation: it was in fact a full-blooded fraud investigation.”
Versi toldCherwell, “As soon as Roger arrived, he said he didn’t want me listening in to his conversations. The next thing he said was that he wanted access to my files, which was very unusual. I thought that was an infringement of my privacy.” Versi said that the investigation had “found nothing” and that he was “squeaky clean”.
Averil Cameron, Warden of Keble College, said the College had not instigated a “fraud investigation”, but had taken “prudent measures about security passwords to the finance system which had caused the bursar some concern,” she said. “Diamond was insulted because he thought his personal integrity was being questioned.”
Versi also cited Hien Le in the tribunal, a former assistant Hall Manager, whom he hoped to employ in the accounts department.
“I spotted talent and wanted her to come and work for me,” said Versi. However, Versi said that Boden offered Hien Le £5,000 to continue working in Hall.
Speaking toCherwell, Hien Le agreed that the College had offered her more money to stay in Hall as the conference season had started and more staff were needed to work at that time. But the College also said she could move to the accounts department immediately if she so chose.
“I was working well with the hall manager and I was good at my job,” she said. “But it was always my dream to work in an accounts office as it was a big opportunity for my future.”
Le decided to move to the accounts department and the transfer was made immediately.
She said she was “very disappointed” and “upset” that Versi had cited her in the tribunal.
“I have been here since 1998 and I have never been discriminated against by Roger and I do not think he is a racist,” she said. “He has always been very supportive and kind.” She added, “I have never been treated differently or made to feel foreign.”
The tribunal also noted that in February 2003 Boden refused to sanction a loan to a Pakistani employee of £4,000. Versi said he was authorised to pay a £2,000 loan to anybody after he had “vetted their finances and asked questions as to why they wanted the money”.
“I gave loans to about twenty people and they were all one. This Pakistani woman had come back from Pakistan, and had a large amount of credit card debt.”
Versi said that Boden went to the finance committee to remove his authority to distribute loans, which he believes is because he wanted to provide the Pakistani woman with a loan.
The College said Versi’s distribution of loans were “not part of his job description” and that they did not think distributing loans to consolidate credit card debt was appropriate.
Roger Boden said, “We are considering an appeal in light of which it would be inappropriate to make further comment.”
Averil Cameron, speaking on behalf of the College, said, “I think we can all say that we’re absolutely shocked. I think the finding is unfair.” She said that the College “do not accept” the finding and that she believes “the College’s submission has not been listened to”.
“There were various issues of procedure and Diamond did not like his authority being challenged,” she said. “But this was about the restructuring of the accounts department. He had complaints about matters in 2003. They were nothing to do with race.”
She confirmed that these matters had all been dealt with by the college’s internal grievance procedures.
The Warden contacted all members of the College via email and later held meetings in order to reaffirm the college’s support for Boden.
Speaking toCherwell, Versi said that he was “ecstatic at the outcome of the trial”.
“Every point of racial discrimination that I put to the tribunal has come out trumps,” said Versi. “You haven’t got any idea what this man has put me through.” Versi said it would be “foolhardy” of Boden to consider an appeal and added “they’re just going to bring themselves into more disgrace and more publicity for me”.
JCR President Moshin Zaidi said the judgement was “just ridiculous”.
“I can 100 percent say there was no racism involved. Roger Boden is genuinely one of the nicest people at Keble,” he said. “I know him well enough to know that racism is not what he’s about.”ARCHIVE: 0th week TT 2005