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Worker sacked for e-mails over 'sensitive' data

A FORMER employee of a park authority is suing the public body for unfair dismissal after being sacked for sending e-mails with "sensitive" information to her husband.

iona hyde: Said she was never given any  clear guidelines on exactly what was 'sensitive'. Picture: Mark Mainz
iona hyde: Said she was never given any clear guidelines on exactly what was 'sensitive'. Picture: Mark Mainz

Iona Hyde told an employment tribunal she had been "vilified" by Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority for breaching procedures that do not even exist.

The former Trees and Woodland Officer sent her husband - a private planning consultant - a copy of recommendations she had made in a planning application involving his client, who was objecting to the case.

The authority claimed the e-mails amounted to gross misconduct, but Mrs Hyde said sharing information with agents was common practice among park specialists and planning officers.

She added the organisation has no clear guidelines on what information can and cannot be shared with external bodies, with employees deciding themselves what should be released.

The information she sent her husband, Mike, was later also sent to him by another worker at the authority and was also posted on the body's website.

Mrs Hyde told the tribunal in Glasgow: "Nobody has a clear understanding of how the authority wants us to deal with information.

"Had they not wanted me to share the information and had I known that, I would not have shared it. But I didn't know that so I feel what has happened to me is quite unjust.

"I have been vilified, been made to look like I am something I am not and so has my husband.

"Fundamentally, I feel I was dismissed for being in breach of procedures that do not exist."

Part of the case against Mrs Hyde focused on the tone of her e-mails to her husband, which the authority claims were over-familiar.

However, it emerged her husband was close to many employees within the planning department at the park, having worked there for six years before going into private business.

An e-mail exchange between Mr Hyde and the planning manager was revealed to the tribunal, detailing an unofficial conversation about a petrol pump.

Mrs Hyde said: "There was a very relaxed atmosphere and a very casual way in dealing with people at the park authority and I am quite sure I am not the only one who was sending e-mails like that.

"Mike worked there for six years, he knows a lot of the officers, a lot of them are friends of his.

"There is definitely a level of familiarity between Mike and the planning staff, yet I am the only one who has been punished for it.

"There has been no comeback on anybody else. I think I am being punished for who my husband is."

Mrs Hyde added that the planning manager knew she was dealing with the case and her husband was involved, but nothing was mentioned to her about it being a conflict of interest.

Asked if she was attempting to give her husband a competitive advantage, she replied: "No, absolutely not."

She added she could not see what the competitive advantage would be because all parties to the application would see her recommendations and would be allowed to respond to them.

The other key point of the tribunal centred on an argument over terms used to describe documents within the park authority's e-planning system.

The information she sent to her husband was marked as "sensitive" as opposed to "public", but Mrs Hyde stated she had never been given any clear guidelines or training on exactly what "sensitive" meant in this case.

The tribunal earlier heard from the authority's chief executive Fiona Logan who said Mrs Hyde's actions were "significant and very serious".

She added: "She forwarded e-mails in relation to (the application) four times all within minutes. This was outside of her remit and with undue haste, especially on a case where her husband was acting on behalf of an objector."

The tribunal continues.

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