A school principal sacked for financial misconduct and nepotism has filed an unfair dismissal claim.
Paul Thomson argues he is the victim of a malicious campaign by the school’s board.
The board sacked Mr Thomson, along with three other family members who also worked at the school.
Sacked school principal claims to be victim of malicious campaign
Mr Thomson founded Kimberley College south of Brisbane 20-years ago.
He gave jobs at the school to his wife, two daughters, and son-in-law.
An independent audit commissioned by the College’s board found multiple examples of financial misconduct.
For example, Mr Thomson gave himself $800,000 in “back pay” and spent $700,000 of school money on first class overseas trips.
One of the trips included a first class seat for his four year-old grandson.
In a television interview, Mr Thomson defended the extravagance:
“Yes, because I had a blood clot and I can prove that through medical records of course, and Amy had just given birth to a child and needed the privacy so she could feed the child.”
The audit also uncovered alleged financial misconduct by Mr Thomson’s wife, daughter and son-in-law.
For example, a $390,000 loan to his daughter.
“The school was going to profit from the repayment of the loans (through higher interest) and that is exactly what happened,” Mr Thomson claimed.
He added that the loan had been repaid “very quickly”.
However, he failed to mention the loan was repaid with other College funds mysteriously paid to Thomson’s son-in-law, described as a “back payment”.
Report found Thomson ‘abused his position’
An interim report on the school’s finances found Mr Thomson “abused his position” and “wrongfully used” school money for personal use.
While Mr Thomson admits he “bent the rules”, he denies rorting Kimberley College finances.
“I have done things like that for years and years and years – bent the rules.
“My family has given to that school far more than it has ever taken.”
Mr Thomson, and the other sacked family members, have all made unfair dismissal claims.
School stands by its decision
As for the College, it’s standing by its decision to sack Mr Thomson and the members of his family.
In a statement, the Kimberley College Board Chair said:
“The Board of Kimberley College is dealing with a number of significant issues including financial mismanagement and administrative failures under the leadership of former Principal Paul Thomson, his wife Jennifer Thomson, his daughter Amy Ferguson and his son-in-law Kevin Ferguson, each of whom was dismissed for misconduct.
“These matters are currently before the court so it is not appropriate for the College to comment in the media.”
Serious misconduct hard to defend
Industrial advocate Miles Heffernan from Dismissals ‘R’ Us says fraud is serious misconduct and a crime.
“If an audit found Mr Thomson and his family misused school funds for personal use, I think they will have a hard time proving unfair dismissal,” he said.
“Stealing from your employer is serious misconduct and grounds for instant dismissal.”
UPDATE TO STORY
In September 2019, Queensland Police arrested Paul Thomson and his wife Jennifer.
They also arrested his daughter, Amy Ferguson, and her husband, Kevin Ferguson.
All four are facing multiple fraud and dishonesty charges.
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