No interim reinstatement for course employee

The Employment Relations Authority has declined to make an interim reinstatement of Andrew Hobbs, a course superintendent at the St Clair Golf Club, after he was summarily dismissed last December.

In a recently released determination, authority member Helen Doyle said the application for interim reinstatement had been declined and costs were reserved until the final determination.

A further hearing on the employment case is likely to be held in early May.

Ms Anderson noted that Mr Hobbs had been employed as course superintendent at the St Clair Golf Club from 2003 until December 17, 2013, when he had been dismissed for ''serious misconduct''.

Mr Hobbs said his dismissal was unjustified and he had made an application for interim reinstatement.

Interim and permanent reinstatement were opposed by the club which said it had ''carried out a fair and reasonable disciplinary process'' into allegations of serious misconduct.

And the club had said the dismissal was substantively justified.

Mr Hobbs yesterday said he could not comment substantively until the main hearing involving his application for reinstatement was heard by the authority in early May.

Mr Hobbs is a former Otago golf representative player who late last year also played for Otago in the Freyberg Masters.

He had always sought to serve the golf club, and, as a greenkeeper, had ''poured his heart and soul'' into his work for it over the years, he said.

Last year, he had paid his own way to the Pinehurst golf resort in the United States and attended several turf management-related seminars, with a view to benefiting the club.

His dismissal had been highly stressful for himself and his family, he added. Stephen Brocklebank, who chairs the club's board of management, noted yesterday that the authority's determination involved only the application for interim reinstatement, and declined to comment at this stage.

The authority determination noted that on November 21 last year, Mr Hobbs was given a letter from Mr Brocklebank, stating the board had become aware of two ''serious matters''.

On at least three occasions in October last year, Mr Hobbs had asked a club employee to work during the club's normal working hours at properties outside the club's property, the letter suggested.

The letter also alleged Mr Hobbs had ''instructed the employee to falsify his timesheet'', with the result that some or all of this time working outside the property was paid for by the club.

The letter also said that on October 29 last year, according to a commercial supply firm's packing slip, 10 bags of fertiliser had been delivered to the club, and the slip appeared to have been ticked off as correct by Mr Hobbs, for the amount of $899 plus GST.

There was no evidence of the fertiliser at the club, but a new fertiliser spreader was in the workshop.

The board had heard that Mr Hobbs had asked the supply firm's salesman to invoice the spreader as fertiliser because the board would not approve the spreader, as it was capital expenditure.

This instruction had been ''questionable'', and ''a perfectly acceptable spreader'' was already at the club, the letter said.

As well as working at the club, Mr Hobbs also had a separate turf contracting business which had been known about by the board.

The board letter advised that a later disciplinary meeting would be held and that summary dismissal could occur, if explanations were not considered satisfactory.

Mr Hobbs subsequently explained he had earlier raised with the club employee the possibility of extra work after-hours with him, working as a landscaper.

He had offered this work to the employee on three occasions late in the day, about 3.30pm.

Mr Hobbs denied any dishonesty, and said he had been experiencing stress at the time, which had resulted in him ''failing to pick up the inaccuracy'' in the employee's timesheets.

Mr Hobbs had also said the spreader the club had owned was the oldest one in town, and the purchase process method was ''the same'' as for other capital equipment.

What he had done over the spreader had been a ''dumb mistake'' but was also not dishonest.

Ms Doyle said there was no suggestion Mr Hobbs was not competent at his role and was ''clearly held in high regard by many club members''.


Add a Comment