A former Blackpool FC star claims he was unfairly sacked after he ‘blew the whistle’ about teenagers taking drugs at the children’s home he worked at.
Eamonn O’Keefe, 61, who scored 23 goals in 38 appearences for the Seasiders in the mid-1980s says 12-16-year-olds at Knowlton House in Congleton bought cannabis with pocket money awarded for doing jobs such as car washing.
But he says he was fired after raising the issue with managers at Whistledawn Limited, which traded under the name Northern Care from a headquarters on Whitegate Drive, Blackpool.
Mr O’Keefe, who is represented by Farleys Solicitors LLP, is now due to have his case for automatic unfair dismissal heard at an employment tribunal in Manchester.
A public statement of case states the former striker became concerned not long after he took up the post of team leader at the Cheshire home in August, 2013.
In October of that year he allegedly emailed the company’s assistant director about drug use which he said was being funded through pocket money and ‘payments for jobs’.
He claims he received no response and subsequently raised the issues again at a staff meeting and during a routine in-house inspection.
Mr O’Keefe alleges the company “sought to conceal” the “criminal offences, breaches of legal obligations and dangers to health and safety that had occurred, were occurring and were likely to continue to occur”.
He says he was then summoned to a meeting with managers at which, according to his grounds of claim, it was evident that “officers and senior managers had a problem with the claimant because of the serious disclosures he had made”.
On one occasion Mr O’Keefe claims one of the young people asked him for pocket money and admitted he was going to use it to buy drugs.
Mr O’Keefe says he reported this to his superiors but believes the boy was nevertheless given the money by another employee.
He then alleges he then had to respond to “erratic, abusive and non-compliant” behaviour by the boy and other young people “that in his view undoubtedly resulted from such drug taking”.
According to the legal papers, Mr O’Keefe was verbally dismissed in November, 2013, for failing to attend training.
A further email alleged Mr O’Keefe’s performance had not been up to scratch, and that his employment had been terminated in accordance with a probationary period in his contract.
But Mr O’Keefe said his performance had never previously been questioned and the grounds of appeal state there was no probationary period specified in the contract.
The tribunal is scheduled to start on February 24 and is expected to last four days.