Council axes cancer victim after surgery
A £130,000-A-YEAR council official who is battling cancer has been sacked by her employer after just 10 months in the job.
Breast cancer patient Jeanette McGarry had her contract terminated by Stoke-on-Trent City Council after returning home following surgery.
Mrs McGarry, pictured below, joined as director of housing, environment and neighbourhood services last June.
She had previously been chief executive of East Staffordshire Borough Council, but left in controversial circumstances.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
The Sentinel understands Mrs McGarry, who was diagnosed with breast cancer several months ago, had been told last month she would not be allowed to return to work while she was undergoing treatment.
But she has now received a letter from council chief executive John van de Laarschot informing her that her contract has been terminated.
Mrs McGarry had only just returned home from hospital, after undergoing surgery on Friday, when she received the dismissal letter yesterday.
It is understood she was on extended probation, allowing the council to sack her without a lengthy dismissal process.
It is not yet clear whether she plans to take legal action against the authority.
Mrs McGarry won a £121,333 severance pay-out when she left East Staffordshire in December 2008, but the reasons behind her departure remain shrouded in secrecy.
Within weeks of joining the city council, she was involved in controversial plans to shut six local centres and relocate services to central neighbourhood offices.
The proposals, drawn up by former interim assistant chief executive Mike Maunder, met with outrage from residents, community groups and councillors, before being shelved pending a review.
Mrs McGarry had openly questioned the plans in meetings and told councillors Mr Maunder's plans were not achievable in the time he had set for implementation.
She has so far declined to comment on her dismissal, but a source close to her said she is furious and has lodged an appeal.
He said: "She was on the operating table when the council's chief executive sat down and wrote the letter and she found it waiting for her when she got home.
"The council has failed to help her through her illness and ignored requests from her doctors not to put her under any added stress ahead of her operation."
Political group leaders at the council were informed of Mrs McGarry's sacking at a meeting yesterday afternoon, but were warned not to speak to the press.
One council source said: "People feel strongly about what's happened, but there is also a big worry we could end up paying out a lot of money in compensation."
Councillor Dave Conway, chairman of the improving communities overview and scrutiny committee, has launched a petition to get Mrs McGarry reinstated.
He said: "Most councillors were delighted with Jeanette and thought her honesty and integrity were a breath of fresh air.
"I am annoyed our new chief executive has done this to someone recovering from cancer and hasn't even told us why."
A council spokesman said it would be inappropriate to comment on individual staffing matters.
Councillor Brian Ward, deputy council leader, said: "Jeanette was popular with councillors and worked well alongside them, so I can foresee some sort of backlash against this from those members who are unhappy."