Businessman denies blaming ex-manager for selling him Dalkey house – The Irish Times
A businessman has denied he was angry with a Fine Gael County Councilor and other directors of his packing business for ‘making’ him sell his house in Dalkey, Co Dublin to fund the company.
AB Group Packaging owner Dermot Brady told the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) that he had reinvested proceeds from the sale of 1.7 million euros into the business and planned to move anyway.
He was defending a wrongful termination claim filed by his former chief financial officer, Wicklow County Councilor Edward Timmins, who alleges he was fired in a “sham” layoff in 2020 motivated by “interpersonal issues”.
Mr Timmins, a chartered accountant, worked with the company for 19 years and brought a claim against the company Blessington, Co Wicklow under unfair dismissal law.
The company argues that his role was terminated due to a need to book profits and recapitalize the business after an unsuccessful attempt to expand into the United States and due to “root and branch” changes. He indicates that Mr. Timmins never grieved interpersonal issues because they never existed.
At a hearing at Lansdowne House in Dublin, Kate Kennedy BL, for Mr Timmins, said her client’s position was that her working relationship with her boss had “significantly deteriorated” from late 2016 to early 2017, around the time the business expanded to the US. Mr Brady denied this and said: ‘Like most people and most businesses there are differences of opinion.’
Ms Kennedy told him that difficulties arose with the directors when they refused to give the required assurances about the company’s finances so he could get a loan in 2019 – and that they only agreed to do so only if it was treated as bridging capital until it could sell property to provide funds.
“Of course I didn’t like it, but did I? Yes, I did, and I did it in the best interest of the company and the safety of staff,” Mr. Brady said.
“They’ll say you were mad at them for selling your house and you were wronged,” Ms Kennedy said.
” No, this is not the case. We would do our business in the UK. I was going to leave my house anyway,” Mr Brady replied.
Mr Brady said that after closing its US branch in August 2017, the company was able to return to profit after a few difficult years, but was ‘poorly positioned’ due to 1.5million euro debt towards Ulster Bank who could have “pulled the plug at any stage”.
He said that at this time Mr Timmins wanted to become chairman of Wicklow County Council and ‘it would have suited him’ to leave. He said they had discussed a severance package and that although the company “may have made a profit”, it was “still very expensive”. He said he was offering to pay the €92,250 package over a six-month period, but Mr Timmins said he had ‘no faith’ he would receive it all.
Human resources consultant Mark Slattery of Adare HRM, who chaired the consultation process on the redundancy of the CFO post, said the complainant had never raised a grievance about ‘interpersonal issues’ with Mr Brady .
He said he had no reason to inquire further based on a letter sent by Mr Timmins on January 23, 2020 which stated: ‘I can only assume that your attempt to remove me from the business is based on other issues of which I’m sure you “are aware”.
“He had the opportunity to raise other issues if he thought they were relevant,” Mr. Slattery said.
Ms Kennedy told Mr Brady he overruled Mr Timmins when he objected to cash withdrawals from the business as the company found itself ‘unable to pay its creditors’. It was the case of her client that these were undermining the business case the company presented for firing her client, she said.
Mr Brady replied that there were ‘no problems with the day-to-day running of the business’.
“Mr. Brady, you testified to losses in the United States, zero credit rating, trouble with bondholders…and when I asked you about [withdrawals] from €40,000 to €50,000 you say there is no effect? said Mrs. Kennedy.
Mr Brady said he had reinvested €1.7million of the proceeds from the sale of his house back into the business.
He said he was nearly 60 and needed to “tighten assets” to support himself in retirement.
“Isn’t that the problem? The emails where Mr. Timmins asks you not to withdraw money from the accounts? Mrs. Kennedy said.
“No. He asked, I listened, I made up my mind,” Mr Brady said, adding that he had “perfect right” to take the money out of the company as sole shareholder. .
Arbitration Officer Jim Dolan took the plaintiff’s legal arguments as read and adjourned the matter to a date in August, pending approval from the WRC Arbitration Department.