THE £160,000-a-year head of publicly-funded investment initiative has been accused of “manipulative and systematic” bullying, in allegations contained in a formal grievance lodged by staff.
The claim is part of a devastating critique of Lurene Joseph’s conduct as chief executive of Leeds and Partners from staff who were previously seconded from Leeds Council and who have now raised a formal complaint about her behaviour.
A copy of their grievance, which is supported by statements from nine further former Leeds and Partners’ staff, has been obtained by the Yorkshire Post and includes a raft of complaints which it is claimed have damaged the reputation of the council with other major organisations in the region and further afield.
Neither Leeds Council nor Leeds and Partners, which is funded by the council to bring in investment, would comment on the contents of the grievance. Leeds and Partners said as the grievance had gone in to the council it was a matter for the authority to deal with. Ms Joseph did not respond when asked to comment.
The grievance claims the health of a number of staff has been badly affected and that other employees at Leeds and Partners have been afraid to make formal statements.
It says: “Should Lurene be removed from her post those remaining in employment at Leeds and Partners would come forward to share their experiences.”
Another part of the grievance refers to a claim that while on an overseas trip to Boston Ms Joseph asked a member of staff back in Leeds to post their own corporate credit card to the US because Ms Joseph told her “the maximum spend on hers was not high enough”.
The Yorkshire Post has previously revealed how travel and accommodation bills running into tens of thousands of pounds have been run-up on overseas trips. On one occasion, Ms Joseph spent £285 travelling in a taxi from Leeds to her home in Buckinghamshire before embarking on a nine-night stay at a top hotel in Boston, with a colleague, which cost taxpayers in excess of £8,000.
Leeds Council, which is providing £2m in funding to Leeds and Partners this year, has defended the spending on the grounds the city had to take a dynamic national and international approach to securing inward investment.
The catalogue of examples of alleged inappropriate behaviour in the grievance includes claims “a number of high-level stakeholders have started to refuse to meet with Lurene” because she is either “routinely late for appointments” or does not attend at all, sending a more junior employee at short notice instead.
The grievance says that if taken in isolation some of the instances could be viewed as “management style” but when added together and with inclusion of claims that some external organisations have received similar treatment it amounts to bullying.
It also makes claims about adherence to employment law and procurement practices and says Ms Jospeh’s conduct raises concerns about the reputation of the city as a whole and could have serious implications for future investment.
The formal complaint says the staff who have contributed to the grievance, both past and present, “have not taken the decision to submit the grievance lightly” and felt they were “left with no other course of action after raising concerns on an informal basis with both Leeds City Council and members of the Leeds and Partners Board”.