Conduct: Tom Starkey admits ‘inappropriate behaviour’

A social worker accused of sexual harassment yesterday admitted some of his actions had been “inappropriate” but said he had never deliberately harassed or bullied colleagues.

Tom Starkey, who is facing allegations that include pestering female colleagues for dates and making sexually explicit comments, said there had been a culture where he worked where banter, especially of a sexual nature, was common.

He said Clifford House, a provider of children’s and adults residential services, had employed a number of staff who had known each other for many years and workplace relationships were not uncommon and a number of colleagues had affairs.

He said as a senior manager he should have “risen above it” and “led by example”.

Starkey, one of four partners of Clifford House, denied ever telling another partner Linda Gresty, who he had known for 15 years, about having anal sex.  But he admitted asking her on dates. Gresty, a single parent, said she was unable to arrange childcare.

“With hindsight at that point I should have taken the hint. Unfortunately I did not,” said Starkey, adding that the fourth time he asked Gresty out she had told him he was making her feel uncomfortable.

“I was mortified and embarrassed at failing to notice her lack of interest in me,” he told the conduct hearing.

Starkey, who began his social work career in 1980, and had risen through the ranks of Coventry social services before joining Clifford House, said he had never had a single complaint made against him before 2004.

The hearing, which began last year but was postponed in August until this week, continues.

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