Children’s boss accused of harassment over decade

A conduct hearing into alleged sexual harassment by a senior practitioner has been told how he “badgered” a colleague about an investigation into the claims.

Tom Starkey, a director of children’s services provider Clifford House, who is accused of harassing four female staff over a decade, approached his co-director Nick Nenadich in hospital, the committee heard this week.

Nenadich said that Starkey visited him while he was being treated for double pneumonia and fluid around his heart. Nenadich, who believed he was going to die in hospital, told the committee: “In came Tom, when I was on my deathbed, saying ‘you know I would not have done that’ [referring to the alleged harassment].”

Nenadich said that he told Starkey to get out of his room and asked the charge nurse not to allow him in again following the incident in 2005.

Nenadich told the committee that Starkey, a former member of the Children’s Workforce Development Council, had done much to professionalise social work at Clifford House but failed to recognise when he upset or distressed people.

Starkey is alleged to have pestered the women for dates, making many sexually explicit comments between 1995 and 2005. He allegedly boasted that women could not resist his “money, status and sexual prowess.”

Social worker Linda Gresty claimed she was in “absolute shock” after Starkey described his experience of anal sex to her. Gresty told the committee that there had been a lad’s culture at Clifford House, which she said “was totally inappropriate”.

Another woman, Deborah Price, alleged she suffered nightmares, disrupted sleep and low self-esteem after being sexually harassed by Starkey.

Social worker Stephanie Rowles, who also made allegations, claimed Starkey viewed women as “second-class citizens”.

Starkey denied the allegations and said he had a relationship with Victoria Preece, the fourth woman making allegations. Preece denies this.

Managers of Clifford House commissioned two independent social workers to carry out two reports after receiving complaints about Starkey’s sexual harassment, and both reports upheld the complaints, the committee heard.

The hearing adjourned on Wednesday after it ran over its original seven-day schedule. Starkey will give evidence when the hearing resumes in August. It is the longest conduct case to be heard by the GSCC to date.

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