The employment of former Dairygold CEO Jerry Henchy was wrongfully terminated for “spurious” reasons unrelated to how he did his job, after an orchestrated campaign involving Dairygold chairman Vincent Buckley and others, it has been claimed.
The “last place on Earth” Mr Henchy would get a fair hearing was from the board of Dairygold, many of whose members were objectively or, in the case of Mr Buckley and Bertie O’Leary, subjectively biased against him, his counsel Patrick Hanratty said.
Mr Henchy is claiming €8m damages in his High Court action, including for alleged defamation, and contends what happened to him involved “a travesty of fair procedures” which “gratuitously destroyed” his reputation and left him unemployable.
Mr Henchy, aged 48, from Kilmallock, Co Limerick, has not worked since his €560,000-a-year job was terminated in early 2009.
Opening his action against Dairygold yesterday, Mr Hanratty said his client’s employment was terminated for “spurious” reasons which purported to relate to monies owed on his personal farm account with Dairygold. Mr Henchy contended that was not the real reason but was one “suddenly” seized upon by Mr Buckley in Jan 2009.
Counsel said the matter had to be addressed in the context of Mr Henchy’s overall relations with various members of the board and various developments within the Dairygold group. It also had to be seen in Mr Henchy’s moves to address possible conflicts between some members of the board being members both of the Dairygold board and the board of its associated company, Reox Holdings plc.
Mr Henchy had clashed with “conflicted” board members who refused to sign a code of conduct intended to ensure proper corporate governance and stop confidential information “leaking like a sieve”, said Mr Hanratty.
After Mr Henchy priv-ately voiced concerns to another board member about Mr Buckley not having signed that code when Mr Buckley was seeking to be elected chairman, those concerns were made known to Mr Buckley who in a statement to the board described them as “outrageous”.
Other major “bones of contentions” included the sale of Breo and farmers concerns about Dairygold’s internal milk testing system.
Mr Henchy’s plan to have Dairygold exit pig production was also vigorously opposed by Patrick O’Keeffe, a large pig farmer from Cork, whose father Ned O’Keeffe called for Mr Henchy’s resignation, Mr Hanratty added.
When Mr Henchy was given four days in Jan 2009 to clear the €159,000 balance on his personal trading account with Dairygold, he had no idea his employment was on the line, he said.
In its defence, Dairygold denies his claims, including he was subject to an orchestrated campaign to procure his dismissal. It has also advanced several pleas concerning his contracts of employment, including his contract of employment was transferred in Jun 2006 to Reox which, it is claimed, from then on regulated his employment.
It is denied Mr Henchy was CEO or an employee of Dairygold after Jun 1, 2006, and it is pleaded he was employed by and acted as CEO for Reox.
The case before Mr Justice Daniel Herbert continues.
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