Environmental watchdog boss quit over allegations of a 'sexual nature'

Terry A'Hearn stepped down in January, however the nature of the allegations have only now been made public.

Sepa chief executive Terry A’Hearn stood down over allegations of a ‘sexual nature’ SEPA

The chief executive of Scotland’s environmental watchdog quit the post over allegations of a “sexual nature” and a culture of bullying and harassment.

Terry A’Hearn stepped down from his post at the head of the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) in January amid ‘accusations over his conduct’.

The organisation’s chairman, Bob Downes, has now confirmed to staff two reports over his behaviour were made to the organisation, however they are not understood to involve claims of sexual assault.

Mr Downes added the matter has not been reported to Police Scotland after he was given consent by the two people who made the allegations to disclose details.

A range of “support measures” have been put in place for staff including a ‘confidential reporting route’ for workers to submit their views on Mr A’Hearn’s tenure.

In an email to staff, Mr Downes wrote: “In recent weeks, working to support individuals who raised concerns and with our trade union partner, we have become alert to increasing awareness and unhelpful speculation about the nature of the allegations. 

“Consequently, to avoid potential inaccurate speculation and as part of a broader package Sepa is announcing today, we can now confirm, with the consent of affected individuals, that the conduct allegations against Mr. A’Hearn were of a sexual nature. 

“The allegations were raised by two individuals and did not involve sexual assault.  The matter has not been referred to Police Scotland.”

He added: “At the time we were clear that in order to protect anonymity, we were unable to comment further. 

“We had a strong focus on supporting the individuals who raised the allegations and were clear that the organisation would learn and act.”

A new system of ‘leadership culture, standards, behaviours, progressive people policies and employee engagement’ is expected to be published as part of Sepa’s annual operating plan when it is published next week.

Chief Officer Jo Green will continue as acting chief executive while the recruitment process for Mr A’Hearn’s replacement is underway.

Kirsty Johnston, Unison area organiser for Sepa, added: “This has been a difficult time for staff, particularly for those who raised the allegations of bullying and inappropriate sexual behaviour.  

“Unison has worked closely with Sepa management  – supporting staff who felt bullied and undermined, and working with managers to ensure their complaints are being handled properly.

“No one should suffer bullying or inappropriate behaviour at work. We will continue to work closely with the Sepa management team, and we are all committed to ensuring that it is a great place to work.” 

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