A member of staff employed by a former MP who made fake expenses claims alleges she was unfairly dismissed after making a complaint about the forged invoices.
Sarah Lewis claims she was “treated very badly” and “barely spoken to” by Chris Davies, who at the time was Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, after she made an official complaint to the Conservative Party about an expenses claim.
In April, Mr Davies pleaded guilty to making “false or misleading” expenses invoices which triggered a recall petition calling for a by-election in his constituency. Mr Davies lost his seat to Liberal Democrat Jane Dodds.
An employment tribunal hearing held at Cardiff Magistrates ‘Court on Friday heard that Ms Lewis made the protected disclosure complaint to the Conservative Party in the Autumn of 2017, around 18 months after the claim was made.
The claim was made following Mr Davies’ election in 2015. He bought nine images to decorate and display in his constituency office.
Mr Davies was given an invoice for £700 by the photographer, and then proceeded to make two fake invoices so the cost could be split between two budgets – a Start Up Costs Budget and an Office Costs Budget.
Giving evidence at the hearing, Jane Pratt, who at the time was a member of the Welsh Conservative Board, said that Ms Lewis contacted her in September 2017 asking for advice as she was having “serious problems working for Chris Davies MP.”
Ms Pratt, who described Ms Lewis as a social and work acquaintance, said they met in Crickhowell on October 7 to discuss the issues she was facing.
“It was clear she had been working in an environment that was hostile and she had discovered some documents which she was very uncomfortable with,” said Ms Pratt, who is the Conservative parliamentary candidate for Caerphilly.
She said Ms Lewis told her about one occasion where Mr Davies was “stood at the door so she could not have gotten out and shouted at her.”
“She told me quite clearly he was angry and he shouted at her and was banging his fist at the top of the filing cabinet.”
One of the claims made by Ms Lewis states that Mr Davies, on discovering he had to repay IPSA £4,000 due to errors made when he was doing his own expenses, said: “I thought the whole point of becoming an MP was to get rich.”
The barrister for Mr Davies, Irvine Mccabe, said this incident had been completely fabricated.
He also raised doubt over the credibility of the reasoning behind Ms Lewis’ complaint which was made in November 2017, after the two separate expenses claims were filed in March and April of 2016.
Ms Lewis’ partner Dr Peter Garland also gave evidence on Friday. He said: “It does not appear that this criminality involved with the fraudulent invoices was a solitary event but it was one where Mr Davies got caught.”
He said that Gareth Jones, who previously worked for Mr Davies and had a constructive dismissal claim settled out of court in 2014, informed him and Ms Lewis that election fraud was committed when Mr Davies was first selected as the conservative candidate.
The allegation claims that un-paid-up members were added to a database of who would vote for Mr Davies ahead of any other candidate during the selection process. However Mr Jones has not provided an official statement regarding this claim.
The hearing continues.