A TEACHER kept quiet as a bungling Scots council paid her £100,000 for work she had not done, it emerged today.
Bernadine Hunter resigned from her classroom job with Glasgow City Council in 2006 but the authority continued to pay her salary for two and a half years.
Mrs Hunter’s failure to report the huge salary payments into her bank account landed her in front of a disciplinary panel of the General Teaching Council Scotland (GTCS) today.
She admitted that between October 26 2006 and April 23 2009, while a registered teacher with South Lanarkshire Council, she received salary payments worth a total of £99,907.15 from Glasgow City Council, even though she left her job there in September 2006.
But Mrs Hunter, who could have been struck off, was let off without punishment after the panel heard evidence of her difficult personal circumstances. It was also said by the panel that the money appeared to have been kept by her husband.
The hearing was told that the 46-year-old had been working at St. Frances school in Glasgow before leaving in July 2006.
Glasgow City Council continued to pay Mrs Hunter for two and half years after she resigned from her post.
She was then employed by neighbouring South Lanarkshire Council at Coalburn Primary School, Lanark. It was not until April 2009 that Glasgow realised it was still paying her and stopped the payments.
During the hearing in Edinburgh today, Mrs Hunter said she had kept quiet about the payments as she was “terrified”.
She said she had paid back around half of the money, adding: “I was just absolutely terrified. I just wanted the payments to stop.”
Mrs Hunter’s lawyer, Andrew Gibb, urged the committee not to strike his client off the register, describing it as an “unusual and distressing” case.
He also attacked Glasgow City Council, who he said must take some of the responsibility for Mrs Hunter’s actions.
He said: “I find it completely astonishing the fact that a local authority can pay someone for two and a half years without them working for them.
“Its about time Glasgow City Council paid more attention. If they had done their jobs properly then this would not have happened.”
Head Teacher of Coalburn, William Scott described Mrs Hunter as a “good teacher.”
He said: “As a teacher she was very good and very professional.”
He talked about Mrs Hunter’s husband – who was not named and from whom she is now separated – who was said to have displayed “strange” behaviour.
“Mr Hunter visited the school regularly,” said Mr Scott. “Occasionally to work with the children, but often he popped in just because he was passing. I thought this was unusual. He would call several times a day, it was certainly strange. She (Mrs Hunter) seemed embarrassed. It seemed strange,” he said.
The panel concluded that Mrs Hunter was very vulnerable at the time due to the “duress of her personal circumstances”. They said this was a “powerful mitigating factor which had to be balanced against the charges”.
Glasgow City Council came in for thinly-veiled criticism from the panel. They said the council’s conduct in continuing to pay the money for two-and-a-half years after she left was “difficult to understand”. They added: “The circumstances might not have arisen and any sums involved might have been considerably less had this not happened.”
They also accepted the teacher had not personally benefitted from the money “which appeared to have been retained by her husband”. It was also pointed out that she had repaid a “substantial” amount of the money and continued to do so.
They concluded that “no order was the appropriate and proportionate disposal in the particular circumstances of the case”.
Mrs Hunter declined to give a comment after the hearing.