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Former mayor denies racism

PUBLISHED: 12:50 09 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:51 03 March 2010

FORMER Ipswich mayor Albert Grant has hit back at allegations of racial discrimination over the sacking of a Nigerian woman from a charity.

Mr Grant, who last year received the OBE for his services to ethnic minorities, told an employment tribunal that the claims were entirely untrue.

FORMER Ipswich mayor Albert Grant has hit back at allegations of racial discrimination over the sacking of a Nigerian woman from a charity.

Mr Grant, who last year received the OBE for his services to ethnic minorities, told an employment tribunal that the claims were entirely untrue.

He was accused by Comfort Osunsami of having racial reasons for backing her dismissal from the Black and Minority Ethnic Network while he was chairman of the organisation in February last year.

But Mr Grant, Ipswich's first black councillor and mayor, said it was Ms Osunsami's own unreasonable behaviour in the workplace that lost her the job of administrative officer.

The tribunal at Bury St Edmunds is considering a claim by Ms Osunsami, from Tennyson Close, Royston, against Mr Grant and the charity that her dismissal amounted to racial discrimination.

She has alleged that a group of four board members, including Mr Grant, who are all West Indians, engineered her sacking because of her African origins.

Mr Grant said the decision to dismiss had only been taken when after repeated complaints and attempts to improve her behaviour at work, Ms Osunsami remained unco-operative and disruptive.

He told the tribunal panel yesterday : "Until this action was brought I never thought of the lady as African. Through all the problems we had and dealt with, the question of race never entered it".

Mr Grant added: "It is totally refuted and malicious to suggest that the applicant was dismissed because she is of African origin."

The tribunal, in its second day, heard that Mr Grant has been a long-time worker in the field of supporting ethnic minorities, including those from African countries.

He said: "I have championed black and ethnic minority rights for over 30 years."

Being presented with the OBE for his work was the "highlight of my life" said Mr Grant.

Treasurer of the Black and Minority Ethnic Network, Mrs Joyce Andrade detailed a list of problems which had arisen in the months leading up to Ms Osunsami's sacking.

She said her job as treasurer was made very difficult by being denied access to cheque books, financial records and the passwork to the computer at the charity's offices in Victoria Road, Cambridge.

The Black and Minority Ethnic Network - now renamed the Minority Ethnic Network Eastern Region - was set up in 1999 to promote racial equality and is funded by the Home Office.

The tribunal continues.

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