1. I joined the Brighton restaurant of McDonald's as a part-time crew member in 1985 whilst studying at Brighton Polytechnic. In November 1986 I became a full time Floor Manager at Ipswich. My career history since then is as follows:
Nov 1986: F-T Floor Manager, Ipswich
March 1987: Trainee Manager
April 1987: Second Assistant Manager
Sept 1987: First Assistant Manager
July 1988: Manager, Ipswich
Nov 1990: Manager, Colchester Tollgate
Feb 1991: Supervisor,
April 1992: Senior Supervisor
Dec 1992: Operations Manager
1994 to date: Operations Development Manager
2. I was Ray Coton's Supervisor from my promotion to that position in February 1991 until he left the company in August 1991. The other restaurants in my group at that time were Ipswich, Colchester, Tollgate and Clacton. I later supervised the Colchester Leisureworld restaurant as well when it opened in August 1991.
3. I quickly realised that the Colchester High Street restaurant was badly managed by Ray Coton in all aspects affecting quality, service and cleanliness. Further, management administration was poorly completed, if it was done at all, and the crew were not properly trained and were unmotivated. For example, when I was in the restaurant I would monitor with Ray Coton some of his crew's performance at various stations. I would often find crew untidy and giving slow and sloppy service. I would then go through the last Performance Reviews of these people with Ray Coton to compare the actual performance I had observed with their assessments. I found that most of them had their performance rated as 'excellent'. In my judgement, Ray Coton was incapable of telling his staff where they were going wrong, which resulted in poor standards.
4. It did not take me long to reach my conclusion about the management of the restaurant because (a) the deficiencies were obvious and (b) as Manager of the Ipswich and Tollgate restaurants, I had attended managers' meetings with the Supervisor, Mark Davis, who had openly discussed the poor performance of the High Street restaurant with Ray Coton. I had therefore gained the impression that Ray Coton was not a good manager even before I became his Supervisor.
5. Because Ray Coton was a mature and long serving Manager I went out of my way to cultivate a good working relationship. For example, I found out that he mostly only worked five days a week, which is usual for a Manager of a well-run restaurant. Many of the problems at the High Street restaurant could have been overcome if Ray Coton had devoted more time and energy to it. Nonetheless I did not make him work longer hours, which I could have done.
6. As I have said, when I first became Supervisor I was responsible for four restaurants and was shortly to gain a fifth. I knew, therefore, that I could not afford to spend as much time with Ray Coton as I understood Mark Davis had done. Nevertheless I visited the restaurant about three times a week, spending between two hours and a day. I felt that most of my time there was spent fire-fighting. I did not always announce my visits. If I did it was because I wanted to spend time with the managers, when I had to give them the opportunity to schedule to give them cover. Very few of my unannounced visits coincided with Ray Coton's presence in the restaurant which I found frustrating because I felt he should be there at what were often critical times. I concluded (contrary to the allegations he makes about working long hours) that he spent insufficient time in the restaurant. At times it occurred to me that he could have been avoiding me.
7. The following allegations made by Ray Coton are untrue: (1) that I put undue pressure on him with regard to his targets, (2) that I knew of and "unofficially" condoned his "cost cutting" practices whilst (3) "officially" telling him to stop them and that he would be disciplined if he was caught.
The targets in the restaurant were perfectly achievable and were similar to the others in my group, taking local variations into account. I had no difficulty in achieving my targets as a Manager; neither did most of the other Managers in my group when I was Supervisor.
My approach as Supervisor, when visiting a restaurant, was to review various aspects of the business, for example inventories, scheduling, floor control etc. When I found things were wrong I would speak to the managers present and make it absolutely clear what was wrong, why it was wrong and how it could be done properly. I emphasised that it was easier to do things properly by following the set procedures. I did not mean by this that I was inflexible but that if the management team followed the tried and tested methods they would find it easier to achieve the standards.
As soon as I discovered bad practices, I immediately investigated the position and gave the managers clear instructions on the correct procedures and, where appropriate, took disciplinary action. I give the following examples:
(i) On a date I cannot recall, I got wind from someone in the restaurant, whose name I cannot recall, that there was a problem with docking of hours following a 'close' one night. I was given the names of some crew who were allegedly affected. Because of the seriousness of the allegation, I consulted the regional Human Resources department. I was advised that no investigation, other than for general information, could be undertaken into a particular persons activities or performance while they were at work. If necessary that person could be suspended while the investigation was carried out, but only if there were some good grounds for believing that they were involved.
As Ray Coton was off for two days, suspension was not an issue. I interviewed the crew whose names I had been given. They told me they had not been paid for the hours they worked on the close and that they believed their clockcards had been altered. They did not know who was responsible. I then checked such clockcard files and audit adjustment reports as had been kept and found some evidence that the crew's allegations were true. The adjustments had been made in the name of the First Assistant, Sally Spurgeon. I therefore suspended Sally Spurgeon, although I was, in fact, suspicious of the whole management team.
I interviewed more crew on a confidential basis and asked them what they knew. I formed the conclusion that docking of hours was taking place more extensively than on this one occasion. They did not know, or say, who was responsible. I asked each crew member to remember the hours they worked and the lengths of their breaks and compared these with their scheduled hours and the payroll figures. As many of the clockcard files and audit adjustment reports were missing, the extent of the docking of hours was impossible to prove. By and large, I accepted the crew members' word about the number of hours that they had worked, provided it was consistent with the schedule. I then reimbursed them in full. In all, about £1200 was repaid. The information I obtained indicated that these were relatively recent events, i.e. within the last 6-8 weeks. There was nothing to indicate that it had happened under the management of Mark Davis.
I spoke to Sally Spurgeon, who denied that she was responsible. She explained that she had given all managers, including floor managers, access to her personal Husky Hunter password. Indeed, following further investigation, I found that audit adjustments had been made using Sally Spurgeon's password on days when she had not worked.
I spoke to Ray Coton who put all the blame on Sally Spurgeon. In fact whenever I challenged him about the poor standards I found in the restaurant, he always blamed her and in my view he used her as a scapegoat. None of the other managers said that they knew of it although all of them had access to Sally Spurgeon's password. I was never able to identify who was responsible or who knew what was going on but I did not believe that it was the sole responsibility of Sally Spurgeon.
Although it might have been open to me to dismiss all the managers involved, I decided instead to give Sally Spurgeon a final written warning for giving her personal password to other managers, contrary to company procedure. All the other managers were told by me that this was not to recur.
Throughout the whole of the investigation, which took about three days, I consulted John Atherton and the Human Resources department, who were supportive of my actions.
Since I had no knowledge of any payroll irregularities before this time I could not have told Ray Coton to continue this practice "unofficially". As soon as it came to my attention I took immediate action, including informing my Senior Supervisor and Human Resources which culminated in disciplinary action being taken.
It is also untrue that, as a Manager, I docked crew's hours or that I told Ray Coton at a managers' meeting, or at any other time, that I did so, because I did not.
(ii) On another visit I randomly checked an inventory which had been done under Ray Coton's supervision. I found mayor errors in its completion, which were evident on the face of the document. The figures simply did not tally. I immediately spoke to Ray Coton and asked for his explanation. He denied completing any part of it. As there were no signatures on the inventory (there should be two signatures, one by the person completing the inventory and the other by the person double checking it), I asked all the managers whether they were responsible. It transpired that each of them had participated in part of the inventory but no one person had overall responsibility. This is contrary to normal procedure. It was quite clear from subsequent visits to the restaurant while inventories were being done that the management team did not know or had not been trained how to do an inventory properly. I tried to help Ray Coton understand the company's procedures but he told me that he wanted to do it his way.
(iii) The waste generated in the restaurant was not properly recorded, which problem I tried to address. I also tried to get Ray Coton to focus on his ordering techniques to make sure that he did not order too much stock. I recall that on one visit to the restaurant when Ray Coton was off I found some of out-of-date product (buns) that had clearly been hidden from me by the managers. Again, I made it clear that out of date product was to be thrown away and that the waste should be properly recorded.
(iv) Cash handling procedures in the restaurant were lax in the extreme. This was due to poor management, training and administration. On 27th June 1991 I had to record an incident on Ray Coton's personnel file when the safe was down by £87 which he was unable to account for. When I found this I asked Ray Coton for his explanation which he was unable to give. He had shared responsibility for the safe with other persons on the shift, which is against company procedure. Again, I do not consider that my actions were consistent with Ray Coton's allegation that I condoned malpractice.
8. The atmosphere in the High Street restaurant was quite different from the other restaurants of which I had experience. Morale was low and crew were not communicative. Because of this, and because I wanted to understand the restaurants problems in full, unusually, I held a rap session in the restaurant. I do not recall whether it was at this rap session or on another occasion that I learned of the payroll irregularities. The general complaints from the crew related to their working conditions, for example, the state of the crew room and lockers, which accounted for the unhappy atmosphere generally.
9. Also on Ray Coton's personnel file in a draft verbal warning letter dated 18th July 1991. This records an interim performance review I gave him in May 1991 with the assessment for performance being grade 2 - "needs improvement". I have no specific recollection of giving Ray Coton this PR (as I do not for many I have given). However, I have no reason to doubt that I gave it to him for the following reasons. Ray Coton was due his interim review in May and he had received his annual PR in November the preceding year. I note from the PR given to me by John Atherton in February 1992 that he states "you managed to complete your performance reviews by due dates and your managers course completion is on schedule". John Atherton was a stickler for ensuring PR's were done on time and he would have checked up to see that I had done them throughout the year. Also, I must have had some basis for referring to this PR and its outcome when drafting thin letter and I believe I would have referred to my files before doing so. I had a different filing system from Mark Davis in that I kept separate files for each of my restaurants, covering all aspects of the business, because I lived 180 miles from the regional office in Birmingham. It was inconvenient to keep everything centrally. I therefore kept the files in a filing cabinet at home. I have looked for this PR and the one dated 17/7/1991 with an 'unsatisfactory' assessment recently but I cannot find them. I have moved house a number of times since 1991 and it is likely that the PR's were lost in one of the moves.
10. With regard to the PR dated 17th July 1991, also recorded in the verbal warning letter, I believe Ray Coton is correct in saying that I did not give this to him as he was on holiday. I recall that I had prepared the PR in anticipation of his return. I had intended to give him the PR first followed by the warning. As a result of discussions with my superiors I had decided that I would not do this immediately on Ray Coton's return from holiday. The PR and warning were in the event pre-empted by Ray Coton's letter of resignation of the 18.7.91.
11. Before Ray Coton's resignation both John Atherton and I met him on one, maybe two, occasions to discuss his poor performance. John Atherton reviewed the key indicators, the complaints we had received about the restaurant, and made it quite clear that Ray Coton was not coping or performing properly. Ray Coton agreed. As a way of seeking solutions John Atherton suggested that Ray Coton should re-train, going through the basic management programme designed for trainee managers but without taking the exam. We got Ray Coton's commitment to this, although he never embarked on the course. John Atherton said that one of the options if Ray Coton did not improve was for him to look for another job. The subject-matter of the meeting was exclusively a review of Ray Coton's performance and ways to overcome the problems. In my view Ray Coton knew perfectly well what we thought of his performance and he agreed with our assessment.
12. On 18th July Ray Coton returned from holiday. I happened to be in the restaurant that day. When I was in the management office with Ray Coton he handed me the resignation letter in an envelope. At that time I had no idea of its contents. I left the room and read it as I walked up the stairs. I recall telephoning John Atherton about it shortly afterwards. Later in the day I spoke to Ray Coton about the letter. I hoped mine was a professional reaction in that I kept my comments to the minimum. Ray Coton explained to me that he found it difficult to work with me as I was constantly looking over his shoulder for faults in the restaurant. I did not state that I wished Ray to stay or try to persuade him against resignation. I may have made a comment to the effect that 'it is a disappointment', by which I meant that although his performance had been poor I had hoped that I could have got him back on an even keel. Frankly I had mixed reactions to his resignation because whilst on the one hand it solved a problem, on the other hand, I did not have a new manager to take over.
13. The next meeting I recall was in the High Street restaurant when Tim Taylor, the Market Manager and Mike Guerin, the Ops Manager, visited. I was in the restaurant but was not present at the discussion between Tim Taylor, Mike Guerin and Ray Coton.
14. The final meeting I recall was immediately prior to Ray Coton's departure in August which took place in the grounds of the Colchester Leisureworld restaurant which was about to open. Ray Coton came to the restaurant to meet me, Mike Guerin and John Atherton. The meeting in fact took place in Mike Guerin's car in the car park. The primary purpose of this meeting as I saw it was to discuss one of the only outstanding matters following Ray Coton's resignation, namely his application to purchase his company car. Mike Guerin conducted the meeting; John Atherton and I said virtually nothing. At the meeting in the car Mike Guerin sought Ray Coton's assurance that he was in a financially stable position when he left the company and that he felt he was doing the right thing. In saying this he was in no way persuading Ray Coton to stay because he was a good manager, rather he was wanting to satisfy himself that Ray Coton would be alright. He had worked for the company for many years and Mike Guerin felt we owed him the final opportunity to discuss his future.
January 11, 1996|
Appeared in court|
exhibits: Not applicable/ available
transcripts of court appearances: