Tower of London boss gets axe for challenging bullies and marijuana growing on the grounds

Beefeaters said to have allowed illegal tours of Crown Jewels.
'Beefeaters' stand guard at the Tower of London yesterday as its former governor says he was fired after challenging illegal activities at the 900-year-old fortress.
'Beefeaters' stand guard at the Tower of London yesterday as its former governor says he was fired after challenging illegal activities at the 900-year-old fortress.

LONDON // There is trouble at the Tower of London, and heads are rolling.

The former governor of the tower says he was fired after challenging bullying, rule-breaking and marijuana-growing at the 900-year-old fortress. His ex-boss, in turn, claims the veteran military man is a prickly, confrontational manager who behaved like a "petulant child".

Maj Gen Keith Cima got the axe in January and appeared yesterday at an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and seeking reinstatement.

In a written statement to the tribunal, reported in Britain's Daily Mail newspaper, Gen Cima alleged he was fired because he "stood up against bullies" and uncovered financial impropriety and cannabis-growing on the tower grounds.

He said that after being appointed in 2006 he found "completely unacceptable" practices including illegal raffles at the tower's onsite social club, unauthorised tours of the Crown Jewels and allowing young female tourists to stay on the grounds.

Historic Royal Palaces, the body that runs the Tower, denies Gen Cima's claims. It has said the allegations of wrongdoing were investigated but that no proof was found.

Michael Day, chief executive of Historic Royal Palaces, told the tribunal that the inquiry showed "there was a lot more rumour than fact" to the allegations.

"It wasn't as bad as Keith had understood it to be," he said.

The tower - a former royal residence and prison that houses the Crown Jewels - is staffed by 35 yeoman warders known as Beefeaters, military veterans who dress in distinctive black and scarlet Tudor-style uniforms.

They guide tourists around the tower and share its eventful history of imprisonment and executions - including the beheading of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII. But more recently the turmoil has been among the staff.

In 2009, two male warders were suspended for allegedly harassing Moira Cameron, the first female Beefeater. One of the two was later paid compensation after management agreed he had been wrongly fired.

Gen Cima claims he was fired after opposing that decision. The organisation said part of the reason he was dismissed was for making inappropriate comments about his workplace and colleagues.

In a statement submitted yesterday to Gen Cima's tribunal, Ms Cameron said she had been "absolutely devastated" by the decision to apologise and pay compensation because it gave the impression she had been exaggerating her claims that she was bullied. She said Gen Cima had expressed sympathy with her position.

Mr Day told the tribunal that when he briefed Gen Cima on the decision for a payout and an apology, the general "behaved like a petulant child".

While Cima "felt as though his position was undermined" after the decision, he should have continued to toe the corporate line, Mr Day said.

Mr Day said Gen Cima had been dismissed because the 32-year army veteran had made "inappropriate and damaging" comments about his workplace - then denied saying them.

"I knew he was upset but it was not an appropriate response for a person occupying this level of post," he said.

Mr Day suggested the response was not unusual for Gen Cima, whom he described as "prickly, unnecessarily challenging and confrontational" to colleagues over the years.

Gen Cima is expected to testify later this week at the seven-day tribunal hearing, which began Monday.

The Tower was founded by King William I shortly after he conquered England in 1066, and it served as a royal residence for several hundred years.

It is more famous as a prison. Famous inmates have included Sir Walter Raleigh; Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen Elizabeth I; Guy Fawkes, who tried to blow up Parliament; and Adolf Hitler's deputy Rudolf Hess.

Two wives of Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, were beheaded at the Tower.

The Beefeater name is thought to derive from the guards' former privilege of having their fill of beef from the king's table.

Published: August 3, 2011 04:00 AM


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