A FORMER Whitton School teacher has been suspended from the profession after swindling more than £1,200 of taxpayers' money, including nearly £500 for his own birthday party.
Gary Palmer was banned for two years by the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) for bringing the profession into 'serious disrepute'.
The former director of sport at the school, where he worked for nearly five years before resigning in June 2009, defrauded his employers of £1,208 over two years.
His false claims included: £472.50 for catering at his 40th birthday party, £300 for iPod Shuffles as gifts for staff, including himself, £36 for a bottle of perfume for his wife, £120 worth of tickets for a lottery run by Charlton Athletic FC, and additional expenses for watching two of the club's home games.
Mr Palmer also made duplicate travel claims totalling £523 between February 2007 and October 2008, and claimed twice for a £20.79 bottle of champagne as a leaving gift for the outgoing headteacher.
He made a number of other payments, totalling some £1,500 and including three overnight stays at hotels, without submitting supporting documents, the GTCE found.
Mr Palmer was suspended in March last year pending the results of an audit investigation by Richmond Council's anti-fraud team. He resigned three months later before an internal disciplinary panel could be held.
The case was referred to the GTCE, to be investigated by its Professional Conduct Committee, which announced its ruling on July 16.
The report concluded: "We are satisfied that, in relation to the proven facts, Mr Palmer’s conduct fell short of the standard expected of a registered teacher and was a breach of the standards of propriety expected of the profession. Accordingly, unacceptable professional conduct has been established."
It said Mr Palmer had escaped a life ban largely due to his 'previous good history and the skills and talents he brings to sport development and education'.
A spokesman for Richmond Council welcomed the ruling and said Mr Palmer had 'paid the price for his actions'.
"We are dealing with public money at a time when councils across the country are being forced to consider cutting services," he said. "It is important that we send out the strongest signal possible that this sort of conduct will not be tolerated."
He added that Mr Palmer had since repaid all the money identified by the council's internal audit investigation.