A hospital chief executive has publicly apologised and paid an out-of-court settlement to a member of staff who suffered race discrimination and victimisation.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust made a “mistake” in ousting its black and minority ethnic network chair Vivienne Lyfar-Cisse, chief executive Duncan Selbie admitted in a weekly email to staff.

He said: “The trust recognises that it did not have the constitutional right to remove Dr Vivienne Lyfar-Cisse… and as such now recognises her as the elected chair.”

He added: “It is my personal duty as chief executive to create an environment where it is known that racism will not be tolerated and whenever discovered that it is addressed firmly and quickly.”

His email, dated 26 September, came as the trust settled an employment tribunal out of court, paying an undisclosed sum to Ms Lyfar-Cisse, a biochemist.

The case was triggered after the trust’s equality and diversity sub-committee decided to replace her with acting equality and diversity manager Barbara Harris.

Ms Lyfar-Cisse had won a separate race discrimination claim against the trust just one month earlier.

The sub-committee meeting minutes from September 2007 reveal human resources director Ali Mohammed said Ms Lyfar-Cisse had “harmed the reputation” of the trust and network by sending a questionnaire to all chief executives in the region asking for BME workforce data.

A week later, the BME Network held an emergency meeting and took a vote of confidence in Ms Lyfar-Cisse as the chair and a vote of no confidence in Ms Harris.

The network wrote to Mr Selbie and trust chair Glynn Jones but received no reply. It was told by NHS South East Coast chief executive Candy Morris that the matter had to be dealt with locally. The trust declined to comment.