The Crewe Chronicle are reporting that Cheshire East Council paid a former top boss more than £45,000 when she left ‘by mutual agreement’ just a week after the council’s own staffing sub-committee recommended she be dismissed following an investigation into alleged gross misconduct.
The Chronicle reports:
Former finance director Lisa Quinn resigned in the wake of the Lyme Green shambles on Feb 15 2013.
The Chronicle began look into the circumstances surrounding her £45,160 pay-out following comments made by Cllr Howard Murray (Con) at a recent council meeting.
Cllr Murray – who is heading up the current investigation into Cheshire East’s top bosses and was also chair of the staffing sub-committee in 2013 which investigated the role of officers in the Lyme Green debacle – recently demanded written confirmation that the council won’t let anyone resign with a pay-out if they are subject to disciplinary proceedings – as it did during the Lyme Green scandal.
After trawling back through minutes of meetings and statements of accounts from 2013, the Chronicle can now reveal the council gave the tax-payers’ money to one of its top bosses eight days after the staffing sub-committee recommended she be dismissed.
The Chronicle can also reveal that that dismissal recommendation was known to the council’s cabinet.
When we approached Cllr Murray with our findings he said unless the external auditor had been informed of the situation in 2013. then ‘the only people who can look at this now are the police’.
Cllr Murray said: “I had assumed the external auditor had approved this. As chair of the staffing sub-committee [in 2013] I knew nothing about any pay-off until after the fact and I was furious at the time and believed it was wrong to have done it when the process was so clear.
“Unless this was approved by the external auditor I believe this to have been an illegal act and I made my feelings known at the time. The only people who can look at this now are the police.”
The Chronicle has been unable to establish whether the payment was illegal because the council won’t confirm whether or not it made the external auditor aware of all the circumstances at the time.
At the time the pay-out was made, Cheshire East refused to disclose to both the Chronicle and the Macclesfield Express how much of council tax payers’ cash had been handed to the former finance boss.
We were merely told: “The sum of money involved will be reported in the council’s annual accounts later in the year.”
Both papers reported the amount as soon as those figures became available.
The Chronicle last month asked Cheshire East to confirm that a recommendation for dismissal was made and asked whether the council’s cabinet had been informed.
We also asked the council to confirm the external auditor was made aware of all the facts, including the recommendation the sub committee made to the cabinet and to full council.
A spokesperson for Cheshire East Council said: “A meeting of the staffing sub-committee, in February 2013, made a recommendation that a statutory officer be dismissed following an investigation into alleged gross misconduct. This was communicated to cabinet at the time.
“However, the officer in question resigned before this recommendation could be put to full council.
“None of the senior officers involved in the Lyme Green matter are now employed at Cheshire East Council. These matters were concluded several years ago and the council has no further comments to make.”
The Lyme Green scandal, which rocked Cheshire East in 2012, is estimated to have cost the council tax payer more than £1m.
The council had to abort its plans for a waste transfer plant at Macclesfield, which it had started to build without obtaining planning permission from itself. Three top officers – including Lisa Quinn – left their jobs walking away with a combined pay-out of nearly £120,000.
Former deputy chief executive John Nicholson and former borough solicitor Caroline Elwood both resigned in December 2012, in the week the independent investigator’s report into Lyme Green was received by the council.
Mr Nicholson received £45,750 compensation for loss of employment and Ms Elwood, £28,861.
Ed: Good to know taxpayers can rely on Cheshire East to spend OUR money wisely