Caerphilly Council boss urges caution on 'unlawful' payments scandal
9:50am Thursday 21st November 2013 in News
THE interim head of Caerphilly Council moved to reassure councillors over the arrest of senior officers and the unlawful payments scandal which has dominated recent headlines.
The council’s chief executive Anthony O’Sullivan and his deputy Nigel Barnett were arrested in July this year on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office after huge pay rises were awarded to 21 senior officials at the authority. They have been bailed until January.
At a full council meeting on Tuesday, acting chief executive Stuart Rosser stressed that police investigations were still ongoing and that while there were grounds for concern people should not be too quick to condemn. He said the council would conduct its own investigation but couldn’t do that until the police investigation was complete.
Councillors were given a report explaining the issue more closely after members demanded to know more about the background and what action would be taken, in particular whether the council would seek to recover any money.
Rosser said: “I recognise it’s an important issue, I recognise it’s a sensitive issue. We need to establish the facts. Once we establish the facts we will come back to you. We still haven’t heard any more in terms of the police investigation.
“Nobody yet has been found guilty. The reality is these individuals are being tarred without the opportunity of the right to reply. There are an awful lot of good officers who are being looked at in a particular way. I think they would welcome the opportunity to be answerable to their actions.”
Mr O’Sullivan and Mr Barnett are accused of granting unlawful payments totalling £483,833 between March and September last year, made up of £270,000 in pay rises to senior members and £218,563 in the “buy-out” of unused car user allowances and additional annual leave from senior staff.
In a public report, Mr Rosser said: “In order to form a proper judgement on these issues the Council will need to await all the relevant information from various enquiries i.e. Police investigations, PWC [the auditor’s] investigations and any subsequent internal enquiries.”
Mr Rosser warned it could be more costly to try to recover the money than to let it go.
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