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Council CEO misconduct investigation leader suspended for ‘concerning actions’

A councillor leading the investigation into two suspended officers at Cheshire East Council has himself been suspended.

Conservative Cllr Howard Murray was asked to step down after concerns were raised over his behaviour whilst serving as chair on the authority’s Investigation and Disciplinary Committee (IDC) – which was looking into allegations against the council’s chief executive and chief operating officer, both of whom are suspended.

It is understood that part of the investigation is focusing on the way Cheshire East Council awarded contracts to providers. A separate police investigation has been looking into the matter since December 2015.

CEO Mike Suarez was suspended for 12 months whilst chief operating officer Peter Bates was suspended last December.

Murray declined to comment to press but told the BBC that he would continue to act “as a diligent ward councillor” whilst the investigation continues.

The council has not revealed details of allegations against him but a council spokesperson described the suspension as a “neutral act intended to protect Cllr Murray and the council from concerns of a similar nature arising whilst the matter is considered further.”

In a statement released today, the council said: “The council is considering very carefully whether this matter is capable of having any adverse impact on the work undertaken by the committees to date. Early indications are that the work of the committees to date is not affected by the concerns raised.

“Cllr Margaret Simon, vice-chairman of the IDC, will act as IDC chairman on an interim basis while these matters are resolved.”

The troubled local authority has also been exposed as a workplace riddled with “bullying and inappropriate behaviour,” including reports of staff taking sick days, seeking help from unions, filing grievances and even quitting altogether as a result of cultural issues within the council. And last year, police were called in to investigate allegations that air quality data collected by Cheshire East had been deliberately altered.

(Top image c. Cheshire East Council)


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