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Whistle-blower councillor is suspended

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A councillor who revealed confidential details of a chief executive’s pay-off has been suspended for three months.

Mitch Wicking (Ind) went public in December 2007 about compensation paid to West Somerset DC’s former chief executive Tim Howes.

The Adjudication Panel for England said the suspension reflected its duty to “to discourage similar action by others”.

But it criticised West Somerset for failing to make Mr Howes’ departure public other than in an obscure set of minutes.

Local press reports at the time stated that Mr Howes, and finance director Rod Latham, received between them some £400,000 in compensation.

West Somerset had had a ‘weak’ comprehensive performance assessment rating (LGC, 17 January 2008).

The panel said Cllr Wicking’s justification was that he believed “the council had been mismanaged and to allow those responsible to be fast-tracked out of the authority without proper accountability was plainly wrong”. 

But it concluded: “It was a serious matter to disclose confidential information in breach of the code [of conduct].”

It said confidential information must remain private, particularly as Cllr Wicking had voted for the matter to be taken in private session.

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