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West Sussex quizzed over chief's pay-off

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A Liberal Democrat activist has called on West Sussex CC to answer a series of detailed questions surrounding the controversial departure last month of chief executive Mark Hammond.

Serena Tierney, who fought the Mid Sussex constituency in last May’s general election, has asked the Conservative-controlled council to state how much was paid to Mr Hammond and the cost of any associated legal and professional fees.

She has also asked in a Freedom of Information request to see any legal advice given to council leader Louise Goldsmith (Con).

Mr Hammond was recalled from leave in early September and sacked by Cllr Goldsmith, the Association of Local Authority Chief Executives said at time.

It described her behaviour towards the chief executive as “outrageous” and “arbitrary”

The two sides later reached an agreement leading to what the council called Mr Hammond’s “amicable” departure on 30 September after six years in his £223,000-a-year job.

In her FoI request, Ms Tierney noted: “widespread public concern” about the affair and said the cost incurred might be higher than “would have been the case if it had been handled in accordance with proper procedures.”

She added: “The public in West Sussex has a proper interest in knowing how much public money has been paid to Mr Hammond in relation to the termination of his employment and whether that sum was greater than would have been the case had his employment been terminated in another manner open to WSCC.

“It also has a proper interest in knowing whether the leader of the council conducted herself in a manner that was appropriate to someone with that level of responsibility.”

West Sussex did not respond to an enquiry from LGC as to whether it would release the information requested by Ms Tierney.

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