Update Friday afternoon: Andrea Hill to remain on leave until at least June while further investigations are carried out. Statement said that some matters had been resolved but others further inquiries. Following an FoI request the committee has also asked the investigation to look at some of Ms Hill’s expenses claims (BBC).
A statement about the future of Andrea Hill is expected later today after a meeting of the county council’s Dismissals Appeals Committee. Ms Hill, the council chief executive, has been on extended leave for a month while and inquiry into allegations about staff relations in the legal department.
A preliminary report from solicitors Wragge and Co who have been conducting an external investigation will be presented to the committee and council leader Mark Bee, who was chosen after the resignation of Jeremy Pembroke.
The subject of the inquiry has been a whistleblowing allegation made after two senior executives resigned and the death by suspected suicide of David White. Mr White had been given additional responsibility as interim monitoring officer (one of the key local government posts) after the sudden resignation of Eric Whitfield, the monitoring officer, and another official, Graham Dixon, the director of resource management at the end of March.
Police have been investigating Mr White’s death before the resumption of an inquest into his death.
According to the county council website the Dismissals Appeals Committee “meets as required to deal with appeals by Council employees under the Council’s disciplinary and grievance procedures”. The press and public will be excluded from today’s meeting as is normal when discussing such matters. However, there has been no suggestion that the meeting will involve an appeal: BBC Radio Suffolk is reporting that a report from the meeting will go to Mark Bee who has announced the end of the New Strategic Direction policy of which Ms Hill was the architect.
The committee has five members, four Conservative and one Liberal Democrat.
The relvant agenda item for the meeting is:
To Consider a Report by the Strategic HR Manager (Reward and Performance)
(The report relating to this Agenda item has been withheld from public circulation and deposit pursuant to Section 100(A) of the Local Government Act 1972 on the grounds that the meeting is likely not to be open to the public when this item is considered).
An inquest into the death of David White, a senior legal officer at Suffolk County Council who was found dead in Butley Woods last month, has been opened and adjourned “pending police and partnership agency inquiries”, Suffolk Police said today.
This morning the Daily Mail specifically linked Mr White’s death with Andrea Hill’s leave of absence from the council in a headline reading: “£218,000 town hall chief is told to stay at home in ‘staff suicide probe’.’
There is little new in the Daily Mail story which is generally what has already been said in many newspapers and local government publications except for the explicit link and reference to an inquest.
The Mail said Andrea Hill, chief executive of Suffolk County Council, was “told to stay at home on full pay while an inquiry looks into the death of David White, the acting head of the Tory-run authority’s legal department”.
An independent inquiry has been set up by the council (“partnership agency”) to investigate complaints about the treatment of staff in the legal department made in an anonymous letter after Mr White’s death. No detailed information about the inquiry, who is carrying it out, the terms of reference or how long it will take, has been issued by the council.
Mr White had been given additional responsibility as interim monitoring officer (one of the key local government posts) after the sudden resignation of Eric Whitfield and another official, Graham Dixon, the director of resource management at the end of March.
These resignations were quickly followed by that of Jeremy Pembroke, leader of the council.
A few days later, on April 4, the body of Mr White was found in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge (Evening Star). In an email to staff Ms Hill said the police had confirmed a sudden death without suspicious circumstances, believe to be suicide.
Ms Hill was was expected to return to work last week after a holiday but was asked to remain at home on extended leave.
Suffolk Police today confirmed to Wordblog that an inquest had been opened and adjourned to a date to be fixed, pending inquiries. The spokesman said they did not know when the inquest would be held but a press release would be issued when the date was fixed.
Police inquiries are normal in deaths where suicide is suspected. The inquest into Mr White’s death would be expected to examine whether personal or work issues contributed to his death.