The chief executive of Caerphilly County Borough Council has been sacked after a six year suspension over ‘unlawful’ pay rises.
Anthony O'Sullivan was suspended in March 2013 after a report by the Wales Audit Office concluded that 20% pay rises given to senior officers at the council in 2012 were ‘unlawful on a number of grounds’.
Assistant auditor general Anthony Barrett found that the Senior Remuneration Committee was not properly advertised in accordance with the Local Government Act. The agendas for the meeting were also not made available for public inspection.
He also found that Mr O’Sullivan, his deputy Nigel Barnett and head of legal services Daniel Perkins participated in the committee’s decision making process when they had a disqualifying financial interest.
‘Certain officers, including the chief executive, who would have been (and indeed were) beneficiaries of the decision were present at the meeting to approve the salary increases,’ he said.
‘No declarations of interest were made and these officers did not leave the room while the decision was made.’
All three were subsequently arrested on suspicion of fraud and misconduct in public office and suspended from the council on full pay. The charges were dropped in 2015.
Mr Barnett and Mr Perkins agreed payouts worth £300,000 between them, while Mr O’Sullivan remained on special leave until last night when a Special Meeting of council decided to dismiss him ‘with immediate effect’.
It is estimated that the row has cost the local authority £4m.
‘We regret the amount of time and money that has been spent on this matter, but we had no choice other than to follow the agreed statutory process,’ said interim council leader Barbara Jones.
‘It should also be noted that during this time we had to allow criminal investigations to proceed, which added almost two and a half years to the overall timeframe.
‘This decision concludes a very difficult chapter for the council and we must now move forward.’
Mr O'Sullivan told The BBC he would appeal the decision, and said there had been a 'vicious media campaign' against him.
Photo: ©Robin Drayton