In an unprecedented step, Bristol’s three opposition parties have united in calling on the Council’s External Auditor to step in and investigate the circumstances surrounding the controversial departure of the former Chief Executive, Anna Klonowski.
Following weeks of silence from the Mayor’s office on the alleged payment of £70,000 or more made to the former CEO (who departed in September without working her notice period of six months), Tory councillor Richard Eddy, Lib Dem leader Gary Hopkins, and Green councillor Paula O’Rourke have formally requested auditor firm BDO to look into the decisions made around the resignation of Anna Klonowski and the details surrounding her severance package.
Previous attempts by the three councillors, who sit on the Council’s Human Resources Committee, to get to the truth surrounding the CEO’s departure have been blocked by Labour Mayor Marvin Rees, who has claimed the matter is a ‘confidential’ HR issue.
The cross-party trio want the External Auditor’s findings to be reported to the Council’s Audit Committee, chaired by Cllr Jos Clark, to whom they have sent a copy of their request. They are also calling on the Audit Committee to look into the matter of the former Chief Executive’s selection in early 2017, over which Councillors Eddy and Hopkins have previously expressed “serious concerns”.
Green Councillor Paula O’Rourke (Clifton) said: “I have been requesting answers to many questions about the departure of the former Chief Executive, but the Mayor has refused to be accountable for his actions.
“I am joining with councillors Eddy and Hopkins to demand that the truth of the circumstances around the Chief Executive’s leaving be revealed. In these cash-strapped times openness and scrutiny are more vital than ever and this was a key recommendation of Steve Bundred’s report on financial mismanagement at the Council. In the light of all this I find the Mayor’s continued silence deeply concerning.”
Conservative Councillor Richard Eddy (Bishopsworth) said: “We are gravely concerned that this latest saga is only reinforcing the stereotype of ‘Council fat cats milking the system.’
“The tax payers of Bristol and their elected representatives deserve the transparent reassurance that only an External Auditor can provide.”
Lib Dem Councillor Gary Hopkins (Knowle) said: “We have a strong possibility that, after attempting to keep matters secret and leaning on inquisitive councillors, the Mayor may have used Bristol tax payers’ money to hide a major problem of his own making.”