The investigation which cleared a York councillor of all but a minor misdemeanour has cost taxpayers £84,000.
When the then City of York Council leader Cllr David Carr sacked Keith Aspden from his executive post, he did so because of what he described were ‘serious allegations’ against him.
Last week we finally heard what those allegations were.
And the leader of the Lib Dem group was cleared of accusations that he brought hard copies of job applications into a pub and had a close connection with a candidate.
City of York Council has now confirmed that £41,415 was spent on a whistleblowing investigation and £43,100 has been spent to date on a further report, as well as an investigation for a separate standards case.
And the council has launched another investigation after confidential documents were left on public display during the standards committee hearing into Cllr Aspden last week.
The ‘settlement agreement’ was tweeted out – with the name blacked out.
So @maryweastell a Standards process going in for two while years & you ‘forgot’ to release the fact to Members or Cllr Aspden’s legal team that you had agreed in July 17 a NDA with the main protagonist. Bad luck this came out & was left on cttee table after it had been exposed pic.twitter.com/f9XFOuOfqy
— Gwen Swinburn (@GSwinburn) January 4, 2019
A council spokesperson said:
During the hearing, there appears to have been a disclosure of a private document via social media which we are now taking steps to investigate, in line with council policy.
On the £84K spent on a two-year investigation in Cllr Aspden, a spokesperson for the council said: “We had a legal duty to investigate a whistleblowing allegation.
“This whistleblowing investigation concluded in July 2017. The standards committee decided this matter needed further investigation which resulted in the hearing on January 3 2019.
“We accept this has been an extremely complex and sensitive matter and we appreciate that this has been difficult for all involved.
“We are considering any matters that arise from the joint standards committee recommendations and will make any necessary changes and improvements.”
The joint standards committee concluded forms were not taken to the pub, Cllr Aspden did not improperly use his position to obtain an advantage for the candidate and did not bring the council into disrepute.
But they did find that information about the job candidates was ‘improperly shared’ at the pub meeting.
No sanctions were imposed on Cllr Aspden.
The committee’s decision notice says: “The negative impact on the reputation of the council is rather created through the management of the allegations and the investigation than by Councillor Aspden’s actions in the first place.”
You can read the full decision notice here.