COUNCIL bosses are staying tight-lipped over growing speculation that a senior officer could walk away with a massive cash payout following allegations she was bullied by Flintshire councillors.

Media reports have claimed Susan Lewis, director of community services, has been offered an £800,000 settlement by council bosses.

Ewloe councillor Alison Halford is at the centre of the bullying allegations, but vehemently denies doing anything wrong.

Following a meeting of the audit committee on January 22 in which major flaws in the council’s housing department were uncovered Cllr Halford circulated an email to several councillors, chief executive Colin Everett and the monitoring officer criticising Mrs Lewis’ performance in the meeting and questioning her ability to do the job.

The email was later leaked to Ms Lewis, but Cllr Halford said it was not bullying.

She told the Leader: “The allegations of bullying are totally untrue.”

For the past month Ms Lewis has been absent from work, but the council is refusing to comment on the speculation regarding the payout.

On Tuesday the council set up a special personnel committee to deal with HR related matters of extreme sensitivity not considered appropriate to be considered by full council.

A report to members stated that an urgent situation had arisen involving an individual whereby such a committee was required.

But Labour councillors have refused to support the committee.

One anonymous councillor said: “Labour councillors will not participate in this panel on the grounds that it is an issue for the coalition to resolve.”

A spokesman from the council said: “Susan Lewis, director of community services, is absent on extended special leave, with permission, for personal reasons.

Professional colleagues and elected members have inevitably been concerned for Mrs Lewis who is a long-standing and respected director at Flintshire.

“Mrs Lewis’ absence is not due to any issue of conduct or performance. Mrs Lewis continues to have the trust and confidence of the chief executive, the leader and deputy leader of the council, respective executive portfolio members, and both the corporate and directorate management teams.

“The council has no further comment to make on Mrs Lewis’ absence. We cannot confirm the business of the personnel committee as this is internal, private and confidential.”