Former AM's tears at tribunal

Reporter:

Hayley Collins

SERIOUS allegations continue to hang over the head of a senior councillor accused of misleading a local government watchdog investigation after a tribunal into her conduct was adjourned.

Flintshire councillor Alison Halford, former assistant chief constable of Merseyside Police, appeared yesterday at the second day of an adjudication panel for Wales tribunal.

Cllr Halford is accused of misleading an investigation into allegations that fellow Cllr Patrick Heesom had bullied council officers as well as failing to comply with the Ombudsman when requested to attend an interview.

Cllr Halford vehemently denied the allegations when she took to the stand at Northop Hall County House Hotel.

She said the reason she did not attend the interview with the Ombudsman in Cardiff was because she was recovering from breast cancer at the time.

A tearful Cllr Halford said: “It was necessary to take 15 sessions of aversion therapy at Glan Clwyd Hospital.

“I didn’t want anyone to know so I went to great lengths to get my appointments so they didn’t clash.

“I wasn’t refusing to go to the interview. When I got the letter I didn’t know what to do.”

Cllr Halford is accused of being inconsistent after claiming in a statement to the Ombudsman that she had not witnessed “any evidence of bullying or harassment by Cllr Heesom”.

Yet in an email sent to the council’s interim director of human resources, Pam Webb, she described Cllr Heesom as a bully.

She told the tribunal: “I had had a hard day. My dog had its leg amputated.

“I did not see any bullying and destructive behaviour, but I wrote that I had.

“I was that stressed by the dog, having had a £1,900 bill, and I was careless in what I wrote, but that does not mean to say I’m a liar.”

The council’s director of community services, Susan Lewis, also claimed Cllr Halford had told her she was “appalled” by Cllr Heesom’s behaviour at a meeting to appoint a new head of housing on February 12, 2009.

But Cllr Halford said she was appalled at his intention to stop the interview process, not at his behaviour towards officers.

She said: “The word appalled was in reference to the fact that if it had not gone to interview £17,500 of taxpayers’ money would have been spent.”

The tribunal heard council leader Arnold Woolley had kept a journal in which he claims Cllr Halford had told him in a phone conversation that Cllr Heesom was “arrogant and aggressive”, but Cllr Halford denies having said these words.

She claimed Cllr Woolley did not like Cllr Heesom and they were both after the job of council leader.

She told the hearing: “Arnold Woolley did not like Cllr Heesom in any way, shape or form.

“I hesitate to say this, but there was a financial interest in him maintaining the role of leader.

“Therefore, I could suggest there was a motive as to why the journal contains things that are detrimental to Cllr Heesom.”

The case was adjourned to a date to be fixed after it has been decided whether parts of Cllr Woolley’s journal could be accepted as being truthful.

See full story in the Leader

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