THE former deputy leader of Flintshire Council has denied involvement in an anonymous letter containing ‘malicious’ allegations against senior officers.

Bernie Attridge was recently sacked from the authority’s cabinet by former ally Aaron Shotton after he was accused of a breach of confidentiality.

It sparked a chain of events which led to the Labour leader himself stepping down from his post.

In the wake of the fallout, council chief executive Colin Everett issued a stern letter to politicians in which he accused a senior councillor of feeding information to the author of a note which has been circulated to MPs, AMs and the media.

It included reference to a police investigation into Mr Everett’s appointment to the role in 2007, which is believed to have been sparked by a leaked recording of a conversation between Cllrs Shotton and Attridge.

He accused the people involved in the letter of ‘cowardice’ and said it contained ‘false and defamatory’ information after North Wales Police decided to take no further action.

Cllr Attridge has now spoken out to deny any part in it, but expressed concerns about what he described as an attempt to ‘silence whistleblowers’.

He said: “I fully supported the police investigation into misconduct in public office and would welcome any further independent investigation into the anonymous letter and the releasing of the tape.

“I had no involvement in either and have nothing whatsoever to hide.

“There appears to be a conflation of the facts and I am being subject to smears and innuendo and spurious claims of breaches of confidence by people seeking to retrospectively justify my removal from cabinet.

“We are all publicly accountable and I find it shocking that there appears to be a strategy in play which is designed to suppress the facts, stifle debate and intimidate legitimate whistle-blowers.”

He added: “Now  Cllr Shotton has resigned, I think it would help the healing process within the Labour group for the truth to come out, however uncomfortable that might be for Cllr Shotton and others.

“I advocate a process which is thorough and transparent and if wrongdoing is exposed, those responsible should be held to account.”

The anonymous letter included reference to the public falling out between the two Connah’s Quay representatives.

The leaked recording dating back more than 10 years is understood to have played its part in the spat between them

In response to Cllr Attridge’s latest comments, a council spokesperson said Mr Everett’s letter made clear the anonymous letter contained factual inaccuracies and all matters highlighted had been investigated and closed.

They said the authority’s monitoring officer had earlier written to councillors highlighting his concerns about the motivation of the author.

The spokesperson said: “The council respect the right of legitimate whistle blowers to raise issues in the public interest and there are clear and specific procedures in place to ensure such issues are properly investigated with appropriate support, advice and guidance provided to those raising concerns.

“The content of the anonymous letter and the circumstances surrounding it make it clear that the author was motivated by malice, not fact and that this anonymous letter should not be considered as an act of a legitimate whistle blower.

“Neither communication names the suspected author of the anonymous letter,nor do they name the councillor suspected of providing the author with information.”

They added: “The then leader of council, Cllr Aaron Shotton, has previously made clear his reasons for dismissing Cllr Attridge as deputy leader of the council.

“They are a separate matter not related to the anonymous letter or the existence of the police investigation.”