Gary Verity refuses to be interviewed for Welcome to Yorkshire expenses and bullying inquiries

Ex-Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity has refused to be interviewed for two investigations into expense claims and bullying allegations ordered in the wake of his scandal-hit departure as the boss of the tourism agency, The Yorkshire Post can reveal.

Sir Gary Verity's conduct while in charge of Welcome to Yorkshire is under scrutiny.
Sir Gary Verity's conduct while in charge of Welcome to Yorkshire is under scrutiny.

Independent investigations led by forensic accountants BDO and solicitors Clarion have been concluded, with final reports in the process of being written, without Sir Gary’s active participation in the process.

Sir Gary resigned on health grounds in March after concerns had been raised about his expense claims and inappropriate behaviour towards staff members at Welcome to Yorkshire, which is a private company but receives millions of pounds of public money. He is reported to have voluntarily repaid around £40,000 after making “errors” with expense claims.

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A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said today that Sir Gary has said “he is not in a position” to participate in the twin inquiries but his legal representatives said that he has been “voluntarily assisting” the investigations through themselves.

Following the fallout to Sir Gary’s departure, Welcome to Yorkshire ordered two independent inquiries - one into all expense claims by senior managers and board members from the past six years and another into the management culture at the organisation.

The company said yesterday that the investigations have now concluded but the reports are yet to be finalised before details can be made public. The full findings of the expenses review are to be shared with West Yorkshire Police.

It has now been confirmed that Sir Gary has not been interviewed as part of the process.

A Welcome to Yorkshire spokesperson said: “Sir Gary Verity has been invited to take part in both investigations instigated by Welcome to Yorkshire and has expressed an interest in participating but stated that he is not in a position to do so at this time.”

It comes after a former PA to Sir Gary called Annie Drew told the BBC she considered Sir Gary to be a bully who would “shout, scream, swear and throw things sometimes at people”. She also claimed she was asked to make expense claims in her name on his behalf - an allegation that has been strongly denied.

It comes three months after other former staff who worked for Sir Gary told The Yorkshire Post that a “culture of bullying” had existed at the tourism agency.

Sources have told The Yorkshire Post more than 50 people have contacted the management culture investigation, being conducted by solicitors Clarion.

A spokesman for Sir Gary said he is “voluntarily assisting” the investigations.

He added: “While the investigation is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment extensively, but he can confirm that he completely rejects Annie Drew’s suggestion of false expense claims which, even on what has been explained of her version of events, do not amount to a coherent account.

“He also rejects her somewhat vague and poorly articulated historic claims as to bullying. The right place for these matters to be dealt with are in the context of the WtY investigation and that is the forum where Sir Gary proposes to deal with all such claims.”

Liberal Democrat peer and former Sheffield Council leader Lord Scriven, who has previously criticised Welcome to Yorkshire’s handling of Sir Gary’s departure, said he was surprised by the former chief executive’s decision not to fully participate in the process.

He added it should not stop the outcome of the reviews potentially prompting further investigations from different organisations.

“It will be down to the board and the police or an industrial tribunal to decide whether further action is needed,” he said.

“The fact he hasn’t given full evidence should not stop further action being pursued if necessary.”

Earlier this week, the Welcome to Yorkshire board met for the first time since the scope of the investigations were agreed in April and chairman Ron McMillan resigned.

Keith Stewart, the organisation’s interim chairman, said the board had been given “initial feedback and recommendations” from both investigations and the information would now be considered and questions potentially put to the investigators before details of the findings were made public. He said discussions were still continuing on when this will occur.

“The organisation also has a responsibility to communicate with past and present staff who took part in the investigations as a priority and we are looking at the best way of enabling this,” he said.

“Once this process has been concluded we will look to make the key themes, findings and recommendations available to the public in a timely way.”