More misconduct allegations to surface against sacked chief

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MORE revelations about the conduct of sacked Cleveland chief constable Sean Price are set to emerge over the coming days with a planned release of information surrounding further allegations of gross misconduct.

Mr Price’s dismissal for lying about his role in the appointment of the daughter of former police authority chairman Dave McLuckie to a job with Cleveland Police means he will not now face another 18 counts of alleged gross misconduct.

But Cleveland Police Authority is preparing to release as much detail as possible about the allegations which included misuse of a corporate credit card and extravagant foreign travel which were the subject of a Yorkshire Post investigation earlier this year.

Then it was revealed Mr Price had spent more than £1,000 buying flowers on a corporate credit card and more than £55,000 in total over a five-year period.

Just over half the total went on hotels, with around £7,000 spent on restaurants – including nearly £3,000 in the town of Yarm.

It was also previously revealed that more than £30,000 was spent on two trips to the United States and one to Estonia, all of which involved Mr Price and Mr McLuckie. Two also included Heather Eastwood, who was the chief constable’s staff officer at the time but subsequently became his partner and more recently Mr Price’s wife.

Mr Price was arrested on suspicion of fraud, corruption and misconduct in public office in August last year and remains on police bail.

He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and yesterday said he would be consulting lawyers after his dismissal over the recruitment of Mr McLuckie’s daughter and the subsequent finding he lied about his involvement.

He said: “It is important that the public be aware that the Crown Prosecution Service carefully studied this file and decided there was no criminal case to answer.”

The former chief constable acknowledged the burden of proof at misconduct hearings is a lower standard but contended he was “perplexed” at the verdict in the light of the evidence and said “hurdles” had been placed in the way of his presentation of evidence.

However, he may well face an uphill task in staging an appeal against the finding of an independent disciplinary panel which was chaired by Joanna Greenberg QC.

She concluded there was “no doubt that Mr Price’s conduct breached the Standards of Professional Behaviour both in respect of Honesty and Integrity and Discreditable Conduct as set out in the schedule to the Regulations”.

Ms Greenberg’s judgment also said that “the most serious allegation found proved against Mr Price is that he persuaded a member of staff to lie in the course of an investigation into his alleged misconduct. As such he was seeking to pervert the course of justice”.

Stuart Drummond, the current chairman of Cleveland Police Authority, said: “As a police officer, and particularly as a chief constable, Sean Price’s behaviour and attitude over this matter was completely unacceptable and the sanction imposed is wholly appropriate.

“His actions have seriously undermined his reputation and his credibility.”

Earlier this year, Grahame Maxwell left his role as chief constable of North Yorkshire Police with a £250,000 pay-out despite his admission of gross misconduct last year. He narrowly avoided dismissal and received a final written warning.

But Cleveland Police Authority made clear that Mr Price will leave with no extra payments beyond his pension.

Chief executive Stuart Pudney said as Mr Price had already served 30 years, he was still legally entitled to claim his pension.

He added: “There will be no additional payments made to him.”

Mr Price’s dismissal is the first significant staging post on what is still likely to be a lengthy road to the conclusion of a wide-ranging inquiry – called Operation Sacristy – into alleged wrongdoing involving senior figures at both the force and police authority.

The Yorkshire Post recently revealed former police authority chief executive Joe McCarthy had been arrested on suspicion of fraud, corruption, misconduct in a public office and money laundering. Operation Sacristy is investigating the spending of nearly £80,000 on Mr McCarthy’s corporate credit card including meals costing more than £500, a payment of more than £1,500 to a company specialising in luxury car audio systems and shopping at a supermarket in a picturesque French fishing port.

A £362,000 pay-off made to Mr McCarthy when he left the authority in 2010 is also under investigation. Mr McCarthy has been bailed until next April.

Mr McLuckie, who resigned as chairman of the police authority last year, also remains on police bail after being arrested on suspicion of corruption.