Police officers are to seek urgent talks with senior officials at Welcome to Yorkshire to establish whether criminal offences may have been committed after being informed of two independent inquiries being ordered into the tourism agency’s ex-chief executive Sir Gary Verity.
Members of the Welcome to Yorkshire board wrote to West Yorkshire Police today to inform the force that they had ordered dual investigations into Sir Gary’s time at the organisation - one covering expense claims and the other relating to behaviour towards staff. However, West Yorkshire Police said tonight that further information was required.
A force spokesman said: “West Yorkshire Police has received notification from Welcome to Yorkshire that they have commenced two independent investigations.
“However, at this time it is not clear if any criminal offences have been committed, and for this reason we are seeking to meet representatives from Welcome to Yorkshire at the earliest opportunity to discuss the matter further.”
Sir Gary resigned last month on what was cited as health grounds after he made what the tourism organisation described as “errors of judgement” regarding his expenses at a “very difficult time for him and his family”. His sister died in January.
Concerns about his behaviour towards staff had also been raised prior to his departure and former staff have subsequently alleged there was a “culture of bullying”.
Members of the board of the tourism agency, which is part-funded by taxpayers, decided last week they would not call in police in relation to the expenses issue after Sir Gary agreed to “voluntarily reimburse” what was understood to be a five-figure sum - now reported by the BBC to be £40,000. Welcome to Yorkshire would not comment on whether the figure was accurate.
That decision was criticised by Liberal Democrat peer Lord Scriven, a former leader of Sheffield City Council, who contacted West Yorkshire Police at the weekend to ask for a criminal inquiry to be launched.
The independent investigations will also examine Welcome to Yorkshire’s policies, procedures and governance and make recommendations for improvements “where required”.
Lord Scriven today welcomed the police’s request for more information from the tourism agency.
“Internally-ordered inquiries are not good enough. It is absolutely right and proper West Yorkshire Police have now stepped in to determined whether further investigations are needed.”
Findings of inquiries to be made public
The findings of the two investigations will be made public, Welcome to Yorkshire board member Deborah Egan has said.
She said of the planned inquiries: “As soon as the independent organisations have been appointed, anyone who believes they have been affected by these issues will be invited to come forward.
“They will be fully supported, and all accounts will be treated in the strictest of confidence.
“The findings of these investigations, which will be completed in a thorough and timely manner, will be made public.”