The council said the day rate paid to Odgers Interim, a recruitment agency that provided the services of Charlie Adan, was commercially confidential – a stance that was backed by the Information Commissioner after an appeal.
But after a further appeal, an Information Rights Tribunal ultimately ruled against the council and the commissioner and said revealing the day rate would not prejudice the commercial interests of the company or the council and should be made public.
According to the council’s accounts, the authority spent £208,137 on Ms Adan's nine-month stint in charge between January and October last year.
The amount was £60,000 more than the salary paid to former full-time chief executive John Mothersole for the final nine months of his tenure before Ms Adan was appointed as an interim replacement.
When the appointment was approved in December 2019 the report presented to Sheffield councillors did not mention Ms Adan was being employed through a private company and was short of any specifics about how much an initial anticipated six-month stint would cost. The report did provide an estimated monthly figure of £18,750 but ultimately the contract was extended and the authority ended up paying an average of over £23,000 a month for Ms Adan’s services.
There was also no mention of the council's expectation Ms Adan would only work four days a week, which emerged through an FOI request. The working week subsequently increased to five days around the time the pandemic struck, with an understanding the interim chief executive would work fewer days in the latter stages of her period in charge.
During the FOI process the council claimed it demonstrated sufficient transparency by publishing the total cost of the appointment and by including the amounts paid to the company on its published monthly list of supplier payments.
But the invoiced amounts varied from £1,989.76 to £26,433.91 with no information as to what time periods they covered or how many days work they represented. Without disclosing a day rate there was little basis for understanding how payments to Odgers Interim had been arrived at.
Executive Director of Resources for Sheffield Council, Eugene Walker said: "The council works hard to achieve the right balance between protecting commercial confidentiality and the public’s right to know.
“The potential costs of the engagement of an interim Chief Executive were detailed in a report to the council on 4th December 2019 and as with all costs, this was published in line with our transparency reporting standards.
“Where the Information Rights tribunal suggests we have not met the levels expected, we will accept their conclusion.”