HQ: Barnard Castle Town Council's office on Scar Top
HQ: Barnard Castle Town Council's office on Scar Top

AN independent investigator has been called in by Barnard Castle Town Council after a member of staff was suspended.

It is understood the officer has been away from their post since February, however, brief details were only made public at last week’s meeting of the council’s resources committee.

The suspension has been discussed behind closed doors at a number of special council meetings and it has now emerged that councillors agreed in March to spend up to £1,000 from their reserves employing an investigator to compile a report.

The council has refused to confirm the identity of the suspended officer or give any details of the allegation levelled against them.

The council has also declined to say whether the officer continues to be paid while suspended.

In the absence of the suspended officer, councillors agreed to increase the paid hours of its part-time service officers.

Clerk Michael King said: “The town council is following its published disciplinary procedure in relation to a member of staff.

“Issues concerning individual members of staff remain confidential.”

Council documents show that when issue has been discussed by members in camera, mayor Cllr Sandra Moorhouse has declared an interest and has taken no part in any debate.

Cllr Moorhouse said: “I declared an interest as I am a witness to an allegation.

“I have on every occasion that this particular matter has been discussed by council or resources (committee) declared an interest and physically left the room taking no part whatsoever in the matter.”

Resources committee members were updated on the situation again at last week's meeting – after voting to exclude the press and public.

In addition to staff based at Woodleigh, on Scar Top, headed by Mr King, the town council employs a team of seasonal workers at the mini-golf course.

The council is also planning to recruit a general supervisor to oversee the weekly Wednesday market and undertake a number of other duties.