Cheshire police and crime commissioner (PCC) David Keane reluctantly agreed to share details about the process to be followed after chief constable Simon Byrne was suspended last August.
The chief constable will face an independently chaired gross misconduct hearing on a date to be fixed.
This was after Labour ’s elected PCC Mr Keane determined he had ‘a case to answer for gross misconduct’ with regards to ‘authority, respect and courtesy and discreditable conduct’.
Deputy chief constable Janette McCormick is currently acting chief constable.
The December meeting of Cheshire Police and Crime Panel, who scrutinise the work of the PCC, heard members had been unable to question Mr Keane since last June after he missed the September meeting due to illness.
Addressing the PCC, Cllr Paul Findlow (Con, Prestbury) said: “You could touch on where we are with the chief constable and are you satisfied with the interim arrangements?”
Mr Keane responded that he would be ‘making no comment on the chief constable issue’ based on ‘legal advice, proper procedure and avoiding any prejudice within that role’.
Chairman Cllr Howard Murray (Con,Poynton East and Pott Shrigley) pressed him for an outline of the process but received the same response.
He continued: “Would you be kind then, just save us a little bit of time. You are obviously all over this, or you would want to tell us you are all over this, can you just give us the flow chart of what the process is or where that is in the legislation, get your people to speak to our people and tell them where it is and we will share it among ourselves?”
After refusing to enter into a discussion, Cllr Murray tried again: “I would never ask about the detail but it’s simply what is the process and where are we in that process? If the commissioner is saying he can’t tell us what the legal process is that’s he’s relying on, that’s interesting, we’ll draw our own conclusions from that, but it would be nice for us to know what it is because at some stage I think the panel does have a part to play.”
Having said the answer would be the same if he was asked 100 times, the commissioner agreed to a compromise.
He commented: “I do understand the frustrations. What I will commit to do is – because this is a question that’s been put today rather than in advance of the meeting, it could happily have been put in advance of the meeting – I will take legal advice as to the panel’s part in this process, the panel’s interest in this process and will ask our lawyer to draft a paper that’s very careful and non-prejudicial to give the panel any rights it may have and any information towards it and I will commit to forwarding it to you as soon as practically possible.”
Asked again by Cllr Findlow about how the interim arrangements were working with deputy chief constable Janette McCormick in place as acting chief constable, Mr Keane said only: “Following good legal advice, I’m very aware that you have to have somebody acting in the position as chief constable and I have delivered my duty in ensuring that takes place.”