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[February 15, 2014]
Council chief steps down during probe ; COUNCIL [South Wales Evening Post (Wales)]
(South Wales Evening Post (Wales) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) CARMARTHENSHIRE Council chief executive Mark James has stepped down while a police investigation is carried out over two reports carried out by the Wales Audit Office.
Mr James, pictured, said he was absolutely certain that neither he nor any of his officers had done anything wrong.
However, the council said it was only right and proper that he should not be in the office while the police concluded their inquiries.
Council leader Kevin Madge said: "By mutual agreement the chief executive Mark James will no longer undertake his duties as chief executive from now until police inquiries concerning the two Wales Audit Office Public Interest Reports have been concluded.
"I welcome the police investigation which will give the public the assurance they deserve.
"The auditor has not referred his reports to the police nor has he made any suggestions of any criminal wrongdoing, and I hope that the investigation can be concluded as quickly as possible in order for us as a council to move forward." During Mr James's absence his role will be performed by the current deputy chief executive Dave Gilbert.
Mr James added that he was absolutely certain that neither he nor any of his officers had done anything wrong.
The council said by Mr James not being in post during the police investigation it would "avoid any perception of undue influence being brought to bear".
Mr James said he hoped that the police enquiry could be conducted as quickly as possible as this was in everyone's best interest.
Councillor Madge concluded: "I have nothing further to say on this matter.
"There will be a full, frank and public debate on the reports at the Council meeting of February 27." The Welsh Audit Office found that the council had acted "contrary to law" by allowing senior officers to opt out of the Local Government Pension Scheme -- therefore avoiding potential tax payments.
The reports also said the council had been "unlawful" in granting indemnity for Mr James in a libel court case.
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