Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It's Watergate Isn't It?' Sale of Acklam Hall Compared to Famous Scandal as Tribunal Hears Ex-Employee's Claims She Was Asked to Hide Facts

Newspaper article Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)

'It's Watergate Isn't It?' Sale of Acklam Hall Compared to Famous Scandal as Tribunal Hears Ex-Employee's Claims She Was Asked to Hide Facts

Article excerpt

Byline: JAMES CAIN james.cain@trinitymirror.com @JIMMYMCAIN

THE sale of key Middlesbrough Council assets including Acklam Hall has come under the spotlight at an employment tribunal.

The tribunal into allegations made by former senior officer Karen Whitmore continued yesterday in Middlesbrough.

Mrs Whitmore claims she was forced out of her role after raising questions over the sale of assets.

She has also made allegations of a "laddish" culture at the authority, where sexist comments were made by the council's former chief executive Mike Robinson.

On the second day of the hearing yesterday, Mrs Whitmore's concerns over the sale of Acklam Hall were raised.

Christopher Jeans QC, representing the council, moved onto accusations made by Mrs Whitmore, a monitoring officer, that she was asked to "cover up" mistakes made by the council as part of the sale of Acklam Hall.

Concerns have been raised that the council sold the Grade I-listed building for less than its true value, allegations which have been consistently denied.

Mrs Whitmore told the hearing she had been asked to look into the sale process, but under questioning denied that she had been asked to investigate corruption.

But as she began her work, Mrs Whitmore said she was asked to act inappropriately by the council's then chief executive Mike Robinson.

She said she was asked to "hide" the fact that an appropriate delegation had not been used by the council during the sale.

Mike Robinson Mr Jeans asked whether the deal was comparable to Watergate, the 1970s scandal which brought down US President Richard Nixon.

He asked: "If you've got a chief executive asking you to cover something up, that's Watergate isn't it? "Why didn't you report it?" Mrs Whitmore said council chiefs didn't want the fact that the sale had been made without proper authority to be made public - stating it would be an "embarrassment". …

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