Suffolk legal chief’s death was not result of bullying

An investigation by Suffolk County Council has cleared its chief executive of bullying allegations relating to the death of its head of legal services.

The local authority’s dismissals and appeals committee said it was confident there was no evidence that chief executive Andrea Hill was responsible for the death of legal head David White.

White’s body was found in Butley Woods, near Woodbridge, on 4 April after police received a phone call expressing concerns about his welfare. His death was not treated as suspicious.

The council committee commissioned law firm Wragge & Co to lead the investigation.

A spokesman for the council said: “Bullying and harassment allegations were robustly investigated by an independent firm of solicitors. Although it remains a concern that such a perception existed, the committee is satisfied that there was no evidence to support those claims or that [Hill] was responsible for the death of David White.

“The committee wants to reassure staff that all allegations are treated extremely seriously.”

Despite the decision, the council confirmed Hill would leave her £218,592 job with immediate effect following media attention on the bullying investigation and a separate investigation into expense claims made during her tenure.

While Hill was cleared of making dishonest expense claims, the committee concluded she had claimed expenses that “might not represent best use of public money” given the current economic climate.

The spokesman added: “There’s been significant media attention attached to Mrs Hill which has become a distraction and both parties accept that with new political leadership of Suffolk County Council in place, it is better to allow the organisation to move forward with new managerial leadership.”

White had worked for Suffolk County Council for over 20 years and his death came just days after the departure of the council’s legal services head and monitoring officer Eric Whitfield and resource management director Graham Dixon.

Interim council leader Jane Storey, who has since been replaced by new leader Mark Bee, personally commissioned the inquiry to probe concerns over staff welfare within the legal team after receiving an anonymous email calling for more support for legal staff.

The council currently has a recruitment freeze across all departments in an effort to slash its 10,000 workforce by 1,400 over two years.

Its legal team is currently being led by interim head of legal services Timothy Earl.