Get involved: send your pictures, video, news and views by texting ECHONEWS to 80360, or email us »
£1,000 probe into who took photo of mobile phone gaffe
9:10am Tuesday 3rd September 2013 in Local News
The £1,000 probe was launched after someone at Basildon Council leaked a photo of Mrs Larkin handling her mobile phone while being saluted by war veterans on Armed Forces Day in June.
The council’s corporate investigations manager spent about a week and interviewed four people about the picture, but failed to find the culprit.
The cost of the probe has been slammed by Jonathan Isaby, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, who said there was no justification for council staff to get involved in “attempting to hide the mayor’s blushes”.
Defending the mayor, council leader Tony Ball said: “A complaint had been made by a councillor, who happened to be the mayor, after information somebody in public office was behind this.
“The council would do an investigation after a complaint no matter what.
“Anyone who knows Mo, and her commitment to the Armed Forces, would know this was a mistake on her part and it’s a mistake she has apologised for.”
The picture of Mrs Larkin on the podium in Basildon town centre during the ceremony was posted on Twitter and Facebook, drawing angry comments from posters who felt she had shown disrespect.
Mrs Larkin asked for an investigation after Twitter user Paul Green posted the snap, but said he had been e-mailed it by “a member of the council”.
Mrs Larkin said she had been trying to turn her phone off because it kept ringing.
A council spokesman said: “The investigation was unable to identify the person responsible for taking the photograph.
“The matter is now closed and would only be reopened if substantial new evidence were to be brought forward at some point in the future.
“We do not currently anticipate this happening.
“This was a serious allegation, which if it were proven could have amounted to a serious misconduct charge under the council’s code of conduct.
“Therefore, it was important the council dealt with it in an appropriate manner, swiftly, responsibly and with due care and attention to all parties concerned.”
However, Mr Isaby, from the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “When money is tight and Basildon Council is having to find savings, it can ill afford to be squandering hard-earned residents’ cash on this sort of distraction.”