A Portsmouth City Council worker investigated for corruption related to Centros Miller’s Portsmouth retail scheme Northern Quarter has been cleared by Hampshire Constabulary and is to be invited back to work.
Wendy Couch, principal valuer for the asset management service, has been on precautionary special leave since June following a claim by a Portsmouth businessman that she corruptly accepted hospitality from developers Centros Miller.
The police last week cleared her of any criminal wrongdoing.
Hampshire police have dismissed the claims and closed the investigation which they said was now an ‘internal staff matter.’
In a letter from detective chief inspector Linda Dawson it said: ‘A great deal of effort has been expended to ensure that we can be content that there has been no corruption evidenced regarding your complaint against Centros Miller and Portsmouth City Council.’
DCI Dawson said the hospitality Couch received was ‘minor in nature and she has provided a clear and plausible account of the hospitality issue.’
She added: ‘She has made it clear that she was invited to sail as an experienced sailor, and this is corroborated. The actual gifts are consistent with sailing. There is nothing unusual in their content. Centros Miller staff were interviewed regarding this matter. It is normal business for them to stage corporate events and invite business partners. They had no intention, whatsoever, of attempting to bribe or corrupt Wendy Couch. They simply wanted a sailor and a member of their business partners to integrate with the corporate days.’
Council employees must declare the receipt of any work-related gifts or hospitality in a register. Couch accepted two corporate sailing days as a crew member in August 2004 and August 2005.
Centros Miller is developing the Northern Quarter retail scheme in the town, to be anchored by John Lewis.
David Williams, the council’s chief executive, said: ‘Couch will now be invited to return to work to the council, and the internal discliplinary process, which was suspended during the police investigation, will be concluded.’