Revelations over business links between the former deputy leader of North East Lincolnshire Council and a convicted fraudster have “shaken trust in the council to the core,” an opposition leader said.
Labour Councillor Matthew Patrick called for an independent investigation into the dealings of Conservative councillor and deputy leader John Fenty, who stepped down on Tuesday, and Alex May, who was previously convicted and jailed for six years for his part in a multi-million pound scam.
However, in an interview with BBC Radio Humberside, Mr May also said he had held meetings with “members of the council” and had “introduced a number of potential investors” as he declared an interest in “regeneration opportunities” in Grimsby.
The Grimsby Telegraph has also reported on documents which show the May attended a meeting with at least council chief executive Rob Walsh and council leader Philip Jackson.
Mr Patrick told Local Democracy Reporters: “I will certainly be pushing it to be investigated. I think it’s the utmost matter of public trust that this does go ahead.
“If those meetings took place it could be a break of the code of conduct. This story has shaken the trust of the public to the core.”
Councillor Patrick said there were a lot of rumours going around and that it would be in the best interests in building public trust back up for an external third party to investigate away from the council’s leadership.
In a letter to Chief Executive Rob Walsh following Councillor Fenty’s resignation, he said: “I hope we pride ourselves on supporting the very highest of standards in public life.
“It is what the public rightly demand of their elected representatives.
“We have a shared duty to protect the integrity of the council, ensuring that our processes and decisions are beyond reproach at all times.
He added: “It is important that councillors do not have interests that are prejudicial, and if they do, those are declared in advance.
“Our process must be fair and be seen to be fair. I am at a loss to see how any objective independent person would not raise an eyebrow at the current situation as reported.”
In response to the allegations over the weekend, Councillor Fenty said the pair were no longer business partners. The company they had set up, Town Centre Living Ltd, had not even started trading yet.
Humberston and New Waltham councillor Stan Shreeve has since been appointed as his replacement as the new deputy leader of the council.
Mr May led a gang of con artists targetting elderly houseowners in 2007 in Manchester. He stole £3.5million and tried to steal another £3.3million.
Following his sentence he changed his name by deed poll from Alick Kapikanya.
Grimsby Town Football club has also rejected a bid by Mr May to acquire £1,000,000 of shares which would have been used as a contribution towards the cost of a new training facility for the club and local community.
A North East Lincolnshire Council spokesman said: “We are aware of media reports around Mr Fenty and the football club this weekend.
“As with all other local authorities in the UK, the council recognises a distinction between a councillor’s personal life and their role as a councillor.
“As such, as this stage, there is nothing further the council would propose to say on the issue.”