New fire chief job up in smoke
Nicci Marzec has stepped down just ten days after her controversial appointment to the top job
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By Sarah Ward
Northamptonshire’s police, fire and crime commissioner has admitted his friendship with a colleague he promoted to head of the fire service has meant she cannot continue in the role.
In an after hours media release yesterday commissioner Mold put out a statement to say Nicci Marzec is stepping down from her appointment as acting chief fire officer and she will also step down as monitoring officer. She will keep her job as head of paid service.
Since the announcement of her new job was made on July 7, there has been huge concern in political, fire service and police circles that the appointment should not have been made and may have even been contrary to law.
Commissioner Mold had not asked the county’s police, fire and crime and panel, which has a statutory responsibility to hold his office to account, to even consider and ratify the appointment of Marzec and there has not been any other candidates put forward for the role. Marzec, who holds a HR qualification, has no experience of leading a large organisation such as Northamptonshire Fire Service. She was to be paid £35,000 on top of her £104,000 salary for doing the interim role.
When NN Journal asked Mold’s office last week to see the external legal advice he had relied on which said it was ok to sidestep the police and crime panel, we were refused.
In his statement yesterday the commissioner said:
“My friendship with Nicci Marzec, who is a long-standing colleague, has become the story and that must not damage the reputation of these organisations I work so hard to promote and improve.
“I took legal advice before asking Ms Marzec to temporarily act up in this role and I accept that I acted with urgency to ensure senior officer cover was in place, in advance of the British Grand Prix. I understand I acted too quickly and did not engage with the Police, Fire and Crime Panel in the way I would normally, and I did not have the opportunity to explain my rationale or the legal advice I had been given.
“With hindsight, I accept this has created a level of speculation and criticism that I had not expected and is not helpful to the service.”
Since the appointment of Marzec - who even went on BBC radio to explain her new job - the chair of the panel, Cllr David Smith has been hard to get hold of and has not been communicating with the other members of the panel.
NN Journal understands the head legal officer at West Northamptonshire Council was investigating whether commissioner Mold’s actions in appointing Marzec was done according to law and the matter had also been brought by others to the attention of the fire inspectorate HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services.
Marzec had been appointed after the fire chief Mark Jones, had left all of a sudden citing health issues. However, according to the local democracy reporting service he is currently advertising his services on LinkedIn.
The details of his departure are being kept under wraps and the commissioner’s office has said any compensation or pay settlement is ‘confidential’.
Marzec was expected to stay in the role as interim chief fire officer until possibly the May 2024 elections -when the county will have a vote on whether Conservative Mold stays in post. She was to be supported by a new deputy, Simon Tuhill, but he will now step up to the chief fire officer role today on his first day in Northants.
Recruitment for a new fire officer will start in the coming weeks.
However the matter may not go away for Stephen Mold who has now put a spotlight on his office and how it operates.
Adam Taylor from the Fire Brigades Union tweeted yesterday.
“A calamitous period which the PFCC (police, fire and crime commissioner) has brought negative attention to @northantsfire, where our members act with professionalism and integrity. The PFCC must be held to account.”