Police, fire and crime commissioner unrepentant about appointment of close friend as chief fire officer
Stephen Mold has said he would make the same appointment again but would follow a different process
By Sarah Ward
Northamptonshire’s police fire and crime commissioner was unrepentant today about appointing his close friend to the role of chief fire officer and said he’d make the same decision again.
Conservative politician Stephen Mold sat before the police, fire and crime panel for a grilling of more than two hours this afternoon about his decision earlier this summer to appoint Nicci Marzec to the top job in the county’s fire service.
And in an at times rowdy Norhampton guildhall it seemed that in the two months since the scandal first broke the anger of the public and the county’s firefighters has not abated.
A number of members of the public requested to speak and throughout the meeting the commissioner was heckled with members of the public occasionally shouting out and accusing him of lying.
However Mold doubled down on the position he has taken over recent weeks, saying he had regretted the way the appointment of Marzec was made and should have taken the decision before the panel to get confirmation.
“I would make the same appointment again, but I would follow a different process.”
By law the panel, which is mostly made up of councillors, with some independent members, should have been involved in the decision to appoint Marzec and could have had the power to veto it.
Marzec was appointed by Mold on July 7, the day that former chief fire officer Mark Jones resigned. Marzec however resigned from the role ten days later following intense media and public interest in the appointment and condemnation by the Fire Brigades Union (FBU).
A few days after that she stood down from the role of monitoring officer and head of paid service in the commissioner’s office.
New details that emerged today included the commissioner saying he has made a complaint to the media watchdog about a story in the Daily Mail that alleged he and Marzec have been in a relationship.
Asked directly about the Daily Mail story, which cited five anonymous sources, Mold, who denies the relationship, said he ‘did not have the resources’ to sue the newspaper.
It was also revealed Marzec was being paid £12,000 less than her predecessor Jones when given the role.
Mold also admitted that there was no one else considered for the interim position and throughout the hearing he gave scripted answers to the 35 questions. He repeated several times that her appointment was ‘temporary’.
The two different pieces of conflicting legal advice given to the commissioner office and West Northamptonshire council were discussed.
It was Marzec who asked for the advice on June 27 (Mold said yesterday on his request) about whether her becoming the chief fire officer would need to be considered by the panel.
The two sentence advice that came back from East Midlands Police Legal Services said it ‘should not be necessary’ but the much fuller advice given to the west unitary council by a barrister advised differently.
Other new details that emerged today included Mold saying he did not appoint the incoming deputy fire officer Simon Tuhill (who has since become the interim chief) to take on the role after Mark Jones’ departure, because it would have been too much pressure.