A local authority chief executive is taking a “career break for personal reasons” with immediate effect after being on “special leave” for around two months.
Judith Greenhalgh had been CEO at Denbighshire council since April 2018, when she officially took over from former chief officer Mohammed Mehmet.
She hasn’t been seen at County Hall in Ruthin since shortly after a Cabinet meeting at the end of January.
Now the authority has released a statement officially recognising the head of its paid service has stood down – less than three years after she started the role.
It said: “The Chief Executive, Judith Greenhalgh will be leaving the council on April 6, after nearly three years in post, to take a career break for personal reasons.
“The council would like to thank Judith for her contribution during her time with Denbighshire County Council and wish her all the very best for the future.’”
Corporate directors Graham Boase and Nicola Stubbins will take charge of the organisation while the search for a new CEO takes place.
Ms Greenhalgh secured the £130,000 a-year position after what Cllr Evans called at the time a “rigorous selection process”.
She was a former director of corporate resources at Derbyshire county council, and deputy chief executive of the probation service in Manchester, where she still lives.
When she was appointed the authority had sought someone who “could provide leadership and vision to ensure the council is structured, managed and resourced effectively”.
However at a behind-closed-doors meeting convened on March 15, full council approved a severance package for Ms Greenhalgh, who had been on “special leave for personal reasons” for at least the previous five weeks.
Over the last few months there have been grumblings from senior cabinet members they were not being made aware of everything the executive branch was doing.
Matters came to a head in January, when elected Leader Cllr Evans only found out about potential breaches of a Covid vaccination booking system after reading about it in the Press.
It emerged an email invite was sent to Denbighshire council’s health and social care staff from Betsi Cadwaldr health board’s Covid-19 testing email address, giving qualifying workers priority to arrange a coronavirus jab.
The email was wrongly shared with other local authority employees, leading to some potentially being able to book a vaccination slot – despite being healthy and in none of the priority groups.
In a fractious full council meeting a couple of days later, on January 26, Cllr Evans said: “It’s important to note, while things are highlighted in the Press, it’s important we as officers and members are familiar with all the facts before we take any action or have a position on it.”
He said responding to Press reports on a subject Cabinet members had no prior knowledge of was “not an ideal way” to reach a conclusion on an issue.
At the same meeting the council’s CEO said an investigation, into whether anyone who was not entitled to a jab had managed to get hold of one, had already been commissioned 12 days previously – and staff had been warned not to share the emails.
The results of the investigation have still not been made public.
Cllr Hugh Evans said: “We will be taking steps to recruit a new CEO over the coming months.
“Our two corporate directors will assume leadership responsibilities, supported by the senior leadership team, until such time as the new CEO is in post.
“Meanwhile, all Denbighshire council officers and elected members continue to work together to fulfil our commitment to deliver the best possible service to residents.”