Published: 16:30, 04 June 2014 |
Updated: 16:58, 04 June 2014
Beleaguered Kent crime commissioner Ann Barnes told a watchdog committee she would be unable to appear before it because she had booked a three-week holiday, it has emerged.
The commissioner is tomorrow due to answer questions about her appearance in the "car crash" Channel 4 documentary Meet The Commissioner at a meeting of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel.
And she has been engulfed by another controversy today after her youth crime tsar Kerry Boyd, 20, was suspended from public duties amid an investigation into her close friendship with married 50-year-old former councillor Robert Burgess.
Mrs Barnes has been coming under growing pressure to quit her £85,000 post, with politicians from all sides calling for the 68-year-old to "consider her position".
It is thought Mrs Barnes is likely to face further calls to resign from some members of tomorrow's meeting and it is understood she will face a vote of no confidence.
But we can reveal she might not have been at the meeting at all, had the committee agreed to her suggestion to send her chief of staff Mike Stepney in her place to answer questions.
The proposal infuriated members of the panel, with many suggesting the meeting be postponed until she had returned.
It was only today that she was effectively ordered to appear at tomorrow's meeting and delay the start of a three-week holiday.
Members of the panel have told us they cannot understand why the commissioner did not raise a problem with the date of the meeting when the committee scheduled it for tomorrow.
The commissioner was present at that meeting and had not indicated she would be unavailable.
In a statement from her office, Mrs Barnes said: "At last week's meeting of the panel a date for a meeting about the Cutting Edge documentary was announced as 5 June. After the meeting Ann advised panel she was on leave. She has made changes to her annual leave plans since to ensure she is available tomorrow."
She faces an uncomfortable morning being quizzed about her decision to participate in the Channel 4 documentary.
To add to her difficulties, she also now faces questions about the appointment of her second youth tsar, Miss Boyd.
An inquiry has been set up to investigate claims of a close personal relationship she had with Mr Burgess, who was a referee when she applied for the job.
Miss Boyd "will not be undertaking any public engagements" after claims of her relationship with the father-of-two.
Earlier, Thanet North MP Sir Roger Gale said Mrs Barnes will "have to consider her position" amid the controversy over Miss Boyd, who was appointed to the £15,000-a-year role in March - replacing teenager Paris Brown, who quit in a storm after just six days.
Cllr Andrew Bowles, a Conservative member of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel and leader of Swale council, said: "It is difficult to imagine how Ann Barnes can do her job over the next two years without doing damage to Kent Police.
"We are getting to the stage now that we have to ask what is in the best interests of the organisation. It is beginning to damage the reputation of the whole force."
And Cllr Gordon Cowan, leader of the Labour group on Kent County Council and a member of the Kent and Medway Crime Panel, branded the situation "appalling".
He said: "We were told that when it came to appointing the second youth commissioner, proper checks would be made, yet here we are again.
"It is just more bad news and frankly quite appalling. Ann Barnes has an extremely important role, but I do think that she should really be considering her position."
It emerged today Mr Burgess is an ex-technology teacher at Miss Boyd's former school, Hartsdown Academy.
His LinkedIn profile says he worked at the Thanet school - teaching resistant materials, graphic products and ICT - from September 1995 until July 2001.
Mr Burgess was also chairman of Thanet's Youth Advisory Group, "taking the lead in youth consultation" and setting up four youth clubs in North Thanet, while a county councillor.
Mrs Barnes said in a statement today: "We are supporting Kerry at this difficult time for her.
Mrs Barnes added that Miss Boyd - who is on a gap year from her business studies degree - is continuing to work in her office.
When she was appointed, she said it was "a role that was crying out to me".
The latest controversy is another huge blow for Mrs Barnes, who previously described Miss Boyd as a "strong-minded young lady".
Mrs Barnes is due to face watchdogs tomorrow over her controversial decision to take part in Channel 4's Meet the Commissioner documentary, which was branded a "car crash".
Meet the Commissioner, which aired on Channel 4 last Thursday, led to Mrs Barnes being ridiculed and accused of damaging the reputation of Kent Police.
The Kent and Medway Crime Panel now wants to quiz Mrs Barnes over her decision to take part in the show.
Scenes in the documentary showed Mrs Barnes struggling to explain what her £85,000 a year job - and the "onion" theory of policing" involves.
She was also criticised for allowing herself to be filmed painting her nails at her desk and bringing her dogs into work.
Just hours after the documentary was broadcast a light aircraft was hired to fly over police headquarters, with a banner calling for her to resign.
Last week, a KentOnline poll of more than 1,600 people revealed 88% - 1,415 - wanted Mrs Barnes to resign in the wake of the documentary.
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