Somerset County Council still refuses to comment on Sheila Wheeler's absence

Yeovil Express: Sheila Wheeler. Sheila Wheeler.

THE mystery of why a highly-paid council boss has been off work for over two months has deepened – with councillors closing ranks and refusing to discuss the matter.

Mrs Wheeler has been away from her £160,000-a-year post as chief executive at Somerset County Council since late November.

The official line from County Hall was initially that she was on “sick leave”, then last month a statement said she was “not in the office at this time”.

This week a spokesman for the authority said: “Sheila Wheeler continues to be away from the office.

“The responsibilities of the chief executive as head of paid service are temporarily being carried out by the deputy chief executive Pat Flaherty.

“This council has a strict policy of not commenting on employees and this continues to be the case.”

Council leader Cllr John Osman has failed to respond to phone call and e-mail requests for an interview with the County Gazette.

And our straw poll of local councillors shows that they have been gagged from discussing the position, while Mrs Wheeler has not spoken publicly of the reasons behind her absence.

Taunton Deane’s LibDem MP Jeremy Browne has again called on the county to come clean and explain what is going on.

He said: “Somerset council tax payers have a right to know what is happening with the chief executive.

“She is very highly paid with a bigger salary than the Prime Minister (who is on £142,500).

“This position remaining vacant runs the risk that key services in Somerset will not be properly delivered.

“The Conservatives running the county council should stop being so secretive and put the interests of Somerset residents first.”

Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Taxpayers foot a huge bill for Sheila Wheeler’s salary – it’s not fair on them or her for so many questions to remain about this sorry state of affairs.

“It’s vital the case is dealt with swiftly and fairly to ensure taxpayers’ money isn’t squandered paying a six-figure salary for someone not at their desk.”

*HERE’S WHAT SOME OF YOUR COUNTY COUNCILLORS SAID.

*Andrew Govier (Labour) Wellington: “I’ve been sworn to secrecy. All councillors have been told it must remain confidential. As far as I know, she’s still an employee of the county council and could return to work. I’m not party to any decision to terminate her employment or to suspend her. As far as I’m aware, she’s on full pay. She certainly was when she initially went on sick leave.”

*Mike Rigby (Indpendent) Lydeard: “Yes, I know (why Sheila Wheeler is away), but I can’t tell you. Councillors have been specifically told they aren’t allowed to tell anyone. I can’t say whether she’s expected to return to work because I don’t know. As far as I know, she’s still on full pay.”

*Simon Coles (LibDem) Taunton East: “I don’t know why she’s off. We haven’t been given a reason and I’m not aware of an official reason. I know what I think and what other people are saying, but that hasn’t been confirmed. I’ve been told not to talk about it by the council and my group leader. My group leader says we’ll be told more in the fullness of time. I’m unhappy we haven’t got clarification. I have no reason to disbelieve she is on full pay – I have no knowledge one way or the other.”

*Alan Wedderkopp (LibDem) Comeytrowe and Trull: “I have no idea why she’s off work. Councillors have been told it’s confidential. It’s frustrating – we ask questions and we’re just told it’s confidential, that’s all we get back from the leader of the council. I can’t see how anything to do with the council should be confidential from councillors – we should know, otherwise how can we represent our constituents?”

*Justine Baker (LibDem) Bishop’s Hull: “We know part of the reason, but not the full reason. But we’ve been told we’re not allowed to tell anyone for legal reasons to the extent we could be individually liable for legal action. We don’t know when to expect her back. As far as I’m aware she’s on full pay. Residents are angry that they’re not being told anything and are accusing the council of a cover up.”

*Derek Yeomans (Conservative) Curry Rivel and Langport: “You can’t ask me any questions about it. You wouldn’t get an answer because it’s confidential. We’ve all been told we mustn’t speak about it and that’s the end of it, I’m afraid.”

Comments (18)

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12:15pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Mi_Coc says...

Why should the people know. Anyway cuts continue in her abesence! While she is paid silly money for unknown reasons.
Why should the people know. Anyway cuts continue in her abesence! While she is paid silly money for unknown reasons. Mi_Coc
  • Score: -1

12:31pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Reallycycle says...

I work for the council and we haven't been told anything. Ironically, the £3k she gets paid per week to sit at home is about the same as it costs to provide flood protection to a house. Good to know that your taxes are been spent wisely during the worst natural disaster to hit this county for many years.
I work for the council and we haven't been told anything. Ironically, the £3k she gets paid per week to sit at home is about the same as it costs to provide flood protection to a house. Good to know that your taxes are been spent wisely during the worst natural disaster to hit this county for many years. Reallycycle
  • Score: 24

1:48pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Welly View says...

I fail to understand why people think they have the right to know what is going on with this woman. Quite frankly, her sickness is nobody's business other than hers and her employers, and I am disgusted to see Jeremy Browne jumping on the bandwagon. People need to do a little research on employment law, and for those that can't be bothered, let me help......

"Where an employee gives their employer information in private or in confidence, the employer should respect that privacy as far as possible.
Any contract of employment (whether this is written or not) includes an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence on the part of both the employer and the employee. This could include not sharing private or personal information with other employees or third parties without good reason (for instance, if the employee threatened to harm themselves or others).

If an employee feels that their personal information has been disclosed without good reason, the first step is to speak to the employer about this. If matters cannot be resolved informally, the employee can consider raising a formal grievance about what has happened."
(Source ACAS website)
I fail to understand why people think they have the right to know what is going on with this woman. Quite frankly, her sickness is nobody's business other than hers and her employers, and I am disgusted to see Jeremy Browne jumping on the bandwagon. People need to do a little research on employment law, and for those that can't be bothered, let me help...... "Where an employee gives their employer information in private or in confidence, the employer should respect that privacy as far as possible. Any contract of employment (whether this is written or not) includes an implied duty of mutual trust and confidence on the part of both the employer and the employee. This could include not sharing private or personal information with other employees or third parties without good reason (for instance, if the employee threatened to harm themselves or others). If an employee feels that their personal information has been disclosed without good reason, the first step is to speak to the employer about this. If matters cannot be resolved informally, the employee can consider raising a formal grievance about what has happened." (Source ACAS website) Welly View
  • Score: -16

4:29pm Fri 7 Feb 14

MP1892 says...

How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.
How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news. MP1892
  • Score: -14

6:07pm Fri 7 Feb 14

ladybird14 says...

STOP HER WAGE AND USE IT FOR THE POOR PEOPLE AT THE FLOODS .THATS WHO COULD DO WITH IT PEOPLE SITTING AROUND DOING NOTHING,YOUR ALWAYS SAYING ABOUT CUT BACKS START HERE !!!!!!
STOP HER WAGE AND USE IT FOR THE POOR PEOPLE AT THE FLOODS .THATS WHO COULD DO WITH IT PEOPLE SITTING AROUND DOING NOTHING,YOUR ALWAYS SAYING ABOUT CUT BACKS START HERE !!!!!! ladybird14
  • Score: 15

6:33pm Fri 7 Feb 14

TauntonBloke29 says...

The reason there is an investigation is it was said she isn't on sick leave, hence the intrigue. When someone is paid that much (why?) then all rights of privacy, outside of medical conditions, go out the window.
The reason there is an investigation is it was said she isn't on sick leave, hence the intrigue. When someone is paid that much (why?) then all rights of privacy, outside of medical conditions, go out the window. TauntonBloke29
  • Score: 11

7:18pm Fri 7 Feb 14

ladybird14 says...

MP1892 wrote:
How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.
this is proper news as when reported before it was said she was not on sick leave and what a waste of us tax payers money .This money could be spent helping people who really need like the poor people of the floods my heart goes out to them at this very sad time. Thank god our M.P Mr .Jeremy Browne is a peoples persons and cares what happens in our community
[quote][p][bold]MP1892[/bold] wrote: How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.[/p][/quote]this is proper news as when reported before it was said she was not on sick leave and what a waste of us tax payers money .This money could be spent helping people who really need like the poor people of the floods my heart goes out to them at this very sad time. Thank god our M.P Mr .Jeremy Browne is a peoples persons and cares what happens in our community ladybird14
  • Score: 10

7:23pm Fri 7 Feb 14

ladybird14 says...

MP1892 wrote:
How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.
this is proper news as when reported before it was said she was not on sick leave and what a waste of us tax payers money .This money could be spent helping people who really need like the poor people of the floods my heart goes out to them at this very sad time. Thank god our M.P Mr .Jeremy Browne is a peoples persons and cares what happens in our community
[quote][p][bold]MP1892[/bold] wrote: How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.[/p][/quote]this is proper news as when reported before it was said she was not on sick leave and what a waste of us tax payers money .This money could be spent helping people who really need like the poor people of the floods my heart goes out to them at this very sad time. Thank god our M.P Mr .Jeremy Browne is a peoples persons and cares what happens in our community ladybird14
  • Score: 2

7:36pm Fri 7 Feb 14

Mi_Coc says...

MP1892 wrote:
How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.
If she is I'll say she is sick leave but they have said its not sick leave.

3 months paid sick, only in the public sector.
[quote][p][bold]MP1892[/bold] wrote: How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.[/p][/quote]If she is I'll say she is sick leave but they have said its not sick leave. 3 months paid sick, only in the public sector. Mi_Coc
  • Score: 4

9:28pm Fri 7 Feb 14

mansell5 says...

TauntonBloke29 wrote:
The reason there is an investigation is it was said she isn't on sick leave, hence the intrigue. When someone is paid that much (why?) then all rights of privacy, outside of medical conditions, go out the window.
And what if there is a legal issue and media coverage could prejudice proceedings?
[quote][p][bold]TauntonBloke29[/bold] wrote: The reason there is an investigation is it was said she isn't on sick leave, hence the intrigue. When someone is paid that much (why?) then all rights of privacy, outside of medical conditions, go out the window.[/p][/quote]And what if there is a legal issue and media coverage could prejudice proceedings? mansell5
  • Score: -6

8:42am Sat 8 Feb 14

prickles says...

Bet she's not getting statutory sick pay like other people would
Bet she's not getting statutory sick pay like other people would prickles
  • Score: 5

10:08am Sat 8 Feb 14

ilovemycounty says...

prickles wrote:
Bet she's not getting statutory sick pay like other people would
Spot on she wont be on stat sick pay. This is the Ceo who tried to stop staff getting any sick pay at all recently until she was stopped from inflicting yet more pain on staff who aren't on £160k (excl her pension and expenses). Ironic, under the circumstances. By the way - every single week she's off, it cost us over £3k. So every time she watches another episode of loose women on telly, it's another £600 pocketed. nice work SCC.
[quote][p][bold]prickles[/bold] wrote: Bet she's not getting statutory sick pay like other people would[/p][/quote]Spot on she wont be on stat sick pay. This is the Ceo who tried to stop staff getting any sick pay at all recently until she was stopped from inflicting yet more pain on staff who aren't on £160k (excl her pension and expenses). Ironic, under the circumstances. By the way - every single week she's off, it cost us over £3k. So every time she watches another episode of loose women on telly, it's another £600 pocketed. nice work SCC. ilovemycounty
  • Score: 12

10:19am Sat 8 Feb 14

seniorstargazer says...

Paid £18k more than the pm. We're all in it together eh? I say ask Penny to step in, she seems to understand what austerity in management means.
Paid £18k more than the pm. We're all in it together eh? I say ask Penny to step in, she seems to understand what austerity in management means. seniorstargazer
  • Score: 4

10:35am Sat 8 Feb 14

taunton mum says...

MP1892 wrote:
How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.
So what's proper news in your book? This is someone who has placed herself in the position of holding the highest seat of public office in the whole county, and when she's not about when the County really needs it's public services to lead us through the most appalling natural disaster we've faced, we're entitled to ask where the CEo is. Aren't we? It's not as if the County has said she's away for personal reasons, which would give your comment a tincture of credibility, or Wheeler herself has contacted the media to record her sympathy for the flood victims and she'll be back soon is it? I mean, do you live in cave? Of course people are going to ask and remain annoyed about a radio silence until the Council deem it's residents worthy of telling them what's going on. Unbelievable.
[quote][p][bold]MP1892[/bold] wrote: How insensitive, what gives you people in the media, and especially Jeremy Browne the right to keep bugging the council. Has the thought passed your tiny minds that she might be seriously ill? I imagine she doesnt want this aired to the whole world as it is a personal and probably very distressing time. Just leave her alone and stick to what you are meant to do, report on proper news.[/p][/quote]So what's proper news in your book? This is someone who has placed herself in the position of holding the highest seat of public office in the whole county, and when she's not about when the County really needs it's public services to lead us through the most appalling natural disaster we've faced, we're entitled to ask where the CEo is. Aren't we? It's not as if the County has said she's away for personal reasons, which would give your comment a tincture of credibility, or Wheeler herself has contacted the media to record her sympathy for the flood victims and she'll be back soon is it? I mean, do you live in cave? Of course people are going to ask and remain annoyed about a radio silence until the Council deem it's residents worthy of telling them what's going on. Unbelievable. taunton mum
  • Score: 10

10:57pm Sat 8 Feb 14

souwesterly says...

To me the reason why we're all interested isn't to find out anything about her personal problems. What we all want to know is why so much of our money is being basically given away without good reason.
This is on a par with the council giving £3,000 a month to some project that only they know about - that isn't benefitting anyone and which isn't in the public interest anyway.
We're being taken for an expensive ride......
*
Personally I'm surprised they haven't sacked her - given her the odd half million severance pay - so they can then rehire her once it's all over.....probably with a golden handshake and an increased salary!
Would sound to be a much more normal Local Government arrangement.
To me the reason why we're all interested isn't to find out anything about her personal problems. What we all want to know is why so much of our money is being basically given away without good reason. This is on a par with the council giving £3,000 a month to some project that only they know about - that isn't benefitting anyone and which isn't in the public interest anyway. We're being taken for an expensive ride...... * Personally I'm surprised they haven't sacked her - given her the odd half million severance pay - so they can then rehire her once it's all over.....probably with a golden handshake and an increased salary! Would sound to be a much more normal Local Government arrangement. souwesterly
  • Score: 5

2:56pm Sun 9 Feb 14

tom norman says...

so if the new government rules come in to get peeps on sick leave back to work after 4 weeks come into force will they get her back to work !!!!! no thought not next question
so if the new government rules come in to get peeps on sick leave back to work after 4 weeks come into force will they get her back to work !!!!! no thought not next question tom norman
  • Score: 2

4:12pm Sun 9 Feb 14

mansell5 says...

souwesterly wrote:
To me the reason why we're all interested isn't to find out anything about her personal problems. What we all want to know is why so much of our money is being basically given away without good reason.
This is on a par with the council giving £3,000 a month to some project that only they know about - that isn't benefitting anyone and which isn't in the public interest anyway.
We're being taken for an expensive ride......
*
Personally I'm surprised they haven't sacked her - given her the odd half million severance pay - so they can then rehire her once it's all over.....probably with a golden handshake and an increased salary!
Would sound to be a much more normal Local Government arrangement.
A reasonably sensible post spoiled by the last paragraph. Presumably you work three days week.
[quote][p][bold]souwesterly[/bold] wrote: To me the reason why we're all interested isn't to find out anything about her personal problems. What we all want to know is why so much of our money is being basically given away without good reason. This is on a par with the council giving £3,000 a month to some project that only they know about - that isn't benefitting anyone and which isn't in the public interest anyway. We're being taken for an expensive ride...... * Personally I'm surprised they haven't sacked her - given her the odd half million severance pay - so they can then rehire her once it's all over.....probably with a golden handshake and an increased salary! Would sound to be a much more normal Local Government arrangement.[/p][/quote]A reasonably sensible post spoiled by the last paragraph. Presumably you work three days week. mansell5
  • Score: 2

8:00pm Thu 6 Mar 14

jodie constable says...

I know why and whose involved and she's innocent and hasn't done anything wrong, truth will come out eventually
I know why and whose involved and she's innocent and hasn't done anything wrong, truth will come out eventually jodie constable
  • Score: 0

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