Finnegan quits Liverpool before disciplinary ruling

Liverpool City Council PR supremo Matt Finnegan has resigned, accusing the authority of pursuing an 'astonishing vendetta' against him.

The assistant executive ­director of media - dubbed ‘the Alastair Campbell of the North' by colleagues - made the announcement last week, 18 months after he was suspended amid allegations of ‘procurement irregularities' (PRWeek, 15 April 2005).

The former Staniforth Communications account director was facing a disciplinary hearing scheduled for 6 September. But he claimed his request for a fair trial had been ignored - labelling the hearing a ‘kangeroo court'. His resignation automatically stops the hearing.

In his resignation letter Finnegan accused council officials of trying to bully and intimidate him, and said he was the victim of a smear campaign. He claims to have been at the centre of a row over pensions between the former leader of the council Mike Storey and chief executive David Henshaw. ‘This is a classic example of shooting the messenger. I was following instructions,' he told PRWeek.

Liverpool City Council declined to comment on Finnegan's exit, and said it would not ­comment on individual staffing ­matters.

However, Finnegan, who had been prevented from talking to the media during his suspension, denied his post had become politicised. He said: ‘The issue this raises is how much authority the leader has over salaried officers, including PROs, who are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea if the leader and the chief executive fall out.'

Effectively acting in Finnegan's role at the council since his departure is principal news officer Richard Farnell. Responsibility for comms at The Liverpool Culture Company was shifted from Finnegan to a new director of comms, Paul Newman, late last year (PRWeek, 17 Nov 2005).

It is not yet known what will happen to the assistant executive director of media role that Finnegan held prior to his suspension. The recently appointed  CEO Colin Hilton is thought to be examining the council's structure.

Finnegan is writing a book on his experience and said that he plans to return to the industry shortly.

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