A police, fire and crime commissioner has moved to scotch claims that she instructed an employee to help distance her from a convicted kidnapping gang leader.
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North Yorkshire’s commissioner Julia Mulligan, who has twice been elected to the role, has spoken out as claims featuring Asian businessman Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto being examined by the county’s Police, Fire and Crime Panel were revealed.
The Conservative commissioner has categorically denied allegations presented to the panel that she asked a staff member to delete all references on her personal Facebook page to Bhutto, who was an activist for Mrs Mulligan as as she stood as Conservative candidate for Leeds North West in the 2010 general election.
Five years before that Bhutto, of Leeds, had admitted being behind a high-profile kidnapping in Karachi in 2004 and taking a £56,000 ransom payment in Manchester.
He was jailed for seven years in 2005, but later became a member of the Conservative Party.
The panel’s inquiry, which Mrs Mulligan appeared before at County Hall, is understood to have heard the allegation that the commissioner issued the instruction from a former member of her staff.
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The allegation that Mrs Mulligan tried to distance herself from Bhutto has been regarded as significant in the context of the Nolan principles of public life, which were established to ensure holders of public office act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner
Responding to the claims, Mrs Mulligan said: “This allegation is untrue. At the time when I was the candidate in Leeds North West I, and the Conservative Party, knew nothing about Mujeeb ur Rehman Bhutto’s history and background.
“I have been clear that there were around 300 people who supported my campaign in 2010 and he was one of those. There is nothing to hide.
“It continues to both be disappointing, hurtful and upsetting to me that an individual is spreading false allegations anonymously without being asked to back up what they claim.
“I have always been committed to following proper process when there are allegations such as this, but the continued drip feed indicates others are following their own personal agendas.”
It is understood the panel, which has limited powers, is set to conclude the inquiry into the Facebook allegations, and others concerning Mrs Mulligan’s behaviour towards her staff, in the coming weeks.
Stuart Minting , Local Democracy Reporting Service