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Former Padiham town clerk in cash probe
A FORMER Padiham town clerk has been questioned as part of a police investigation after financial irregularities were discovered at the town hall.
Elizabeth Bolton, 57, was reported to police more than a year ago, but the ongoing case has been kept under wraps by town councillors until now.
A Lancashire Police spokeswoman said more than £13,000 was unaccounted for and the alleged offences happened between May 2005 and December 2011.
One Padiham town councillor said that ‘it has been a very difficult time for us’, but refused to comment further.
Her appointment in 2002 was controversial as she had been forced to resign from her position of principal legal officer at Burnley Borough Council after being arrested for petrol bombing a car in 1999.
She later pleaded guilty to arson with intent to endanger life at Lancaster Crown Court and was given a 12-month prison sentence suspended for two years, while charges of indecent assault were allowed to lie on file.
Police confirmed that a representative from Padiham town council had contacted them with concerns about financial irregularities in June 2012.
A police spokeswoman said: “A 57-year-old woman has been spoken to after voluntarily attending the police station. Further enquiries are now being carried out.”
The spokeswoman added that it was not unusual for enquiries to take several months, due to the complex nature of financial investigations.
Another councillor revealed that Mrs Bolton, of Palace Gardens, Burnley, had been suspended from her post as long ago as December 2011, but that the council did not appoint a new clerk until a year later, as there were ‘too many things to sort out first’.
Padiham’s new town clerk, Catherine Parkinson, who was appointed in December 2012, said: “The town council would not wish to make any comment at this stage.”
Senior officers from Burnley Council were called in to the town hall to carry out an audit after the discrepancies in the accounts were discovered while she was on sick leave.
A spokesman from Burnley Borough Council said: “This is an issue for the town council.”
The office of town clerk is a paid post, appointed directly by Padiham Town Council. The council receives its funding from a council tax precept, a grant from Burnley Borough Council, and income from hire of the town hall.
According to a town councillor her responsibilities included running the businesses of the town council, ensuring that everything ran correctly and legally, looking after the town hall, which generates income for the council, and looking after the town council’s finances.
Mrs Bolton was the first person in 30 years to hold the position of town clerk. She was employed in the role for 22 hours a week.
At the time of her appointment the then-mayor of Padiham councillor Granville Lord defended her, saying that she was the best candidate for the job.
He said: "Mrs Bolton was selected for her knowledge of local government. We had some excellent candidates. As a new council, we will be heavily reliant on a town clerk.
“We were fully aware of Mrs Bolton's past, but I do not think we should sit as judge and jury on someone's past life."
Speaking at the time, Mrs Bolton said she hoped that the Padiham role would help to put her past behind her.
She said: "I just want to make a fresh start. People know about what happened and I can't change what I did, which was unfortunate."