A year after his arrest saw him first step back from his duties, before being formally suspended in September, Ged Fitzgerald has formally resigned as chief executive of Liverpool City Council.
Fitzgerald was arrested in May last year along with three other individuals as part of a police investigation into procurement practices relating to Lancashire County Council and a joint venture named One Connect. In the wake of his arrest, the city council said that his duties were being discharged by other senior officials.
He was then formally suspended on full pay in September last year at a meeting of the council’s appointments and disciplinary panel.
City mayor Joe Anderson yesterday issued a note to all council staff, saying: “Ged Fitzgerald has resigned from his post as CEO of Liverpool City Council with immediate effect.
“I can confirm that he wrote to me this morning and tendered his resignation, which the council has accepted.”
Property professionals appear united in frustration at the saga. One developer in the city told Place North West: “The council seem to bury their heads in the sand on this sort of thing, and it also feels like it suited certain people for him to be there as a scapegoat for some of the things that have gone wrong.
“It has dragged on too long and should have been dealt with robustly a long time ago, but they fudged it and it’s a PR disaster.
“That said, has him not being there made any material difference to the way the city operates? I can honestly say Ged Fitzgerald’s name hasn’t been mentioned positively or negatively around any of the discussions we’ve been involved in.”
Fitzgerald is not without his fans in the city, however. Another business leader told Place: “For all that business people were surprised the council let this run, there’s a lot of support for Ged. He was quietly very effective, and never prepared to be the monkey to Joe’s organ-grinder.
“Where do we go from here? We need to appoint a dynamic chief executive, who ‘gets’ regeneration, and knows how to deal with Westminster to unlock funding and to find common ground on policy.”
Lancashire Police launched Operation Sheridan, looking into potential fraud around deals involving One Connect, a joint venture established to run contracts between councils and BT, in 2013.
In May 2017, Fitzgerald was arrested, along with Geoff Driver, currently leader of Lancashire County Council, and senior officials Phil Halsall and David McElhinney – who had been chief executive of One Connect and similar organisation Liverpool Direct – on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and witness intimidation.
Since the arrests, they have been re-bailed on a number of occasions, the latest of which runs until 22 May, as the investigation continues.
Fitzgerald had sought a judicial review into the legality of the raids that accompanied the May 2017 arrests, but a judgment handed down last month ruled against him.
Liverpool City Council’s annual meeting is set to take place next Wednesday.