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Council website reveals whistleblower's secret identity
THE identity of a previously anonymous whistleblower who helped expose astonishing blunders in Wirral Council has been revealed - on the local authority’s own website.
The Globe has been contacted by Gary Downey - who believes there is now no point in trying to protect his identity after the shocking internet revelation.
Mr Downey, a former council highways and technical services employee, says the “outing” on the Wirral.gov website has left him stunned and too stressed to attend work.
Mr Downey has been known to the Globe and Birkenhead MP Frank Field for more than a year as we campaigned to help him expose allegations of wrong-doing over the handling of a multi-million pound, outsourced highways maintenance contract.
But the newspaper and the MP have always agreed not to reveal his name and have taken pains to protect his identity.
And it is in the council's own code of conduct that the identity of whistle-blowing staff should not be made public.
Now that cover is blown.
Mr Downey’s contract revelations sent shockwaves throughout the town hall when the audit report was made public last month.
Championed by Mr Field, his claims have led to the suspension of a powerful council director and sparked a major investigation by local government watchdog the Audit Commission.
The commission's probe ruled the highways director, David Green, “had probably” broken European contract law.
Mr Downey said today: “After everything we’ve been through trying to get all this into the public’s view, to have my name revealed by the council is appalling.
“Frank Field has said it was a good job Bernie Madoff didn’t work for the council. I’d add it’s a good job Frank Spencer doesn’t as well.
“On a serious note, this has now ruined my career and that realisation has made me feel quite unwell today.
“I have followed council whistle-blowing procedures to the letter. It’s just a pity they cannot follow their own policy as diligently.”
Mr Field said: "This is deadly serious.
"One of the changes which the new council regime wants to make is to show it takes whistleblowers seriously.
"Now we have this almighty cock-up, which damages Gary.
"The one ray of sunshine is that all the damaging material is coming out of the woodwork so the new regime at least knows the scope of what it is dealing with."
Mr Downey’s identity is revealed in a letter from the district auditor published on the local authority’s website as an agenda item for next Monday’s full council meeting.
Acting chief executive David Armstrong said: “We have unreservedly apologised to Mr Downey for inadvertently publishing his name in a copy of a letter, which formed an appendix to the papers for Monday’s council meeting.
”We have spoken to Mr Downey and are in discussions about what further action we can take to mitigate the effects of this error.”
Three other chief officers of the council are also suspended from work while investigations into findings in the auditor's report are carried out.
Update: The offending letter was removed from the council's website following the Globe's inquiries.