The once-powerful head of communications at Scotland Yard resigned yesterday, meaning he will avoid facing a disciplinary hearing over the award of a lucrative short-term contract to a former News of the World executive.
Dick Fedorcio, who charted Scotland Yard's public response to its major crises since 1997, left after the force decided last week that he should face gross misconduct charges over his dealings with Neil Wallis, the now-defunct tabloid's former deputy editor.
Mr Fedorcio had been on extended leave since August during a police watchdog inquiry into a £24,000 contract agreed between the Metropolitan Police and Mr Wallis's company, Chamy Media, for public relations advice between October 2009 and September 2010. Mr Wallis was hired shortly after news broke that phone hacking at the Sunday tabloid had left a trail of victims and after he had assured the force that it would not be embarrassed by further revelations, according to evidence given to the Leveson Inquiry on press standards.
The Metropolitan Police faced accusations that its initial investigations into phone hacking failed in part because of the close links between senior figures at both News International and the force. Mr Fedorcio, the third senior figure to quit over the hacking scandal, leaves with his notice period paid, Scotland Yard confirmed last night. It declined to detail the sum or the length of the notice period.
Unlike serving officers, there are no restrictions on civilian staff such as Mr Fedorcio, a career PR professional, leaving their posts while on suspension. Officers need the permission of a senior officer before they can do so.
The disciplinary hearing against him will no longer take place but the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said yesterday that it would release further details of the case against him next week.
Chris Bryant, the former Labour minister who has campaigned on phone hacking, said it was "manifestly unfair" that he was able to leave under different circumstances from a serving officer. He said it seemed elements among the upper echelons of the Met "lost all sight of sane and sensible arm's length relationships with the media".
Mr Fedorcio, a former head of communications at Kent County Council, joined the London force in 1997 and oversaw its public response to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry report, the terrorist attacks on the capital's transport network in 2005 and the shooting of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes shortly afterwards.
His exit follows that of former Commissioner Paul Stephenson and Assistant Commissioner John Yates last year amid the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal. Both were later cleared by the police watchdog of misconduct.
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