A new police and crime commissioner has been asked to step aside while a investigation into her expenses takes place – just days after being elected.
Police are examining Alison Hernandez’s role in submitting expenses for Tory MP Kevin Foster in the 2015 General Election.
The Conservative was elected as Devon and Cornwall’s PCC last Friday but has already found herself in controversy.
Her force has launched an investigation into claims that more than 24 Tory MPs failed to declare the costs of “battle buses” and hotel bills during last year’s General Election.
Tudor Evans, Labour leader of Plymouth City Council, said he would boycott a ceremony today (Tue) where Hernandez was being sworn in.
He said: “She’s under investigation, her Conservative colleagues are being investigated and she’s a politically-controlled PCC.
“She is expecting me to go along like a grinning chimp and endorse what she is trying to do.
“That is the greatest act of chutzpah the world has ever seen. This ceremony is tainted.”
Mr. Evans added that Ms Hernandez should “absolutely” stand aside pending the investigations.
Ms Hernandez was the election agent for Mr Foster who took the Torbay seat in South Devon at last year’s General Election.
Allegations include MPs failing to register the accommodation costs of party activists involved in the “battle bus” operation.
Failing to file correct expenses is a criminal offence but the Tory party has blamed ‘an administrative error’.
Ms Hernandez said: “I have not been approached by the police or other agencies about this matter.
“I stand ready to assist with any enquiries that the police or any other agency wish to make.”
Devon and Cornwall Police have now announced that the investigation will be transferred to another police force.
Andrew White, chief executive of the office for the police and crime commissioner, said today: “Devon and Cornwall Police has announced that it intends to transfer the investigation of general election campaign spending, including any matters relating to new police and crime commissioner Alison Hernandez, to another force.
“These arrangements have been put in place to protect Devon and Cornwall Police from any suggestions that they may be subject to undue influence, and to ensure that any individuals who form part of this investigation will be treated impartially by an independent police force.”
Devon and Cornwall Police spokesman said: “We are currently investigating this matter in conjunction with other potentially affected force areas around the country.
“As part of our initial investigations, we met with representatives from the Electoral Commission and Crown Prosecution Service on May 4.
“We are fully aware that there is a 12-month limitation of proceedings for certain offences, which would mean that no criminal action could be taken in relation to these offences past this point without the police applying for an extension – the limitation period expires in Devon and Cornwall in early June 2016.
“Devon and Cornwall Police are awaiting further guidance and legal advice in relation to the specific points relevant to election legislation.
“Once we have received this guidance, a decision will be made whether Devon and Cornwall Police have the necessary grounds to apply to the courts for an extension.
“Until this has happened, we are not in a position to comment further.”
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