Opposition groups have accused borough council chiefs of a cover-up after they refused to disclose the number of applications received to head its new leisure trust.
The authority’s leadership defended the appointment of Peter Lemon as chairman of the body that is set to manage several of the borough’s leisure facilities from next summer when the issue was raised in a meeting on Thursday night.
But opponents say full details of the appointment process must be disclosed or the cabinet member responsible for the appointment, David Pope, should resign.
Speaking after the meeting, Labour group leader Jim Moriarty said: “It is an insult to democracy when those who have been granted authority by the electorate decide they can then hide what they are up to. Nobody asked for names, just when and where and the interest shown.
“This stinks of a cover up and if we don’t get answers very, very quickly we will be demanding Mr Pope’s resignation and full disclosure of what has been going on behind the locked doors of this cabinet.”
However, Mr Pope yesterday dismissed the suggestion and claimed the fact it had been made at all showed how “desperate” the Labour group was.
He confirmed that he would now be circulating information about the process to all councillors, following consultations with the authority’s chief executive, Ray Harding.
He said he had not wanted to give any information within the meeting that could be perceived to be confidential without consulting senior officers first.
He added: “The job was fully advertised and we had two excellent candidates, of which one, namely Peter Lemon, was selected. There is no mystery to this.”
He also stressed that he had no involvement in Mr Lemon’s appointment and said he was encouraged by the calibre of people who had expressed an interest in joining the board.
Mr Lemon, a former head of the Festival Too committee and current managing director of Middleton Aggregates will head a seven-strong board of trustees that is set to oversee the day-to-day management of facilities including Lynn’s Corn Exchange, Lynnsport, the St James swimming pool and sports centres in Downham and Hunstanton from next July.
Officials hope that the new body could save the council up to £400,000 per year.
During Thursday’s debate, Mr Pope said the council would effectively become landlords of the facilities, while the trustees would be dealing with their business affairs.
He said he hoped the trustees would make things more efficient and said of Mr Lemon: “I have served on a committee with him and he’s a more than able and capable businessman. I’m absolutely certain he will be an asset not only to the leisure trust but to this council.”
And he told independent councillor, Richard Bird, he had got it “wrong” when the Hunstanton representative suggested he should now make himself redundant as Mr Lemon would now be doing his work.