It was announced yesterday that Ms Josephs will be returning as chief executive at the council following a six-month internal investigation sparked by The Daily Telegraph reporting in January that she had held a leaving do during lockdown in December 2020 as she was departing her role as head of the Government’s taskforce.
A cross-party committee determined she should keep her job after Ms Josephs had been put on discretionary paid leave from the £190,000-per-year role while the investigation took place.
But she was given a written warning over an “error of judgment” in not informing colleagues sooner about her direct involvement in partygate, which ultimately resulted in her being fined.
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A Cabinet Office investigation into partygate, initially led by Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and then taken over by Sue Gray, had been launched in December 2021.
Prior to the January 2022 publication of the story about her leaving party, local media had been asking questions about Ms Josephs’ potential involvement in partygate, but the claims were denied.
In a statement posted on Twitter, Ms Josephs said: “People have asked why I did not speak out about this event until January.
“Because the event itself happened in my former role, I went to my former employer for guidance.
“I was asked to respect the confidentiality of the Cabinet Office’s independent investigation.
“I wish I had challenged that more strongly and spoken sooner to colleagues in Sheffield; I have accepted a written warning from the committee in respect of this error of judgment.”
The Cabinet Office has refused to comment on the claim.
In a subsequent interview with The Yorkshire Post, Ms Josephs was not prepared to say who in the Cabinet Office had provided her with the advice.
“I sought advice from the Cabinet Office and was reminded the investigation was under way and of my duties under the Civil Service code,” she said.
“I was reminded of the need to respect confidentiality.”
When asked what she told colleagues when questions about partygate from the media came in, Ms Josephs said: “When questions started to arrive and those questions that started to arrive were more general, I sought advice from my previous employer. I thought that was the right thing to do, that was the judgment I made at the time.
“I don’t think that was the right judgment, I wish I had pushed back against that advice. Most importantly, I wish I had felt able to be more open with colleagues at Sheffield.
“I have chosen to disclose myself that I have received a written warning because I think it is important that people know I’m taking responsibility for the mistake I made and the misjudgment I made around what I disclosed to colleagues here in Sheffield. I really care about this city and love this job and we need to have that openness to move forward.”
When asked if she had misled colleagues, Mr Josephs said: “I did what I thought was the right thing at the time and that was to respect the advice that was given to me. I genuinely thought it was the right thing to do at the time – I see now it wasn’t. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but I didn’t seek to mislead colleagues at any point.”
She added: “I believe the only way I can rebuild trust is by being honest, by accepting and acknowledging I made a mistake, by making space to listen to and acknowledge what that has brought up for people. There are some colleagues I know who are very, very disappointed in me. I told colleagues what I felt I was able to tell colleagues based on the commitment I felt I had to confidentiality.”