Controversial interim Northants fire chief steps down amid 'speculation over friendship' with crime commissioner

Ms Marzec was appointed by Stephen Mold into the temporary role
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Northamptonshire’s acting chief fire officer Nicci Marzec has stepped down amid speculation over her friendship with the man who appointed her.

Ms Marzec had been asked to ‘act up’ by police, fire and crime commissioner Stephen Mold and was only appointed seven days ago.

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A statement issued last night by Mr Mold announced the U-turn and said that Ms Marzec would also step back from her monitoring officer responsibilities for the Office of the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner (OPFCC).

Nicci Marzec and Stephen Mold /Northamptonshire OFPCC, background photograph National WorldNicci Marzec and Stephen Mold /Northamptonshire OFPCC, background photograph National World
Nicci Marzec and Stephen Mold /Northamptonshire OFPCC, background photograph National World

Ms Marzec had become chief officer for Northamptonshire Fire and Rescue Service on a short-term basis until a new permanent chief fire officer was recruited, an appointment which led to criticism from the Fire Brigades Union.

But Mr Mold said that ‘speculation over his friendship’ with Ms Marzec meant she could not continue in her two roles.

He said: “My friendship with Nicci Marzec, who is a long-standing colleague, has become the story and that must not damage the reputation of these organisations I work so hard to promote and improve.”

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A statement released by Mr Mold’s office said her role was intended ‘to provide stability for the service’ and to ‘move forward on key, people-focussed improvement’s and support the new deputy chief fire officer when he arrives in the county.

The spokesman said: “Simon Tuhill, who joins the service as deputy chief fire officer, will be asked at once to act up into the chief fire officer role. The police, fire and crime commissioner has today written to the police, fire and crime panel to request a confirmation hearing for this move.

Recruitment for a new chief fire officer will continue as planned with an advertisement within the next few weeks.”

Mr Mold admitted that he had acted ‘too quickly’ to appoint Ms Marzec and had not engaged with the police, fire and crime panel – the body responsible for scrutinising the police, fire and crime commissioner – in the way they would ‘normally’.

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He said: “When Mark Jones left the service, my immediate aim was to keep stability for the service and continue the work underway. Nicci Marzec, who has worked closely with the service over a long period, was a credible candidate to lead the service for a short time while we advertised for a new chief officer.

“I took legal advice before asking Ms Marzec to temporarily act up in this role and I accept that I acted with urgency to ensure senior officer cover was in place, in advance of the British Grand Prix.

"I understand I acted too quickly and did not engage with the police, fire and crime panel in the way I would normally, and I did not have the opportunity to explain my rationale or the legal advice I had been given.

“With hindsight, I accept this has created a level of speculation and criticism that I had not expected and is not helpful to the service.

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“In agreeing to take this temporary role, Nicci Marzec genuinely had the best interests of the service as her priority and has already found some key areas for immediate improvement. However, in the best interests of the people of the Fire and Rescue Service who serve this county, she has decided to step back from both her acting role in the fire service and her responsibilities as monitoring officer.”

Ms Marzec will not receive an additional payment for the time she acted as acting chief officer for the Fire Service.