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Expenses rap boss is to stay.

A former charity boss is to continue as head of the region's water watchdog, despite being criticised for misusing charity funds.

Andrea Cook, from Durham, will stay on as chairwoman of WaterVoice Northumbria, even though a report from the Charity Commission yesterday accused her of claiming excessive expenses when she was chief executive of National Energy Action (NEA).

Ms Cook was appointed to the pounds 20,000-a-year job as chairman of WaterVoice in 2001, two years after she was sacked as chairman of Newcastle-based NEA over the expenses row.

The Charity Commission report published yesterday accused Ms Cook of "conduct that fell well below the standard reasonably expected of the chief executive officer of a large organisation, especially a charity".

But national bosses of the water watchdog say her position will not be affected, because she told them about the circumstances of her departure from NEA when she took up the job.

Ms Cook has said the Charity Commission report on her was "incomplete, selective and partial", and said bosses at NEA offered her no support when she was struck down with manic depression.

A spokesman for WaterVoice, which represents customers in complaints about the water industry, said yesterday: "Ms Cook's position with WaterVoice is not affected and we're happy that she continue in her role at present. We were aware of the circumstances of her leaving her previous job when she was appointed.

"We have stringent rules on expenses, which apply to Andrea as well as to all our other employees."

The Charity Commission report said Ms Cook regularly breached guidelines on expenses to fund luxury hotels, chaffeur-driven cars and first-class rail travel.

She was sacked in 1999 and the charity is trying to recover pounds 18,000 it says was wrongly spent, though Ms Cook disputes pounds 14,000 of that.

She took it to an employment tribunal claiming wrongful dismissal, but gave up the claim on medical advice.

Ms Cook is paid pounds 20,531 a year for her eight-day-a-month job with WaterVoice Northumbria. She is also a non-executive director of the Council for Registered Gas Installers (Corgi).
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 11, 2003
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