THE council tax payer picked up a bill of at least £22,000 for the investigation into the conduct of Bournemouth council’s deputy leader Cllr John Beesley, it has been revealed.

The case ended in a national tribunal which convened in Bournemouth for one morning and cleared Cllr Beesley after an hour’s deliberations.

Cllr Beesley has said he spent around £20,000 of his own money on legal advice on top of the cost to the authority of the investigation.

The council spent £12,094 on the services of Meic Sullivan Gould, the lawyer hired as the investigator in the case.

It also paid £5,751 on hiring Claire Lefort of Weightmans, the solicitor who represented the council at the hearing.

It has put an estimate of £4,100 on the time devoted to the case by its own deputy monitoring officer, Tanya Coulter.

But the authority has not included any estimate of the time invested in the case by monitoring officer Joy Postings, who initially handled the complaint against Cllr Beesley, or by other staff.

Council leader Cllr Peter Charon said: “I’m in no doubt that this is not a final reflection of the costs to the council.”

Cllr Claire Smith, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat opposition, said: “I’m surprised that these investigations cost as much as they do. But given the time that they seem to take, that I think is totally wrong for both the person who’s being accused and for the person who made the complaint.

“It just makes it very stressful for everybody and it’s almost becoming a licence to print money.

“It’s just leading to a lot of bad feeling, it’s making somebody quite rich and it’s not doing the council any good whatsoever.”

The complaint against Cllr Beesley centred on whether he had properly declared an interest in planning applications involving planning consultant Tony Ramsden, a former councillor and former business colleague.

Cllr Beesley was also godfather to Mr Ramsden’s son.

Two of the legal figures hired in the John Beesley case had been involved in last year’s investigation into porn found on the laptop of then council leader Cllr Stephen MacLoughlin.

Mr Sullivan Gould had been hired by the council to investigate Cllr MacLoughlin’s case and concluded that he had breached the code of conduct for members.

But the council then commissioned a second opinion from James Goudie QC, who advised that the code had not been broken.

Cllr Beesley hired Mr Goudie to represent him at his national tribunal.