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Watchdog urged to say whether Stormont spin doctor's appointment met guidelines

Journalist David Gordon has been appointed as Stormont's new chief spin doctor

A STORMONT watchdog is being asked to clarify whether Nolan Show editor David Gordon's appointment as the Executive Office's new chief spin doctor was made within the appropriate guidelines.

The 51-year-old, who has worked behind the scenes at the Radio Ulster morning show for the past five years, was handed the £75,400-a-year press secretary role earlier this week.

But concern has been voiced that there was no competition ahead of Mr Gordon's appointment, which was announced the day after former BBC journalist Stephen Grimason retired from his job as the executive's director of communications.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and his SDLP counterpart Colum Eastwood have both written to body that regulates Executive Office appointments to establish whether Mr Gordon was given the job in line with proper procedures.

Such appointments are ordinarily assessed by the Northern Ireland Civil Service Commissioners.

However, a spokesman for the watchdog said it would not be commenting on the matter until it was furnished with the full details of Mr Gordon's appointment.

Sinn Féin's Megan Fearon released a statement yesterday in which she claimed that Stormont's opposition parties were "clearly unnerved" by the appointment.

"In the past the UUP constantly called for a more joined up approach by the Executive and now when that is happening panic is setting in among the opposition parties – for Mike Nesbitt in particular it is clearly a case of be careful what you wish for," the Newry and Armagh MLA said.

The Executive Office has said that while the post was not advertised, Mr Gordon, a former Belfast Telegraph political editor, is not a civil servant and the appointment was in line with regulations governing public appointments.

However, Mr Eastwood said giving a senior government adviser a job without a competition was a "serious concern".

"That's why I've written to the Commissioner for Public Appointments and the Civil Service Commissioners requesting that they investigate the circumstances of the appointment and whether it breaches their respective codes," he said.

"The appointment of a de facto ninth highly paid special adviser to the first and deputy first ministers at a time when families continue to struggle and when public services continue to be cut is unjustifiable vanity."

Earlier this week, the Commissioner for Public Appointments, which monitors the selection of quango members, said it was not involved in Mr Gordon's appointment and was not aware of it until it was publicly announced.

"It is not at all clear what or if any process was followed by the department," the commissioner said.

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