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Council boss who presided over Derry's successes also found herself at centre of controversy

By Donna Deeney

Sharon O'Connor took up the position of chief executive of Derry City Council in October 2011 at a pay rate of £105,000 a year plus expenses.

As part of the pay deal she also received £5,000 towards rent in lieu of removal expenses she may have incurred coming from Co Down to the Derry City Council area.

Six days of mentoring during her first year as chief executive, costing £500 per day, were also approved by Derry City Council. During her tenure as chief executive she oversaw two key years in the history of the city.

In 2012 Derry hosted a stopover in the Clipper Round the World race.

At that time it was the single largest public event staged in the city and was considered a huge success.

The clipper event was seen as the forerunner of the City of Culture celebrations in 2013, which put Derry on the global map.

But while the year of events was deemed a triumph, it did not pass without controversy.

In early March 2013 Ms O'Connor relocated the Culture Company, which had its base in Ebrington, to Derry City Council offices and sacked its marketing manager, Garbhan Downey.

He later challenged the decision in an industrial tribunal, citing unfair dismissal. The action ultimately proved unsuccessful.

A spat between Ms O'Connor and the then chief executive of the Culture Company, Shona McCarthy, was played out in the public arena and hit the headlines across the UK.

Prior to her move to Derry, Ms O'Connor had been employed as director of development with Down District Council, having worked there since 2000.

She has been employed in local government for 15 years.

In December 2013 she confirmed that she was not going to apply for the position as chief executive of the new Derry City and Strabane District Council, and would leave her post when the transition takes effect in April 2015.

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