MORE than half of the councillors who appointed Hampshire County Council's new £199,000 chief executive had not even read a report recommending he face disciplinary action.

Four of the seven-member panel knew none of the details about why Andrew Smith would face a disciplinary hearing for alleged misconduct before they voted him into the top job.

The revelation has angered anti-council tax campaigners who say the appointment should have been put on hold.

Four out of seven of the cross-party appointments panel have admitted they did not read the report by district auditor Stephen Taylor before unanimously voting for Mr Smith to become the new county council supremo.

Senior councillors from all parties are maintaining that 54-year-old Mr Smith is the right man for the job, despite the findings of a three-month inquiry.

The investigation exposed how council and EU rules were broken when £1.2m of council taxpayers' money was spent on IT consultants for the county council's planned Fareham call centre without contracts being put out to tender.

It concluded there was no evidence any council officers deliberately broke the rules for their own personal gain.

Council boss Ken Thornber said the panel was told Mr Smith, currently the county's director of property, business and regulatory services, faced a disciplinary hearing for alleged misconduct "at the lower end of the scale," and it should not bar his possible appointment.

But Mike Schofield, from Bishop's Waltham, a leading member of anti-council tax group IsItFair, said: "I think it is very poor councillors voted to appoint Mr Smith without knowing the full facts. What other reports don't they read?"

Conservatives on the interview panel were: Cllr Thornber, deputy leader Cllr Michael Woodhall, Cllr Colin Davidovitz and Cllr Michael Cartwright.

The Lib Dems were group leader Adrian Collett and deputy leader Brian Dash while the Labour member was group leader Josephine Kelly.

While Cllrs Thornber, Woodhall and Davidovitz said they had read the report before the interviews, the others did not get a copy until later.

Cllr Thornber defended the controversial handling of the appointment.

He said: "Every member of that panel had the opportunity on the day of the panel or during the run up to full council, should they have felt it necessary, to move that the appointments decision be delayed until they had the opportunity to read the full report or indeed until after the disciplinary hearing."

Asked why he did not delay the appointment, the council leader said Mr Smith was the outstanding candidate with a proven track record.

He said: "It would have been inappropriate, unfair and unjust to have put the delayed the appointment on the basis of a report to which an officer has yet to respond and a report received on the outcome."

Mr Thornber added: "The strong advice from lawyers was that this should not be an impediment because the alleged misconduct was on the lower end of the scale."

Mr Smith's disciplinary hearing is expected within the next few weeks.

The current chief executive, Peter Robertson, will hear the proceedings and submit a report to Cabinet which will decide if action should be taken.

Mr Smith will have the right of appeal to a cross-party panel of councillors. They will not include those involved in his appointment.