Critics of senior public servant expected to become next cabinet secretary accused of sexism

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Critics of a Whitehall Mandarin who would become the first female Cabinet secretary have been accused of sexism by the head of the senior civil service union.Dave Penman, the secretary general of the FDA, said last night that the allegations brought against Antonia Romeo, who claims to replace Sir Mark Sedwill at the head of the public service, contained a “smell of misogyny”.

It comes after it was reported yesterday that Ms Romeo, who is also believed to be considered to head the newly expanded Foreign Office, has already been investigated over allegations of staff intimidation and use excessive spending, it was reported yesterday.

According to the Mail on Sunday, the 45-year-old woman was investigated in 2017 while serving as the British Consul General in New York following complaints about her treatment of staff and his extravagant lifestyle.

Ms. Romeo was then authorized by the Cabinet Office and later promoted to the position of permanent secretary at the Department of International Trade.

An ally of Romeo told the Telegraph on Sunday, “These allegations were refuted to be baseless at the time. ”

Separately, a source from Whitehall said the complaints concerned a grievance by a single person who was based in New York City and Ms Romeo had the full support of senior officials.

However, whistleblowers have now come forward to say that junior members of the New York consulate have felt pressured to submit expenses on behalf of the 45-year-old who they claim are unjustified.

Last night on reports, Mr Penman, who criticized hostile briefings against a range of senior officials in recent weeks, called the allegations “gossip”.

Writing on Twitter, Mr Penman added, “It smacks of misogyny about it: They’re picking a dynamic outgoing candidate with a profile. ”

He later told The Times, “Who are they blaming? They choose a candidate with a profile.

“When you become a manager, when you make decisions, people don’t like you and complain. There is probably no permanent secretary who did not at any time have complaints against him. ”

In a statement, the Cabinet Office said: “These allegations were made some time ago, have been fully investigated and have been dismissed on the grounds that there were no cases to respond to. . ”

Ms Romeo’s allies have also denied claims she intimidated staff or abused spending.

According to the Mail on Sunday, among the expenses questioned by New York staff, there were more than £ 120,000 on private school fees for Ms. Romeo’s three children, expensive taxis and flights, some of which were in business class.

The newspaper went on to claim that officials were also concerned about a last minute flight to London in February 2017 so that she could attend the Bafta Awards.

As part of her role, where she was tasked with advancing British interests and commerce, she is also said to have hosted a number of celebrity parties, including Calvin Klein, Anna Wintour and disgraced film producer Harvey Weinstein. .

The cost of sending bouquets of flowers to British celebrities, including Victoria Beckham, was part of an allegation file against Romeo, the Mail said on Sunday.

His case was reportedly referred by the Foreign Office to Sir Tim Hitchens, a former ambassador to Japan.

However, he would have been “livid” at the decision to erase Ms. Romeo from any wrongdoing, although he declined to comment.

In March 2017, 10 days after the complainant was informed of her release, Ms Romeo was appointed to her current post in international trade.

Ms Romeo’s appointment was initially blocked, according to the report, but was later given the green light after then-Cabinet Secretary the late Sir Jeremy Heywood struck a ‘compromise’ with Theresa May involving another adviser that he didn’t want her to name. .

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