A circulation director at a regional publisher has been dismissed for gross misconduct just a week before he was due to retire after the company said he falsified sales figures.
Archant Anglia circulation director Don Williamson was set to take early retirement at the end of this month but was dismissed this week for overstating sales figures at titles in Norfolk.
An internal memo, sent to staff by chief executive Adrian Jeakings and seen by HTFP, said that an investigation had been carried out when it was found that some numbers in the draft ABC figures for the first half of the year might be wrong.
It said Don had been away on holiday at the time but it was discovered that he had falsified some copy sales and and he was dismissed after being called in to explain himself.
The circulation figures for the titles were corrected before the final sales were submitted, so will not affect the publication of the next set of ABC figures due out next week.
But the company said it is reviewing figures from the second half of 2011, when Archant titles the Norwich Evening News and Eastern Daily Press were among the few regional dailies to record an increase in sales.
The memo said: “It is with deep disappointment that I have to tell you that we have found some problems with our circulation numbers in Norfolk.
“As many of you will know, Don Williamson, the Archant Anglia circulation director was due to retire early at the end of this month. After his leaving party three weeks ago, he went on holiday, returning earlier this week.
“When he was away we found that some numbers in the draft ABC return for the first half of 2012 might be wrong.
“An investigation was carried out and it became clear that Don had falsified some copy sales. These were corrected before final ABC numbers were submitted, so the numbers to be reported next week will be clean. We can’t yet say what the numbers will be, but we do not expect circulations to be out of line with others in our industry.
“Following Don’s return from holiday, he was called in to explain the position, which he freely did. The outcome of this is that the company had no choice but to dismiss him for gross misconduct.
“He has not benefited financially from his actions. The only titles where sales have been overstated are in Norfolk.
“We believe that this activity started in the second half of last year and we are working with ABC to review some bulk copies recorded in our ABC returns for the second half of 2011. These will be reported on in due course.
“We will be shortly be announcing the appointment of Don’s successor who is a senior circulation figure in one of the major regional newspaper groups. His appointment was made in July in anticipation of Don’s retirement, before any of these problems had been identified.”
The ABC figures for the second half of last year show that sales at the Evening News increased by 7.5pc to 18,931, while the EDP saw its circulation rise 0.7pc to 59,802.
An Archant spokesman said: “We can confirm that a senior circulation manager has been dismissed following an internal investigation. We are working with ABC in reviewing the reporting of certain bulk copies in the second half of 2011.”