Company says Stephen Bowcott was dismissed for awarding contracts to PR executive, who he married last month

Stephen Bowcott, Amec’s former construction managing director, was sacked for allegedly covering up the award of up to £250,000 of public relations contracts to a woman he was in a relationship with, it emerged this week.

Bowcott married Denise Johnstone, who owns Image Communications in Liverpool, last month after a two-year relationship. The couple met at Bowcott’s former employer Mowlem, where Johnston undertook PR work for its northern building division, and Bowcott looked after Mowlem’s southern division.

Amec claims it became aware of the relationship in “recent months”. It is understood that while the couple were on honeymoon last month Amec ordered auditors into Bowcott’s office to scrutinise accounts and paperwork.

After an internal appeals process, he was dismissed last week. Amec said he was dismissed for a “breach of our code of business conduct”. The spokesperson said he was sacked for “failing to disclose to his line manager Mike Straughan a conflict or potential conflict of interest in relations to a personal and business relationship, namely the procurement of communications and public relations services from a company owned by his now wife.”

The spokesperson said it was not for Amec to comment on Bowcott’s next move but that as far as he was aware the company had not received any legal proceedings from the former construction boss. The statement said: “As far as we are concerned the matter is closed, although we will respond if the situation develops.”

Sources close to Bowcott said his previous line manager, Carlos Reva, had been informed verbally that Bowcott was in a relationship with Johnstone. However, a source close to Amec said Reva was contacted during the investigation and that he had said he was unaware of the relationship.

Even if there was a breach, it should not have resulted in dismissal

Stephen Bowcott

In a statement from his lawyers, Bowcott said that the sole reason given for his dismissal from Amec was his failure to formally disclose an alleged conflict or potential conflict of interest relating to a firm used by Amec since October 2003.

The statement said Bowcott did not believe that he breached any business code. It said: “Even if he did, the breach was so minor it should not have resulted in dismissal.”

The statement continued that there has been no suggestion of any financial impropriety, or of any other impropriety other than the allegation referred to above. It said: “Mr Bowcott hopes the matter can be resolved with Amec through negotiation rather than through the legal process.”

There are doubts over Bowcott’s next career move, as he was expected to take the vacant chief executive post at regional contractor Osbourne. The company said: “As yet no appointment for the position of chief executive has been made.”

Johnstone was unavailable for comment.