A senior member of staff at scandal-hit Cleveland Police has been suspended over an allegation of misusing thousands of pounds of public funds, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has said.
Assistant Chief Officer (ACO) Ann Hall, who is responsible for finance and commissioning, is the subject of allegations that unauthorised payments were made to an executive coaching company.
The suspension - said by the force to be a neutral act - follows the sacking last year of its Chief Constable Sean Price, allegations against his deputy Derek Bonnard who faces a misconduct hearing next month and the wide-ranging Operation Sacristy investigation into alleged corruption.
The IPCC said it received information from Cleveland Police about ACO Hall - who is the force's most senior civilian member of staff - and an independent inquiry has begun. She has been suspended while the investigation is ongoing.
IPCC Commissioner Cindy Butts said: "Any allegations of misuse of public funds is serious and must be investigated. Given the recent history of Cleveland Police and the investigations into former Chief Constable Sean Price and his deputy Derek Bonnard I can appreciate that news of this investigation may cause some concern among the public. I can assure them this investigation will be thorough and conducted as quickly as possible."
Cleveland Police said the allegation against Ms Hall related to a period between July 2010 and October 2011, and said the IPCC was informed last week.
A spokeswoman said: "It should be emphasised that suspension is a neutral act and it should not be inferred from the decision to suspend that any potential misconduct matters have been proven.
"In addition and separate to the IPCC inquiry, the force is undertaking an investigation via an independent investigator into matters referred to Cleveland Police by Operation Sacristy concerning ACO Hall. The focus of the force will remain on operational policing and protecting and serving the communities of Cleveland."
Mr Price became the first chief constable to be sacked in 35 years when a disciplinary panel found he had lied about his role in the recruitment of the former police authority chairman's daughter. It also found he directed a member of staff to lie about it.
Mr Bonnard faces a four week disciplinary hearing into alleged misconduct and is suspended from his role of Deputy Chief Constable.