Cornwall Council has been accused of "squandering" £2,000 a day on the interim chairman of a new business quango.
Sir John Banham worked for 22 days for the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at a cost to the council of £45,000.
The figures, revealed in a Freedom of Information request, were criticised by Liberal Democrat councillor Ann Kerridge.
The council said it had got a discount off Sir John's usual £4,000 daily rate.
Chemicals company Johnson Matthey, which Sir John chairs, submitted invoices totalling £45,000 for the time he spent away from the company, between 29 November 2010 and 31 January 2011, the Freedom of Information request revealed.
Sir John's work for the LEP included putting together draft documents on housing, renewable energy and dredging Falmouth harbour.
But his vision was rejected by some business leaders and he is now to have an unpaid "ambassadorial" role instead.
Ms Kerridge said: "When services to vulnerable people are being slashed and ordinary employees of the council are sacrificing pay and conditions to protect their jobs it must stick in their throat that we are being asked to squander £45,000."
Cornwall Council, which is run by a Conservative-Independent coalition, said in a statement: "The payment is based on an agreed daily rate of £2,000 equating to 50% of Sir John Banham's usual Johnson Matthey rate."
Chief executive Kevin Lavery said: "Sir John was very clear that because he was doing some work for us at short notice he had to drop some work for his company, Johnson Matthey.
"If you're asking people to do a big job I don't think you should be afraid of paying them for it."
Kevin Oliver of the Cornwall Federation of Small Businesses, said: "Sir John has got undoubted talents.
"His prospectus on the other hand was not what the business community wanted.
"He is capable of being worth that sort of money I'm sure, but it is what he delivers that is the key."
The post of LEP chairman is being advertised and an appointment is expected to be confirmed by the end of March.