Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Letter from Chief Executive, Mark James

apologies but I have removed the letter referred to in this post.

(Please click on each image to enlarge and view)
In the interests of openness I am publishing, on this blog, the letter above, along with an attached 'undertaking' (which I am 'required' to sign and return), I recieved from the Chief Executive of the Carmarthenshire Council.
With reference to the third paragraph, I, unlike Mr James, will not comment further on the Police investigation. The matter is now with the Crown Prosecution Service. For the record I find Mr James' comments inappropriate and offensive, with an intimidating and threatening innuendo that I should 'back off'. 
Disregarding the factual inaccuracies in this letter, which I will address at a later date, and to me, beggar belief, I am quite speechless at the lengths this Council are prepared to go to prevent anyone recording a meeting, particularly someone who is publicly critical. It must be remembered that it is not against any law, or even a by-law to film or record a public meeting - it is merely against Council policy, which, mindful of the possibility that his words may reach a wider audience, Mr James states will be reviewed 'shortly'. I can't wait...
The last paragraph of the letter is bizarre, particularly as he suggests that the Police were involved over the issue of filming, which they weren't of course. This is the spurious reason put forward to require me to sign an 'undertaking'. I will do no such thing.
Everyone who carries a mobile phone should be alarmed by his use of the word 'suspicion' - does this give the Council the right to eject anyone they are not comfortable with from a public meeting? Most people carry a mobile, so, have the Council given themselves a perfect excuse to eject unwanted critics? - even to the extent to calling the police? From my visits to the Public Gallery I note that many Councillors in the Chamber use their phones during meetings - may we reasonably 'suspect' that they are recording the meetings too?

May 19th; The Photon Blog; Carmarthenshire Council and the Alleged Assault.


Previous relevant posts;
Distressing Incident in the Public Gallery
Public Gallery Incident Update
Stopped from Filming a Council Public Meeting
Filming in the Chamber - and the Care Homes Stay Open
Recording Council Meetings
Recording Council Meetings, a Response

On a slightly related note I include here, for your information, the Council's response to my Freedom of Information request regarding the Council's Media and Social Networking Protocols. Please scroll to the top of the page that appears, to view my full request. I note that the Council  'Continue to maximise the number of proactive News Releases and photographs issued to ensure that good news stories are actively promoted' and ensure that 'Press coverage is regularly analysed to determine % positive'
You bet they do, it's a priority.
Oh, as for their Facebook page, 'The Council cannot control access to its Facebook page, but may manually remove any posts which contain inappropriate comments.' Although I am not aware that I have ever left 'inappropriate comments' The comment facility, for me, has been completely removed.
http://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/media_and_social_networking_prot#incoming-174792

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mark James's letter is truly shameful. It is threatening and intimidating a witness. It is particularly damning of himself given that he was the officer who instigated the whole nasty episode, and was possibly interviewed by the police. The letter is also extremely alarming. He states in the third para; "This is now subject to investigation, so can say no more about it"........... then goes on to make overt threats of 'if you don't drop it we will pursue you for making malicious false accusations against one of our own'!!!! It leaves me speechless that this man actually believing he is untouchable, can make such serious threats to a person whilst police investigations are ongoing! You could also argue he is attempting to pervert the course of justice. It leaves one wondering how far this man is prepared to go in the course of protecting his own??

Photon said...

Oh dear! I would have thought the Council's first and only priority would be to ensure that the full and fair process of law is followed, not adopting a bunker mentality and protecting staff. Would they take this approach if there were a serious claim of abuse or similar? Do they automatically assume all staff are innocent of all possible allegations?

This letter appears to be very ill-considered and one would have to question the legality of allowing the public to attend a public meeting only upon signing an undertaking.

Anonymous said...

I hope you'll be showing the letter to the police, which is entirely relevant evidence to their investigation?

Very worrying words and most reasonable people would find intimidating and amounting to an accusation that your claims are lies.

caebrwyn said...

I have told the Police and contacted a solicitor. I believe this amounts to witness intimidation. We'll see. I will update as and when I hear more.

dafydd said...

I regard the letter as having overtones of intimidation. On the plus side however it shows that the man must be pretty desperate to resort to these measures given that there is an investigation in progress and the witness who received the letter and form is the person making the complaint.The form incidentally has no legal basis whatsoever and therefore its only purpose is surely to bully a witness?

Trevor R Nunn said...

I view Mark James' letter as an attempt to pervert the course of justice. Otherwise why is he trying to peddle the council's views as fact whilst an investigation is under way. One can only conclude that they are worried the investigation is not going the way they would like.

Advisor said...

I'd mention the Human Rights Act, article 14 - discrimination - to your solicitor.

As far as I understand it, the investigaton has, at the time the chief exec wrote that letter, not found one way or another on the complaint. Yet the council is discriminating against you in making your attendance at public meetings conditional on signing an undertaking.

Seems a clear case of discrimination to me.

Richard said...

It is good to see the responses here and the support that Caebrwyn has for her stand. Of course, Mark James's line on this is nonsense. Just about everyone these days carries a mobile phone or other device capable of photographing, filming or recording. From the gallery, you can clearly see councillors with mobile phones, busy texting or tweeting probably. If he wants to ensure that nobody is filming or recording meetings, the only fair thing to do is for the council to search members of the public before they enter the building and insist that they too sign a declaration. As things stand, he is simply victimising one indiviual.

Richard said...

A second point which comes out of Caebrwyn's update above is the secrecy and manipulation of the media which this council is so expert at.
Yesterday, the bumper new Carmarthenshire News thumped down on my doormat. It describes itself as a "newspaper", but bears about as much resemblance to a newspaper as Pravda or Neues Deutschland used to. Everyhting in Mark James's garden is lovely, and there is no mention of the closure of day centres for the elderly, the Pantycelyn school issue, the closure of public libraries, protests by Carmarthen traders against the council's policies which are destroying local businesses in favour of big-name chain stores and "restaurants". You will also find no mention of the Towy Church bowling alley project which is to receive huge amounts of our money, but which is so secret that no members of the public are allowed in to meetings where it is discussed, and we are not allowed to see any of the reports which set out the extent of our financial liability or the terms on which the money is being given. Users of facilties which are threatened with closure across the county will no doubt wonder why the council is being so generous to this American-style evangelical group when it cannot afford to provide the rest of us with the basics we pay for.

Anonymous said...

An educated person would understand that you have to be open and honest in your approach to find justice for either party. NOT IN THIS CASE.

caebrwyn said...

To the 'anonymous' person who left a comment here today (1st June) - I wholeheartedly agree with everything you say, however I am not so sure a court would quite so accommodating!! And we both know just how twitchy some people can be....

Cerberus said...

Yet another shameful example of bureaucratic/authoritarian bullying/intimidation that seems to be becoming the norm. Shame on them, if they knew the meaning of the word.

Gwter Fawr said...

It is getting to the time when an organisation is started to monitor Carmarthenshire County Council's activities.
The Council are stamping on everything that does not suit them and it needs to be stopped.
Tactics are either bullying or seriously delaying responses to letters so that people get fed up.
Something needs to be done urgently to bring them under control - after all WE employ THEM.