I finally had a response from Carmarthenshire's Council leader Darren Price to my queries concerning Mark James and his 'secret trust' email (see link above).
It's not clear why he didn't reply to Sian Caiach's similar questions posed earlier this year. Anyway, here's his reply in full, with my comment below:
Dear Mrs ThompsonThank you for your email relating to this matter, which follows on from an earlier email that I have received from Sian Caiach.As a relatively newly elected Leader, I would firstly like to say categorically that I will not tolerate any criminality within the local authority on my watch, and that if any evidence of criminality is found against a current employee, then I would look to ensure that proper procedures are enacted.In turning to the questions that you pose - we now have the benefit of hindsight. Had the Authority known about the email stating some sort of proposal for a secret trust at the time (ie. 24th October 2018) then I presume that it would undoubtedly have made enquiries. However, as you are aware, the email was sent from Mr. James’ private email account and neither the Executive Board nor the officers involved on the project knew of it until it was disclosed in the Judgment in the Marc Clement and Stephen Poole Employment Tribunal case in June 2022.Clearly, Mr. James had retired from the Authority in June 2019, and as you state, no prosecutions were brought, so we will never know whether any actual convictions would have been secured.However, what we do know is that the procurement process this Authority conducted in relation to the Wellness Village Project received a clean bill of health by lawyers commissioned by the Authority, by Wales Audit Office and by the police investigation. We also know that none of the Authority’s land, assets or funds were committed or released to the Developer Parties.The Wellness Village project was abandoned of course and should not be confused with the project which we are now progressing, which is the Pentre Awel project. I am satisfied that robust governance arrangements are in place in respect of the Pentre Awel project via the Swansea Bay City Region.It is important to note that the only project which the Authority’s legal personnel advised on was the Wellness Village, and that was in conjunction with external lawyers. I can again confirm that no advice was given by our legal personnel on any discretionary trust.I would also reiterate that if you, or anyone else, feel that you have any evidence of potential criminality which has not yet been brought to the attention of the police, then I would urge you to present that at the earliest opportunity so that it can be examined.As a newly elected Leader, it is clear to me that the development of the new Pentre Awel project is vital in terms of the regeneration of Llanelli and I am committed to doing all that I can, working in conjunction with the new Chief Executive in Carmarthenshire, the Welsh Government and UK Government, to deliver the new project as planned.In concluding, I recognise the complicated history and difficult relationship that has developed between yourself and the Authority over the past decade. I would hope that you would recognise that as a new Leader my focus has got to be on looking to the future, and trying to develop the County. There is much to do, and I am keen to work with anybody who has the County's best interests at heart as we look to tackle some of the major challenges that face us.Yours,Darren.
I will, of course, respond to Mr Price in due course, for what it's worth.
The response was undoubtedly meant to draw a line under this whole affair, and let it never be spoken of again. Pentre Awel is, apparently, an entirely new thing, not to be confused with the Wellness Village. This is despite it being on the same site, costing the same amount of cash and being, well, the same thing.
I don't recall Darren Price, nor any other members of Plaid Cymru expressing concerns about governance whilst key figures were planning to line their own pockets, most notably for them, the former chief executive, despite clear indications and warnings that things weren't right.
If he is now happy with the governance, then so be it. I trust no one would want this to happen again, but instead of public money being stolen, let's hope it's not simply wasted instead. I hope he's vigilant, because I will be watching.
We have no option other than to accept his word that the Authority was unaware of the email in question.
Had it been aware, one hopes they would have done a little more than 'make enquiries'. It was this email which prompted Swansea University to call the fraud squad, never mind make bloody enquiries. Mark James was caught red-handed.
I can only assume that Mr Price and the officers concerned were appalled by its contents and realised once and for all what a manipulative and persistent offender Mark James was, and is. I think many of them, including Mr Price, already knew that.
What role Wendy Walters played in all this, as Head of Regeneration (and now chief executive) is fuzzy to say the least. Let alone Head of Legal Linda Rees Jones, whose career was built on covering up for Mr James.
What is unacceptable is that all the warning signs were there, detailed on this blog and elsewhere. It appears to me that no one had the backbone to challenge Mark James, about anything it seems. He was allowed to sail off into the sunset with his pockets stuffed with taxpayers' cash.
He mentions that the procurement process was given a 'clean bill of health'. Based almost entirely on the report by Acuity Law. The law firm which also happened to be Mark James' personal lawyers. It was far from independent and was designed to save his skin.
The Acuity Law report, which I wrote about in February 2019, provided a catalogue of 'unusual' events which, apparently were absolutely fine. I doubt Mr Price will link back and refresh his memory but to give an example, by November 2017 the 'council' were advising Sterling Health what to put in their submissions...
The tender was rigged by James, and it was only the actions of Swansea University which prevented further loss to the council. Several £mmm had already been shelled out in the three years leading up to the discovery of the corruption.
Perhaps Mr Price has forgotten that the police found plenty of evidence of criminality, it was the failing health of Franz Dickmann of Sterling Health which persuaded the CPS to discontinue.
Mr Price mentions my 'complicated history and difficult relationship' with the authority. There's nothing complicated about it. I have consistently pointed out, amongst other things, that the former chief executive was arrogant, threatening and above all, dishonest and corrupt. And I was right.
He was the same in his previous post in Boston and, it now seems, carrying on in much the same way in his 'management' of Century Wharf, Cardiff. Once a crook always a crook.
I can understand that Mr Price wants to move on swiftly from this unpleasant episode, forget it ever happened and maybe put James, and his idiotic puppet Emlyn Dole into a distant if uncomfortable memory.
I don't have that luxury. I will continue to fight for justice, for an apology and for the financial burdens imposed on me by the Council, and Mark James, to be removed.