Monday 6 January 2014

Libel case - Executive Board meeting

I was not present at today's Executive Board meeting where the libel proceedings were being discussed but there is an early report from the Carmarthen Journal which I have copied in full below.

I have to assume that as I have one ground of appeal relating to Mr James' counterclaim still ongoing a rubber stamp is required for further council funding. Hence today's discussion and further 'justification' for the ears of the Wales Audit Office.

The publication of the WAO report concerning the unlawful payments (one of which is the libel indemnity) is imminent.

Aside from the fact that I have always felt justified in my criticism of the council - and do not forget that this council has a 'special' amendment to its constitution to enable it to fund libel claims - there are two points I must take issue with in the report below.

Firstly, Cllr Madge says that 'an out of court settlement was considered but Mrs Thompson declined to discuss it'. I am not sure what Cllr Madge and the nine Exec Board members have been told, or actually shown, but 'discussions' went on, to and fro, for the entire length of the litigation.

I did not 'decline to discuss' anything, this is very misleading, as the senior council officers involved must be very aware.

The correspondence was detailed, complex and sensitive and, to give an example, the council insisted on a gagging clause throughout.
Clearly the details of the correspondence between the parties will have to be disclosed.

The council refused to accept offers to settle on reasonable terms as early as 2011, before the counterclaim was issued.

The second point is the comment '...the legal action against Mrs Thompson of Llanwrda “was not somewhere we (the council) wanted to go but we were proved right.” So, according to the Leader of the council, it was 'we', the council who sued me in the counterclaim - so were they funding Mr James' personal counterclaim to circumvent the 'Derbyshire Rule' that a government body can't sue for libel?

That would be an abuse of process.

Nobody needs to justify criticism of a 'council', Cllr Madge clearly has no understanding of the basics.

Here's the article;

'Leader of Carmarthenshire Council Kevin Madge has said no member of the public has a right to criticise the authority without justified reasons. 
His comments come after blogger Jacqui Thompson Council lost a High Court bid last month to all further grounds to appeal a lost a libel case against the council’s chief executive Mark James. 
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s executive board, Mr Madge said: “Nobody has the right to say what they want about the council. 
“We are here to be held to account yes and that is fine.” 
He added the case proved “enough is enough” and criticism of the council has to be justified. 
He added the legal action against Mrs Thompson of Llanwrda “was not somewhere we (the council) wanted to go but we were proved right.” 
Mr Madge said an out of court settlement was considered but that Mrs Thompson declined to discuss it. It follows the judgement last this year by Mr Justice Tugendhat who dismissed Mrs Thompson’s claim in its entirety and upheld Mr James’s counter claim for libel, awarding him £25,000 damages. Claims of corruption made against Mr James by Mrs Thompson were dismissed. 
She faces a bill of around £230,000. This includes £190,000 to cover the council’s legal defence costs and £41,000 for the council’s counter claim. 
She has been ordered to pay the substantial amount after losing her action against the council and its chief executive Mark James. 
Last month Mrs Thompson said the appeal hearing in December was “another devastating blow” and she will have to live with the judgement and costs — but will never agree with the judge’s findings.'


Anonymous said...

They are clueless and arrogant. The time must surely be nigh for them to go. Keep going Jaqui.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if HMRC are involved in both "unlawful" transactions? Even if CCC have done a u-turn on the pension issue the payment received for legal costs are in my opinion a taxable benefit in kind.

Anonymous said...

Hear, hear anon 17:03.

I hope Jacqui that not only will Kevin Madge's statement be heard by the WAO but the points you have raised will be taken into consideration during your appeal hearing!

Anonymous said...

Good point anon 17:25 - I think this should have been included on the P11D, and taxed at the 45p per £ rate, as well as maybe NI!

Sian Caiach said...

Just to add that having been there, observing the executive board meeting my favourite Madge quote was "nobody has the right to say to say whatever they want about officers or members. some people go out of their way to make mischief or break the law. I will defend all officers and members".

Later, he referred to me by name, saying sternly that the detailed report [coming to all members ? when] would show the truth about my attempt to give evidence in libel trial.

The truth is that after being sworn in, legal procedure was used by the council team to prevent me saying anything in court and I was excused. Not very exciting, I think Kevin was referring to the terrible shame of any councillor appearing to disagree with the executive.

This was naturally shocking, especially as he had just affirmed he would defend all officers and members. Obviously, not me though.

The serious point is the counter claim has always appeared to me to be a proxy action with the executive board sponsoring an officer to fight their corner, in contradiction of the law which is quite clear in that a council cannot be defamed.

Maybe Carmarthenshire Council politicians are more sensitive than others and can't deal with dissent.

Jacqui, by no means do I agree with every single opinion or interpretation on your blog, but I will defend your right to criticize councillors and officers, and other individuals, especially with humour and satire.

Making politics interesting in any way has got to be positive, and as a result of your blog more people are informed and interested.

I look forward to the debate in full council.

Anonymous said...

Now this is the kind of Cllr I like and one who is worthy of votes. Someone who says it as it is and stands by their beliefs!!! Good on you Sian Caiach.

Anonymous said...

So do I Sian. Surely this state of affairs cannot go on.Kevin Madge is unbelievable.He is just digging a bigger hole for himself and the sheep he leads.

Patricia B. said...

According to Cll. Madge 'nobody has the right to say what they want about the council'.

This apparently does not apply when 'the council decide to say what they want about a member of the public' even if what they are saying isn't true!

Perhaps Cll. Madge could explain his totally opposing views on this subject to me - I'd be extremely interested to listen to his explanation.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, he probably isn't digging a bigger hole. What could happen to him if he has behaved totally irresponsibly - probably absolutely nothing since there is no-one to go to about it except to the Monitoring Officer or the Chief Executive.

Denmark... something rotten. Or am I not allowed to say that?

Anonymous said...

You are quite right annonymous @19.25 This is when the Welsh government should do what it is supposed to do and govern.
The morale among the hard-working council workers must be at an all-time low if they know what is going on.But then what can you expect from a council that treats children as commodities by closing schools and causing young children to travel long distances.Shameful.