Friday 7 February 2014

Selective publication...

The BBC reports on the latest defence strategy by Carmarthenshire council over the libel indemnity. After publishing the two pieces of legal advice the council then issued a hysterical outburst attacking the auditor, and have published correspondence between themselves and the WAO from 2012.

As we know, the auditor has already seen the council's evidence, or selected evidence anyway.

It is quite alarming that this council, or more precisely, a couple of senior officials in a desperate exercise in self-preservation, can continue to believe they are unaccountable to everyone; aside from the long suffering residents of this county, this attitude has been prevalent for years towards the Ombudsman, the Welsh Government and now the Appointed Auditor. The present situation in County Hall is beginning to resemble a very public spectacle of a crumbling dictatorship.

The BBC confirms that the auditor is standing by his reports and said that the matter should be resolved  "in the council chamber or the courts", adding the significant remark that "the council has not made available all the correspondence between us".

Oh dear, selective publication.

It is clear that officers from the WAO were assured by the council in 2012 that they, (the council) had taken specific independent legal advice over the indemnity, when in fact they hadn't. The advice from solicitors and counsel representing Mr James could not be considered independent.

Recent days have seen the council attempting to justify the indemnity on various grounds, one of those is 'duty of care' to an employee.

The council claim that they had some justification to indemnify Mr James under 'duty of care'. For a start, I know many Carmarthenshire council employees and they've never come across any duty of care from the top brass in any shape or form, let alone something of this magnitude.

The obligations and responsibilities associated with duty of care as I understand it, covers matters such as safeguarding health and safety, dealing promptly with grievances, taking reasonable care, and acting in good faith. It would not, I'm sure, breach any employment contract if the funding of a libel claim was refused.

I was threatened with the counterclaim in November 2011 if I did not settle on the council's terms, whether the Exec Board were aware of this, or even the auditors, I don't know. Further negotiations leading up to Christmas 2011 led to an agreement to settle the case on agreed mutual terms. However, this agreement failed to materialise after the council refused to respond.

Then we come to these "exceptional circumstances". By the time the Executive Board met in January 23rd 2012 the only circumstance which was directly relevant to that particular meeting was to approve the counterclaim. I believe the counterclaim was  purely retaliatory, as well as a tactical step to persuade me to withdraw my claim or settle on the council's terms.

It was ironic that the main part of Mr James' claim related to the unique power of this council to instigate and fund libel claims.


Anonymous said...

CCC are playing a very dangerous game! They are not only infuriating the public but employees too! Instead of admitting defeat gracefully they are rubbing peoples noses in it. All it takes is for an employee to blow the whistle or a former employee to disclose what they know and these despicable people will be history.

Anonymous said...

Yes Kev, a duty of care to each other and to hell with the suffering of other employees in CCC let alone the public!