Sunday 24 April 2016

This week's Cadno, from The Carmarthenshire Herald

As I have said here, Caebrwyn under fire, the chief executive of Carmarthenshire council, Mark James CBE seems currently preoccupied with having me locked up through both the criminal and civil courts. This is in conjunction with the pursuit of damages and costs.

Fellow blogger, Cneifiwr, made observations on the matter earlier here; Time bombs

The Cadno opinion piece, republished in full below, in this week's Carmarthenshire Herald, also makes some interesting observations;

Cadno's lance 
Astrology, readers, Cadno has no truck with it. 
In Cadno’s view, the fault lies in ourselves, not in our stars. We are all responsible for our conscious actions, whether they be words or deeds. 
Cadno is very big on personal responsibility. Unless there is some sort of medical or psychiatric explanation that negates personal fault, he is very much of the opinion that individuals shoulder the consequences of their actions. 
Of course, in Council Chief Executive Mark James’s case that means getting someone else to shoulder the burden. 
Cadno has noted with a mixture of bemusement and dismay as Carmarthenshire County Council, in the interests of the public purse, is hell bent on pursuing money it knows it will never get out of impecunious blogger Jacqui Thompson. That, of course, is the County Council’s right but the fact it has the right does not make it right to exercise it. 
The Council provided Mr James with what was ruled an unlawful indemnity for his costs. The key word here is ‘unlawful’. Mrs Thompson has claimed that the indemnity was not offered until after Mr James had offered to settle a libel action brought against him by Mrs Thompson. 
The question arises, therefore, as to whether Mr James would have pursued his own counterclaim against Mrs Thompson without the assurance that win lose or draw his costs would be met. 
It appears from what Mrs Thompson has reported on the timing of events that he would not. In such circumstances, if Mrs Thompson’s account is correct, it was the height of folly for the Council – even under the previous supine administration – to agree to the indemnity. 
The outside observer might reasonably concluded that it was no wonder Carmarthenshire long had a reputation of being an officer-led council: and led by the nose, too. 
An interesting point now arises as to whether the Council can spend further public money in pursuit of an object ruled unlawful by the Wales Audit Office. This is not a straightforward question. 
The costs were awarded lawfully by the Court, but the costs themselves were incurred unlawfully. There is a clear issue here with two wrongs not making a right. What would the Wales Audit Office think, for example, of the prospect of the Council spending potentially thousands of pounds of Council Tax payers’ money to recoup sums paid under an unlawful indemnity? 
In addition, Mr James has now rattled his sabre at Jacqui Thompson, with his solicitors alleging breaches of undertakings given in relation to a Court Order granted at the conclusion of the libel action between the Reverend James and her. 
Cadno does not know to what Mr James is sabre rattling, but it surely cannot be his economy with the truth regarding the existence of offers (plural) made by Mrs Thompson to pay off his claim against her post-judgement. 
That would be nonsense, since it was Mr James who opened the door to revealing their existence after he commented that offers to pay had not been made. In such a case, Mr James would be seeking to benefit from his own misstatement of the truth: due no doubt to the passage of time and the vagaries of memory. 
In addition, it would surely be a matter of public interest that Mr James was granted an indemnity by his employer only after he had decided that the game was not worth the candle if he was coughing up his legal bills from his own resources. 
That issue alone gives Cadno pause to wonder whether or not councillors were made aware of the existence of an alleged offer being made to settle by Mr James before granting the indemnity. 
If they were not informed of such an offer, it is at least arguable that the indemnity was offered on a false prospectus. That, too, is a matter of legitimate public interest. 
Unless Mrs Thompson gave an undertaking not to refer to the existence of an offer of settlement, it is difficult to see to what Mr James has taken umbrage. It is safer not to speculate, or posit a view on hypotheticals. 
However, if Mr James did make an offer to settle before the indemnity was granted that is clearly a matter of compelling public interest into the circumstances in which the Council went on to write him a blank cheque for almost £200,000 in costs. 
So, Cadno will not dip his paws further into the hypothetical waters save to observe that he is disappointed that a Plaid Cymru administration, whose members were united in opposition in criticising the previous Labour-led administration for giving Mr James an indemnity, are now seeking to pursue the matter further against someone unable to pay. 
There is no practical justification for taking that step. It is an appalling political misjudgement. It is, equally, a demonstration of the existence of Stockholm syndrome among some Plaid members of the Executive Board. 
Of course, the Labour opposition has been unremarkably silent on the matter. It was to their enduring shame and disgrace that they not only endorsed the decision to offer and indemnity but spent tens of thousands of pounds of public money seeking to defend it from being ruled unlawful by the Wales Audit Office. 
And for whose benefit, readers? 
Yours? Cadno’s? Who benefited from that decision? 
Counting in officer hours expended and the costs of administration, we can assess that it is well over three hundred grand of Council Tax payer money and resources that have now been washed down the Towy while the Council defends intolerable waste. 
It has made Carmarthenshire County Council a byword for being a haven for the sort of smug, insular and unaccountable misadministration and mal-administration that gave Cardiff Bay all the excuses the pathetic failures at the heart of the last Welsh Government wanted to rip apart local government in Wales. 
Cadno recalls writing a column filled with withering scorn for the proposition keenly, if incoherently, espoused by former leader Kevin Adequate and other members of the then Executive Board that Carmarthen was a council the rest of Wales looked up to. 
But even Kevin Adequate acknowledged that the saga of the indemnity and the battle with the WAO had harmed the Council’s reputation. 
Has no one at County Hall yet learned that the longer the issue endures, the longer the agony will be? 
It’s time for Carmarthen to be relieved: it’s time to lance the boil, readers.
All it takes is a little prick...
(Republished with permission) 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The libel actions were all about protecting reputations. Mr James may have "won" but at what cost to his reputation? The publicity that has resulted from the court case, the unlawfulness finding of the Audit Office and the subsequent attempts to enforce the award have left the public in no doubt as to what sort of man Mr James is, and the Council have been made to look like blind blithering idiots. With all due respect to Jacqui, her readership numbers would have been modest. The Herald's courageous reporting and commentary has aired the dirty linen to a much wider audience, in terms that pull no punches. This seems to me that as far as Mr James is concerned, his reputation has never been worse, and so this whole farago has been a massive own-goal. How much longer can the Council let this embarrassing mess go on? Will no-one rid them of this turbulent priest?