Sunday 27 November 2016

"For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" - Updated

An update, 2nd December;

 I was in court today to resist the council's charging order for £190,390, on our home, being made final. The judge decided to make it final, as it had been an issue with a higher court, but did so "with reluctance". It was patently clear that I would never be able to pay it, even if the council took the next step and forced sale. He gave something of a warning, in so many words, to the council, that if they did spend even more taxpayers' money by trying to force sale, with nil return, the Wales Audit Office might have something to say about it.

Anyway that was that. Whether they force sale tomorrow or in ten years time is immaterial as the chief executive is already trying to do exactly that. Papers are currently being exchanged and a hearing will be listed in due course.

I would like to thank everyone who has supported me both online and off, and those who have taken the trouble to write letters questioning the council's actions. Given her position as a county councillor, I am particularly grateful to Sian Caiach for her support.

A small but determined protest was held at County Hall today, and an attempt was made to deliver a pound of flesh, a reference to Shylock's desire for revenge, to Mr James. It seems he declined to accept it. The Llanelli Herald has the details.

I said a few words to the Llanelli Herald and BBC Wales before and after the hearing, including this statement;

"This was a pointless, wasteful and vindictive exercise against a critic of the council and has nothing to do with any 'obligation to the taxpayer', if it was, then the council wouldn't have funded the chief executive, unlawfully, in the way they did, this is about destruction. The charge is more than our home is worth and will never be realised. I will continue to fight, and continue to blog, and the next step will be to try and stop the chief executive's attempt to force sale of our home. Another deeply vindictive and unnecessary action. 
As ever, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me and all those who have sent messages of goodwill." 

3rd December; For Cneifiwr's take on recent events see 'Pecking Order', an excellent analysis, as ever.


First of all I must apologise for the lack of 'normal' blogging. Caebrwyn always keeps a watching brief but, to be honest, the recent actions of the chief executive and the council have been a bit of a distraction. And not just recently, the whole year has been a bit difficult. Having said that, it will be business as usual in due course. I hope.

The actions of 'the council' to place the Final Charging Order on my home for £190,390 court costs will be heard next week (Friday 2nd December, in Carmarthen). The chief executive's plan, to force sale of our home, is currently making its way through the court process, and, with no sign of abating, a date will be set for that hearing before long.

The two actions are not separate, the lines between public and private are blurred and the motives for both are unique. This is not about financial ruin as they know I have no finances to ruin other than the family home, it's about destruction.

As I've said before, I stand by everything I've written over the past seven years. In my view I have scrutinised the local council and those that make decisions, nothing more and nothing less. I have been motivated by trying to open up an organisation which has acted like a Victorian gentlemens' club for the past 100 years, not by "revenge" or "malice".

This whole episode started by my attempt to film a meeting, this made a small but positive impact, leading to webcasts, greater public scrutiny,  greater public engagement, interest and understanding of local democracy. If it led to one less thing being swept under the carpet then it's been a good thing. Incidentally, a reference I made to 'lumpy carpets' in relation to the decision to keep the investigation into the Pembrey Country Park scandal in-house, formed part of the chief executive's weird and wonderful list of 'criminal' complaints to the police earlier this year.

The ins and outs, and legal (or illegal) points of all this have been covered by this blog, and, more eloquently, by others. There will be more to come.
However, I'd like to make a few comments.

Firstly the £190k defence costs, the subject of next week's hearing. The decision to pursue me was made, in March this year, by the Plaid Cymru led Executive Board, along with input from Gravell, Palmer etc, and with the guiding hand (possibly literally) of the chief executive no doubt. Details from the exempt report, along with the Executive Board decision were leaked to the press and the Herald commented on the whole business, as I did, here.

This is being done on the pretext of an obligation to the taxpayers. Let me assure you it is not. There was not one iota of concern when the chief executive was illegally bankrolled for his counterclaim, there was a possible risk of £100k for that alone, with no knowledge of whether I could meet those costs or damages if I lost and the damages were never covered by insurance anyway. Cllr Sian Caiach has recently mentioned the then secret report which went to the executive board in 2012 recommending the indemnity. You may recall it was approved, and added to, by Mr James himself prior to the meeting, the meeting in which he remained...

And let's not forget the second Public Interest report from the Wales Audit Office which declared the chief executive's pension arrangements equally unlawful. As for the strange decision to pay off a third party loan for a private company, Scarlets Regional Ltd, obligations to the taxpayer couldn't have been further from anyone's mind. My comments regarding this payment also featured in Mr James' police complaint.

One (unintended I'm sure) consequence of Mr James' attempt to involve the police was that the police found no evidential basis to pursue the "criminal" findings in Tugendhat's civil judgement which had formed the basis of Mr James' belated complaint.
As I have said, the serious findings in Tugendhat's judgement in 2013 led to my insurance being revoked, the police looked at the same evidence as the judge and saw, and found, that I had no case to answer. The episode revealed a lot about the mindset of Mr James as well as reinforcing the fact that the judgement was a horrendous miscarriage of justice. Will the courts take any notice of the police outcome in respect of the £190k court order? I don't expect so, neither will it take into account, I don't suppose, that the enforcement action is malicious and punitive.

Plaid Cymru supposedly 'inherited' the situation created by the previous administration of Independents Meryl and Pam and Labour's Kevin Madge, and at one time, in opposition Plaid were all guns blazing. And if you think that the chief executive had no hand in putting them 'in power' then, in my opinion, think again. What better way to silence opposition than to offer the Reverend Dole thirty pieces of silver, or in this case, £48k per year as leader of the council, still with Meryl and Pam in tow of course, In return, Dole has played the chief executive's game and enjoyed the trappings of power, trips to the hospitality box of the Liberty Stadium are not for the likes of lowly opposition councillors.

Cllr Dole has denied that the payments were unlawful, even challenging the qualifications of the appointed auditor (on behalf of Mr James) and has continued to authorised further use of public money in solicitors costs and court fees to pursue me for something I don't have.

Which brings me on to the chief executive. He has certainly kept to his promise to "vigorously pursue the payment of damages due to me, by all legal means"  (my underline). Earlier this year he made a less than accurate statement to the press that I had made no offers regarding his damages when in fact he knew I had.The issue of whether he's going to give it back to the council, or 'good causes, or immortalise himself as a gold plated statue in Notts Square is all a moot point for me at the moment, and him. He hasn't had it yet.

I understand that Mark James CBE is a religious man, I am not religious and cannot imagine myself ever threatening to make a family homeless.
Perhaps Mr James should re-familiarise himself  with Matthew 16:26 "For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?" 

Whilst the Reverend Dole is preaching the Christmas message at his local chapel, and Mr James CBE says Grace before carving his Christmas turkey, I hope they consider the importance of family, and most of all the importance of the family home.

Monday 7 November 2016

Further thoughts...and this week's Cadno

Update 9th November; Carmarthenshire Council have top billing in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column (again), out today.

Also today, from Mrs Angry's excellent Broken Barnet blog; The Ritual of Vengeance: Welsh blogger Jacqui Thompson fights for her home  which also includes the Private Eye article referred to above.

Update 12th NovemberCarmarthenshire's Roll of Dishonour is also well worth a read, from south Wales blogger, Oggy Bloggy Ogwr.

Update 21st November; County Councillor Sian Caiach makes a request to Council leader Emlyn Dole


(This post continues from; Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire Council applies to force sale of my home)

With what has been written by others over the past couple of weeks, Cneifiwr here, and here, Cllr Sian Caiach here, and the Madaxeman here, as well as various online reports there is little left for me to say. I urge you to have a read of the articles, and the comments and judge for yourselves whether or not the council, and Mr James have descended, yet again, not only into a legal, but a moral minefield with the consistency of gloopy mud.

According to Cllr Lenny (Plaid) their group is meeting today (7th) to try and resolve this intractable situation.. I have no idea what they will propose, if anything.
All I can say is that the final charging order hearing has not yet been held, and neither has Mr James' attempt to force sale of my home, both of which I will resist with all the resources I can muster, which mainly consists of simplicity and common sense. And fight.
I will not be handing over my house keys anytime soon.
I thank everyone who has sent messages and comments of support.

The issue of the currently unenforced and illegal counterclaim costs of £41,000 is being studiously avoided. I asked Cllr Lenny if the council were going to ask Mr James to pay it back...he didn't answer that one.

Sadly, a question tabled by Cllr Caiach for this whole matter to be discussed, in the open, at Wednesday's meeting of full council was rejected. What a bloody surprise. I understand a private response was sent by Emlyn Dole (Plaid council leader) who yet again shows his undying loyalty to Mark James by refusing to accept that the counterclaim payments were profoundly unlawful.

In fact, with the council funding the action, and the council (supposedly, and in theory...) having any damages, the Derbyshire Rule that a governing body cannot sue has been blown to pieces by the actions of Mr James and the executive. But I knew that all along. It took some serious digging into my blog to find anything actionable for Mr James to take forward, and the posts complained of were months old and involved just three words 'pinocchio', and 'slush fund', which turned out to be rather slushy after all.

This week's Herald carries several articles and letters about all this. A series of detailed questions were put to the council by the Herald, and they refused to answer any of them, the questions can be seen on Cneifiwr's blog.

Before I leave you with this week's Cadno opinion piece from the Herald, I must just mention that I had a response this morning to my complaints to Dyfed Powys Police (see earlier post here). None of my complaints have been upheld; there was no conflict of interest and no, they're no revoking the Police Information Notice which will stay on record for fourteen months.
One point I did notice was that Mr James made his complaints to the police (in a letter to the Chief Constable, as you do..) on the 22nd January this year, yet he didn't bother to provide a detailed statement until more than five months later...
I have yet to study the report in detail, and I have yet to decide whether to take it further given the current pressure I'm under from someone who's motives seem even more questionable (updated post) than I first thought.
Anyway, more on that, in due's Cadno;

Cadno and the disgusting act 
A saying, often attributed to Einstein, suggests that common sense is made up of the prejudices one acquires before the age of 18. 
That does not say much for some things that are incontrovertible common sense: for example, 'if you pick it, it won't get better'. Carmarthenshire County Council carried on picking at a gnat's bite, and has managed to create an open and festering sore which has exposed the rotten matter at its core. 
In light of that, Cadno supposes that there is a very special sense in which common sense means not those things which people know to be true but no longer believe.
Either one of those categorisations would encompass the current actions of Carmarthenshire County Council and its bike-riding chief executive. 
It beggars belief that the Executive Board imagines it has a cat in hell's chance of recovering anything like the £190k of public money it blew on Mr James's defence of a libel action brought against him by Jacqui Thompson. It follows, therefore, that the additional costs being incurred by the council in pursuing the matter are simply public money being pissed away as though the authority was an incontinent drunk after a savage night on the Stella Artois. 
In addition, the money the council has wasted in office time and resources, scuttling around County Hall in support of the original litigation or scouring the internet and the blogosphere on what is, to any rational examination, a vendetta against an individual has not only been wasted but is practically incalculable. After all, it is our money they are wasting for their own good and the benefit of their most senior employee. 
This issue is examined at length elsewhere in this newspaper in a masterly dissection of the council's track record on this subject by Y Cneifiwr, but what Cadno is homing in on is one very simple question - not the right and the wrong, but the waste of what we are always told are 'scarce' resources when the hope of recovery of a meaningful contribution being received in respect of those resources are vanishingly small. 
The Herald has previously revealed Mr James' estimable gift for inaccurate precis, when we revealed that his assertion that no offers had been made to settle his judgement against Mrs Thompson was so wrong it suggested a somewhat casual relationship between what he said and what was true. 
The fact that he repeated to The Herald a claim he made to Wales Online, little knowing that we had a copy of the offer letters - plural - speaks volumes of his conduct.
And yet, despite that, the council are still engaged in acting as the executive arm of Mr James; wounded amour propre. 
It is a bloody disgrace and the councillors involved in rubber-stamping this shameful and wasteful exercise should hang their heads in shame. And it is to the undying shame of the current administration that it is continuing the folly embarked upon by the clueless bunch of well-meaning dupes and time-servers that preceded them. It taints the whole of Carmarthenshire's local government, in which there are many fine initiatives and sound future plans, that the Party of Wales is now merged and indistinguishable from the Party of James. 
When you think about common sense, readers, do you think that it is common sense to take political capital and goodwill and waste it fighting a battle that was picked by your predecessor in favour of someone who is unelectable? Put it another way, knowing what they know about Mark James now, how many of the current Labour and Plaid membership would have endorsed his original appointment? 
Cadno reckons not bloody many, if any. 
We have a chief executive under whose carefree guidance Carmarthenshire became indistinguishable from a kleptocracy and synonymous with self-serving sharp-dealing and the public waste of public money, still leading councillors not by the noses but by the rings through their noses. 
You might say that, having won the action, the council is entitled to attempt recovery of its costs, That much, it could be said, is common sense. 
Well common sense is wrong, readers, with knobs on. 
Councils have many interlocking responsibilities, the primary one of which is to act in the public interest with public resources. cadno does not go so far to suggest that having notably failed in that duty in any number of projects, not carrying that duty in the present circumstances is an option.
Not only do two wrongs not make one right, but there are practical constraints to consider. The council, it could be argued, is duty bound to ameliorate the impact of its own decision to bankroll Mr James; defence upon the public purse. 
The answer to that is yes and no. The council is bound to consider whether or not recovery is possible, but the present position is that Mr James' claim for damages awarded to him personally as a direct result of the Council's largesse takes priority over the Council's claim for costs. The council is, or should be, well-aware of Mrs Thompson's capacity to satisfy any part not only of the council's claim for costs but also Mr James claim for damages. And all the mock 'Chinese Walls' argument in the world wil not convince any reasonable person, reasonably informed, to the contrary. 
Mrs Thompson has no money. There is a limited amount of capital in the family home which could be converted into cash, but the value recovered as a result of a forced sale of the capital asset is going to be markedly less than the true capital value of her share in the matrimonial home. 
The council was aware of the risk of not effecting recovery right at the outset but pressed on regardless. 
In private practice that sort of chimpery would result in a very unhappy client looking to their legal advisor to make good the shortfall between what they were awarded and any receipts, especially if the lawyer failed to advise the body maintaining or funding the action (the lawyer's client) to secure a pre-emptive charge over any damages paid to the party it bankrolled (the litigant). That is part of proper analysis of what is part of 'litigation risk', which encompasses not only the likelihood of victory but the odds of recovery once a case is won. 
It is obvious to anyone but the dimmest and most backward of lawyers that the threat of financial ruin is generally only effective when the person threatened has finances to pay the debt. 
Anything else is rather, in Lyndon Johnson's deathless phrase, like wetting yourself in public; it gives you a momentary warm feeling but to anyone else witnessing it, it's disgusting.