Monday 30 December 2019

Libel indemnities - Auditor General says NO, again!

As readers will know, the Wales Audit Office, and the Auditor General have said NO! to libel indemnities numerous times. The first occasion being the 2014 Public Interest Report ruling the bankrolling of Mark James counterclaim for libel against me by the unsuspecting taxpayer as unlawful.

After another comprehensive rejection in May 2019, the AG's final response (in full below), a few weeks ago, should be the nail in the coffin.

Here's some background;
The 2014 public report led to the clause in the council's constitution allowing such unlawful funding being suspended, but it was not removed.

The prohibition of these libel indemnities was made crystal clear in the Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) Order 2006. (3) being the relevant part;

Click to enlarge

Since 2014 various failed attempts to overturn the ruling have been made by Mark James and Linda Rees Jones and whichever puppet leader was in place at the time. Since June 2015 that's been Plaid Cymru's Emlyn Dole. At least one attempt was made to question the qualifications of the then Appointed Auditor to make such a ruling.

The latest round of this saga has been the astonishing attempt by James, Rees-Jones and Dole to reinstate the clause and to extend it to cover councillors. They are, in essence, proposing to expose the taxpayers to massive financial risk, the exorbitant cost of a Judicial Review and sustain the chilling effect on democracy.

This came about at a meeting of the Constitutional Review Working Group (CRWG) back in July 2018. Plaid Cymru (by now they were three years into their deal with the devil...) were very keen to reinstate the clause and, of course, clear the names of Mark and Legal Linda. It was decided however, and before they did anything rash, that they better seek the opinion of the Auditor General, Adrian Crompton.

Anyhow, nothing moves very quickly in local government, so six months later Linda Rees Jones wrote a lengthy begging letter to the AG, this letter was disclosed to me by the Wales Audit Office.

In May of this year, after seeking external legal advice, the AG replied, soundly rejecting the arguments put forward by Rees-Jones and warning them of his powers to launch judicial review.
That letter can be seen in full here.

Instead of taking the AG's response back to elected members, as promised, Ms Rees-Jones under the instruction of the then employed Mark James, wrote back to the AG in a last ditch attempt to change his mind. This time she added a veiled threat to go back to the Welsh Government with a view to override his opinion. That letter can be seen here.

To bring us bang up to date, the AG responded on the 29th November.

It was another shattering rejection, and this latest letter, disclosed by the Auditor General under FOI, can be read in full here;

click to enlarge
Without going into the finer legal points (all of which are on this blog, here there and everywhere), the AG has succinctly rejected their entire argument, and on multiple occasions.

It now remains to be seen if Ms Rees Jones will admit liability and allow councillors to remove the clause completely or will she carry out her threat (along with Mark James, lurking somewhere) and try and appeal to the Welsh Government to save their skins. At continuing great expense of course.

Interestingly, the AG has also taken the time to have a look at the 2014 Minister's letter referred to by Rees Jones. At the time, many observers, and significantly the Plaid opposition councillors, were amazed by Mark and Linda's deliberately twisted interpretation of the letter. A child could see through it. 
Far from giving them free rein to carry on suing with public money, as the two of them claimed, it did nothing of the sort. The First Minister had confirmed the Welsh Government's stance that the indemnity was unlawful the day before the meeting.

Surely this latest confirmation from the Auditor General marks the end of the road for Carmarthenshire Council and its unique and illegal approach to libel indemnities.

And incidentally, you'll note that Chris Moore, the council's chief finance officer is also a signatory in the correspondence. Under the illegal indemnity clause he also has the delegated power to instigate libel proceedings. However, wearing his finance hat, he has just recommended £5.2m of cuts to services next year and a 4.89% increase in council tax. But, well, I suppose you've got to find some way of funding slush funds, they don't come cheap...

Ms Rees Jones, and indeed Mark James must admit defeat and accept liability for deliberately misleading councillors, the public, and the High Court. They have both lied and cheated the taxpayer, and James' behaviour has been fraudulent, dishonest malicious and criminal. He has not repaid the illegal indemnity nor, for that matter his unlawful tax avoidance payments. Nor has he been held to account. 
Not yet anyway...

Rees-Jones legal advice in general must be called into question as a large proportion of it has been for the sole purpose of covering-up for the misdemeanours of Mr James. From defending his very own slush fund to undeclared interests and lying to his employers. Had she had a shred of honesty, self-respect or professionalism Mr James may not have got away with his shameful, vindictive and illegal behaviour. 
That's without the fact that he managed, almost single-handed, to destabilise and all but destroy the Swansea Bay City Deal. See, for instance, this post from June. 
We still await the outcome of that criminal investigation.
They both should have been sacked years ago. 

As for the Reverend Emlyn Dole, he should resign, hang his head in shame and crawl back to his chapel and beg for forgiveness. As I said earlier this month, the rotten legacy left by Mark James is nothing for Plaid Cymru to be proud of.

Wednesday 4 December 2019

Wellness scandal - bribery investigation - four suspects questioned by police

The organised crime squad Tarian, have said, in a statement issued today, that four people have been questioned as suspects in relation to the alleged bribery investigation over the proposed Wellness Village in Llanelli.

This is the police statement;

"Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) for southern Wales, is continuing to investigate alleged offences following a complaint by Swansea University in respect of the Llanelli Wellbeing and Life Sciences Village.

"Four people have been interviewed as suspects, all of whom remain under investigation. Further enquiries as part of this complex investigation are ongoing.

"Extensive examination of a significant number of documents and electronic equipment, which were seized earlier this year, also continues."

You will recall that eight addresses were raided by the police at the end of July.

Those addresses included the homes of former CEO Mark James and Meryl Gravell.
County Hall was also raided.

The other addresses were almost certainly those individuals sacked from Swansea University, and the former director of the Council's private 'partner' Sterling Health in Kent.

The investigation relates to alleged bribery and corruption over the tender process for the Wellness Village.

As detailed on this blog, Mark James led and oversaw that very same tender process, which not only involved Sterling but it's previous incarnation as Kent Neurosciences.

The identities of the four suspects who have been questioned so far have not been released. However, as the statement says, the investigation is far from over.

WalesOnline report here

Please search this blog for all the background to the Wellness scandal. Any further updates will appear on this blog.

Monday 2 December 2019

Plaid Cymru, and the rotten legacy of Mark James

My last post included a published comment warning former CEO Mark James that just because it's quiet, it doesn't mean there isn't a train coming. Quite correct, there will be a train coming, regardless of the outcome of the current police investigation. (Brief update on that here)
If necessary, I'll be driving it.

Mark James spent seventeen years at the council and ran it with all the charm of a psychopath, he was no better in Boston where he allegedly tampered with legal documents, lied under oath and bullied staff. In Carmarthenshire he bullied and threatened any staff, councillors, whistleblowers or members of the public who dared challenge his word. He granted favours and promotion to those who flattered his ego. He used council facilities, including the notoriously incompetent and unscrupulous legal department for his own personal vendettas and shady business deals.

He used the police and courts as a weapon to get his own way and to bully and silence critics. He helped out his 'friends' and acted fraudulently, with the full support of the monitoring officer and whichever puppet administration he'd put in 'power'.

The puppet administrations are to blame for allowing this regime to continue for so long. And to have caused so much damage. It was the idiotic Labour/Independent executive board which bankrolled his illegally funded counterclaim. Kevin Madge, the former Labour leader who rubber stamped the decision, with Mark James leaning over his shoulder, cut a pathetic figure attempting to defend the latter throughout the WAO findings, Madge is now Chair of the Council. This is how loyalty is rewarded in Carmarthenshire.
It remains to be seen what the outcome of the police raid on former leader Meryl Gravell will be.

As for the counterclaim, the 'indemnity' was indeed a slush fund, and 'Pinocchio' has always been a very accurate description. Not least of all the whopping lie about paying damages back to the council. He's pocketing the lot.
If I fail to pay Mark James his monthly 'gutter' money, for evermore apparently, he will sell my home, "without further notice".

Plaid Cymru, in opposition, were vocal in their criticism of the regime, and not just regarding the libel case but everything from bizarre planning decisions to cover-ups in social care, and so there was some hope that they would start serving out some justice when they came to 'power' in 2015. Quite the opposite happened and Emlyn and co were taken into the fold. In a deal for the position as leader, Emlyn 'two barns' Dole bowed to Mark James and reneged on his previous opinion that the indemnity had been unlawful.

With the scene set by Labour, Plaid just carried on with the farce. And still do.

One of his first steps as leader was to place a crippling legal charge on my home for hundreds of thousands of pounds for legal costs. A vindictive decision straight from the mouth of Mark James. A sum I will never be able to pay, and a charge which the judge was reluctant to order. Mark James' own charge on my home, from the unlawfully funded counterclaim, is tens of thousands of pounds.

Plaid Cymru are now, under the guidance of monitoring officer, Linda Rees Jones (and Mark James, this latest attempt started a year before he retired) are now trying their best to change the mind of the Auditor General and reinstate the ability to sue the public with taxpayers' money, and extend it to themselves.

It's scandalous.

As former county councillor Sian Caiach points out in her latest blog post, this is a Plaid Cymru policy they're keeping quiet about.

Throughout all this, Plaid politicians Adam Price AM and Jonathan Edwards MP appear to have recognised the blindingly obvious injustices and, in particular, the arrogance and failures of Mark James. They continue to state their opposition to illegal libel indemnities. They called for Mark James to repay his ill-gotten gains some years ago, this was ignored by Labour at the time. I myself asked Emlyn Dole if he would honour his colleagues request and demand repayment before Mark James retired, he refused to even consider asking him.

Despite their apparent sincerity the Plaid politicians outside the council appear to be powerless to influence their colleagues leading Carmarthenshire. Whether this is by fault or design isn't clear. One assumes they prefer not to rock Plaid's Carmarthenshire boat, or is there a complete disconnect between the external politicians and the merry bunch 'running' the council...not that Emlyn seems particularly merry these days.
The Welsh Labour government have failed to hold this rogue council to account and positively intervene over the many issues which have arisen over the years. At the moment it doesn't look like Plaid Cymru would do any better. Promoting a Welsh justice system, with full human rights implications, needs to start with eliminating injustice in this corner of Wales.

The 'legal adviser' to councillors has, for some years, been Linda Rees Jones, instructed, totally, by Mark James. She owes her permanent position as monitoring officer to Mark James himself who bypassed the proper appointment process in a cosy arrangement and a reward for her unswerving loyalty to covering up his illegal and immoral behaviour. Her legal department was famously described as cavalier and incompetent but it's worse than that, she has deliberately mislead councillors to protect Mark James and herself, and to line his pockets.

Whilst these issues, and others, continue to fester in the corridors of County Hall no amount of gloss and spin can eradicate the foul taste. It won't go away. Any councillors with even a vague sense of justice and empathy will take the bull by the horns themselves, along with MPs and AMs and realise that the continuing rotting legacy of Mark James, and his monitoring officer, needs to be halted once and for all.
He will not get away with it.

They need to right the past wrongs, now, reject the misleading advice, and run the council with that justice, fairness and empathy they pray earnestly for, very publicly, each month.


In Wellness scandal news, in true Carmarthenshire council style, not only have they spent a fortune covering their legal backs with Acuity Law but have employed the services of a large PR company to try and put lipstick on the proverbial pig. Heavenly Group Ltd have been commissioned to 'rebrand' the scandal ridden sauna-by-the-swamp.
With undoubtedly 'difficult' budget cuts fast approaching, I have asked just how much has been spent with Heavenly Ltd.
Response due at the end of the month.

For extensive background to the Wellness Village, City Deal, investigations, etc, please search this blog using the searchbox on the right

Sunday 10 November 2019

The Council and that 'independent' Acuity Law report...continued

Acuity Law, readers will recall, were the law firm which carried out the council's 'independent' review of procurement and governance around the Wellness Village. Their report, which was published in February 2019, was commissioned by the council to give themselves, and more particularly the then chief executive Mark James a 'clean bill of health,' and in fact it was mysteriously leaked to the Western Mail (I'll give you three guesses who was responsible for that).
I wrote about the report here.

It was trumpeted by the council as a wholly 'independent legal review' which 'assessed robustness and compliance around the procurement and governance processes.'

However, the 'independence' of the review was soon questioned given that Acuity Law also represent Mr James on a personal basis, and had done since January 2017.
Acuity Law then made legal threats for defamation against certain 'elected members'.

The governments' Actica review and the damning internal audit review then laid bare the dire state of governance under the leadership of Mark James. This was accompanied by the scathing and entirely accurate letter, directly attacking Mr James' honesty and integrity, from the then Chair of the ABMU health board.

After a flurry of County Hall legal threats, Carmarthenshire was then stripped of the responsibility of democratic governance and audit. Mark James was, it turned out, hurriedly retiring, and Legal Linda was no longer the City Deal monitoring officer.

Along side all this is the bribery and corruption investigations into the Wellness tender with the sackings at Swansea University, the Kuwait scandal and the raids on eight properties on the 31st July by the organised crime squad. Including Mr James' home.

The criminal investigation is still ongoing.

Anyway, as per my previous post, after yet another lengthy wrangle a recent FOI response has revealed another reason to challenge the 'independence' of the Acuity Legal report.

The February 2019 report not only suggests that their involvement was relatively recent, ie late 2018, but also stated;

"Acuity did not advise on the procurement process or on the preparation of the Collaboration Agreement which form the bulk of the subject matter of the review" (my emphasis)

However, an invoice disclosed in the response dates from early 2017 and lists the work undertaken by Acuity for the council.

It includes (my emphasis);

Preparation of a note on procurement timescales;
Preparation of email for discussion regarding procurement;
Reviewing and commenting on a procurement update;
Further email advice on procurement issues, timescales and prior information notices.
Review of background information including the Kent Neurosciences lockout agreement.

Further to this, this particular invoice they either met with, or telephone conferenced, senior council officers seven times, on the 20th, 24th and 31st January 2017 and the 3rd, 7th, 18th and 27th February 2017.
By a remarkable coincidence, the 20th January was the exact same date Acuity Law started representing Mark James against me to force the sale of my home. Hopefully the council didn't muddle up any invoices...

It could certainly be argued that the phrase 'did not advise on the procurement process' is open to interpretation but for the council to claim that this was an 'independent' review is stretching the truth, that's my interpretation anyway.
As I've said before, in my view the report was commissioned by Mr James to provide him with a potential pre-emptive criminal defence. He knew what was coming.
It reminds me of another example of 'independent' legal advice which was the 'independent' advice to the Exec Board in 2012 to unlawfully indemnify Mark James, that happened to come from the council funded lawyer representing Mr James in the libel case.
He has form.

Full response to the Acuity Law FOI here.

Sunday 13 October 2019

A quick update - I'm still here!

After being contacted by numerous people wondering if I'd given up writing the blog I thought I'd better add a quick update and confirm that no, I haven't. The brief lull is due to the highly significant matter of the search warrants executed by the organised crime squad on the 31st July, which included, amongst others, the home of Mark James, recently retired chief executive of Carmarthenshire council.
I am waiting for developments regarding this criminal investigation, and rest assured I will comment in full as soon as I can, whatever the outcome.

Meanwhile, various rumours relating to the investigation are circulating locally, but nothing, so far, has been confirmed by the police, despite my requests for an update.

In fact, no one is saying much about anything. A recent FOI to the council asking what exactly they'd spent £65,000 on with Acuity Law in the first six months of this year (and whatever they spent last year), has yet to be answered.

Despite sending polite chasers, the response is now three weeks late. Acuity Law, you will recall, were the lawyers appointed by Mark James to carry out an 'independent' review of the council's tendering process over the Wellness village, they also happen to be Mark James' personal solicitors.... Essentially they provided him with a publicly funded defence, as it was looking like he might be needing one...

In libel indemnity news, I asked the Monitoring Officer, Linda Rees Jones when, or if, elected members had discussed the letter from the Auditor General for Wales received back in May.

The Auditor General's letter was a sound rejection of Legal Linda's lengthy plea, sent on behalf of Mark James, to reinstate his notorious and unlawful libel clause; to use taxpayers' money to sue the public for defamation. A slush fund if you will. The Auditor General also warned her of his powers to launch a Judicial challenge.

She replied to me last week. No, she said, elected members couldn't discuss it as she was still sending begging letters ("still in dialogue" was the official wording) to the Auditor General to try and change his mind. All quite remarkable. Clearly no councillors are going to get a look-in until he's been swayed.

Whatever else, it shows scant disregard that the council is supposed to be a democratic body, and rides roughshod over the right for elected members to discuss such a significant statement from the head of the independent national audit body for Wales; whether she, and the former chief executive like it or not. It's outrageous.

This is the latest attempt, over the past five years, to change the mind of the Wales Audit Office. From 2015 of course, Mark James and legal Linda have also had the backing of Plaid Cymru's Emlyn Dole, the price he paid for leadership. The Rev Dole also wants to extend the unlawful indemnity to himself and fellow councillors.

Either he, legal Linda and the chief finance officer think that the potential risk of massive losses to the taxpayer, and the threat of Judicial challenge is a great idea. After all, silencing dissent is a much higher priority than a few extra primary school teachers or a social worker or two; Or, Linda and Emlyn are still concerned with protecting the back of a very dodgy, dishonest and disreputable former chief executive and his unlawful payments, and indeed Linda herself with her history of profoundly misleading 'advice' on this matter, and plenty of other matters too.

I have also written to the new chief executive, Wendy Walters asking for her own opinion on the libel indemnity. Maybe, I thought, she has a different view to that of her predecessor. She might have thought it anti-democratic, chilling, illegal, imprudent or immoral, even with her sixteen years at County Hall.
Sadly, three weeks later I've yet to receive an acknowledgement, let alone a reply. Unless she chooses to respond soon I must assume the worst and realise that there's no new broom.

Update 15th October; Ms Walters finally replied yesterday and refused to condemn the indemnity as unlawful and has also ignored the strong words from the Auditor General. However, it is interesting that she considers it a matter for politicians, a message she might wish to pass on to Linda Rees Jones;

"In relation to the matter you raise. I don’t  propose to air any views on this type of indemnity as I regard it as being a matter for the politicians. I am aware there is an on-going debate which will come back to the Constitutional Review Working Group in due course where Members will be able to discuss in full."

It was, of course, discussed in full over five years ago and found to be illegal, at which point both Mark James and legal Linda should have been unceremoniously booted out of office.

But back to the criminal investigation and I hope that the eventual outcome is locked doors and keys throw away. But whatever happens I will, with regards to my own case and the continuing crippling financial nightmare, step up the fight for justice and ensure those responsible, retired or not, are held to account.
I'll do whatever it takes.

Watch this space.

Saturday 10 August 2019

Mark James' home searched in police raid

Carmarthenshire is a large county, but when it comes to news that the police have raided certain addresses in a bribery investigation it becomes remarkably small. By midweek it seemed that the details were countywide.

Anyway, we now know that a search warrant was executed at the Carmarthen home of former council chief executive Mark James early last Wednesday (31st July) by the organised crime squad. 

Mark James - police raid

County Hall, Carmarthen, was raided at the same time. 

A search warrant was also executed at the home of another key figure in the scandal, former Council leader Meryl Gravell

Meryl Gravell - police raid

The searches were part of the investigation into alleged bribery and corruption relating to the proposed Wellness Village at Delta Lakes, Llanelli.

As the police have stated, search warrants were also executed in Swansea and Kent, and they also confirmed that no arrests were made last week. Followers of this blog will be well aware of the Kent connection.

However, documents, computer equipment and, in the case of County Hall, email trails and deleted data were seized.

And not before time, in my opinion.

As regular readers will know, I have tried to unravel the tangled web behind the Wellness scandal for over three years and have set out the facts as I've found them. 

It's all on this blog.

This investigation concerns a public tender, public money and public officials, past and present, therefore, the public have a vested interest and a right to know.

I welcome what is, I hope, a thorough investigation and I'm sure we all await the outcome with interest and anticipation...

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Wellness scandal - Mark James back in Private Eye

Further to my previous post on the University sackings, Mark James, and the police raids, here's the Rotten Boroughs column in this week's Private of the bill no less...

As usual, for more info and background to the Wellness scandal, and for Mr James' numerous previous appearances in Private Eye's Rotten Boroughs column, please search this blog.

Sunday 4 August 2019

Libel indemnities? Auditor General says NO!

Meanwhile, whilst I continue to make my own enquiries and we await more news on Mr James, the police and the unfolding Wellness scandal, another long running scandal has taken an interesting turn.

Regular readers will know what I mean by the unlawful libel indemnity clause. Without going into years of detail, it was Mark James' little plan to to sue people into silence and chill the press, not with his own money though, but with your hard earned cash.

The Wales Audit Office ruled the clause, and the public funding of his counterclaim against me, unlawful in the 2014 Public Interest Report and the clause was 'suspended' but, as you may imagine, the council, namely Mark James and Linda Rees Jones have disagreed with this ever since. Mark James never repaid the money.

The unlawfulness of the clause, and it's use in 2012, has grave implications for Mr James and Ms Rees Jones so they have blindly defended their actions ever since. To have imparted misleading advice, and to gain financially and personally from it, is, arguably, fraud.

You will recall that most of Mr James' counterclaim involved my description of this clause (several months before he sued) as a slush fund. That was before the WAO's ruling.
You may also recall that his written undertaking to pay damages over to the council turned out to be a lie. He ignored political calls to 'do the honourable thing'.

The ban on funding libel claims is enshrined in The Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) Order 2006.

Emlyn Dole, once a vociferous opponent of the clause when in opposition, had a miraculous change of heart when Mr James made him Leader in 2015....

As I said above, the clause was 'suspended' in 2014 but at a meeting of the Constitutional Review Working Group (CRWG) held on 27th July 2018 an attempt was made by the leader of the Labour group to remove it completely.

At the meeting, quite the reverse happened and the majority Plaid Cymru group, led by Emlyn Dole, with Mr James right behind him, tried to reinstate the offending clause into the constitution.

It was resolved, however, to write to the WAO for their opinion and hope for the rubber stamp.

Incidentally, when the substance of this secretive CRWG meeting was made public (though not the documents), Mark James Emlyn Dole punished the opposition by denying them access to 'sensitive' documents. Including documents relating to the Wellness scandal...

Seven months later (no idea why there was such a delay), on the 28th March 2019, a six page begging letter was sent to the Auditor General from Linda Rees Jones and Chris Moore (Director of Resources) trying to persuade the WAO to change their minds, allow them to reinstate the clause and sue people whenever they wished.
There were no 'new' arguments in the letter.
Mark James of course had a direct interest so left it to trusty Linda to sign his letter...

As you may imagine, I've been trying to get all this information, the Officer's Report to CRWG, Minutes and letters, through FOI, for twelve long months.

The considered response from the Auditor General to the council's letter, which was disclosed to me last week by the WAO, was dated the 10th May and is short and sweet.

He basically tells them to sod off, and goes one step further, warning them that if they attempt to try it again, he has the power to launch a Judicial Review..

This must have been a bit of a blow to Mr James, who had yet to retire, and Legal Linda, let alone poor Emlyn who was even hoping to extend the 'libel on the rates' wheeze to himself and fellow councillors.

It has to be said that Plaid politicians Adam Price and Jonathan Edwards MP have expressed a different view to that of their litigious colleagues in County Hall. Let's hope they now have a word with them?

The AG's letter also must have dashed Mark James' hopes of dipping into the meagre council coffers and sue not only the Chair of the health board but the Herald as well. We hope so anyway.

So, what will they do now?

At another CRWG meeting on the 8th May, just before the AG responded, an opposition councillor suggested (again) that the clause be removed completely, and that they should not even bother to wait for the AG's reply as it was felt that the Authority, even on moral grounds "should not support legal action by officers against members of the public at the expense of the taxpayer".

Emlyn and co again opposed this move and insisted they wait for the Auditor General, hoping he'd pave the way for reinstatement.

Legal Linda jumped in and told them, again that it was all perfectly lawful and that the council could still fund an officer even with the clause suspended...This was a remarkable statement, she is some piece of work and should have been sacked long ago, along with Mr James. This is governance, Carmarthenshire style.

With the clear rejection from the Auditor General, again, let's hope Wendy Walters, the new CEO, expresses support for it's removal forthwith. If she doesn't, she's as bad as her predecessor.

See also this week's Carmarthenshire Herald for an excellent article on the WAO's response. "...In a letter dated May 10, the Auditor General for Wales, Adrian Crompton, effectively tells the Council to go do one."

Wider significance

County Councils currently have the power, under certain conditions, to fund an officer's defence against an action for libel, but not to bring an action. An individual officer can of course sue who he or she likes with their own money.

Councils cannot, under the Derbyshire Rule, sue as a body.

The ban on indemnities arose due to concerns that a governing body could get around this rule by funding an individual to take a case forward. However, the main concern was that this power would stifle legitimate, robust, democratic debate and have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.

Neither is it considered to be a sensible and prudent use of scarce council resources.

Hence there is wider public interest, and the significance of Carmarthenshire's actions had, and still have, implications for councils across the UK.

Later post December 2019; Libel indemnities - Auditor general say NO! again 

Friday 26 July 2019

Wellness scandal; University pair sacked for gross misconduct - updated - Police raids

Later post 10th August;

Mark James' home raided by police 

Update 1st August; 

Police have confirmed this morning that their bribery and fraud investigation centres around the tendering process carried out in respect of the proposed Wellness Village. No real surprise.

So there we are. With the locations of the raids being in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Kent it it all fell together, and we all know which former CEO was behind that tendering process...if you could call it that (see main post below).

The police will not yet confirm which addresses have been raided, but we know that three of them were in Carmarthenshire...

Update 31st July;

Wales Online reports that police officers from Tarian, the regional organised crime unit, have searched eight addresses this morning in Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Kent in relation to the bribery investigation. Four of the premises searched were in the South Wales Police force area, three were in Dyfed-Powys and one was in Kent. They've issued this statement;

"Officers from Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) for southern Wales, have this morning executed a number of warrants as part of investigation into alleged bribery offences.

"Seven addresses in Swansea, Carmarthenshire, and Kent are being searched with the assistance of colleagues from South Wales, Dyfed Powys and Kent police forces.

"The enforcement action was carried out in relation to a complaint made by Swansea University to the Serious Fraud Office in late 2018, which was subsequently referred to police.

"No arrests have been made during the searches, however a number of documents and electronic equipment have been seized.  The investigation is complex and remains ongoing."

I sincerely hope they've been knocking at a certain ex-CEO's door in Wellfield Road, Carmarthen. If not then it should be their very next stop.

* * *

WalesOnline report today that Swansea University's suspended Vice-Chancellor Richard Davies and Prof Marc Clement have both been sacked with immediate effect for gross misconduct. This follows several months of internal investigations relating to the Wellness and Kuwait scandals.

"It is understood that their suspensions were linked to the proposed £200m Life Science and Wellness Village project at Llanelli, the first business case and funding model for which was seeking £40m in backing from the £1.3bn City Deal for the Swansea Bay City Region...

The architects for that project were Prof Clement and Mark James, who last month stood down as chief executive of Carmarthenshire County Council.

A further part of the investigation that lead to their suspensions and now dismissals was a proposed £600m joint venture for a new university and private hospital in Kuwait, involving Swansea University.

That project, in which Prof Clement was identified as being vice chancellor of the university element, was never disclosed to the university’s governing body in its council. Prof Richard B Davies and the former chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council were listed as trustees of the project’s academic board" (Wales Online)

As I said here, the police, and the organised crime squad are also investigating.

As I've said, more than once, the above-mentioned Mark James is also deeply involved. He has lied and blagged his way through this whole sorry scandal.

He oversaw the appointment of Franz Dickmann's Sterling Health, the sole bidder and a company with no track record and £137k in the red, to develop the project. The same outfit he'd already given a secret 'exclusivity agreement' to the year before when they were known as Kent Neurosciences (KNS). Marc Clement had been a director of Kent Neurosciences until a few months before Marky signed them up. As KNS, they had been involved in developing a private hospital in Kent which required a £20m bail out before they scarpered.

L to R; Mrs Dickmann, Mark James, Richard Davies, Emlyn Dole, Franz Dickmann, Marc Clement. Another key player in this scandal from the start was Mark James' number one fan, former council leader Meryl Gravell, who was, curiously, made a director of Sterling until just before they were ditched.

Mark James then becomes involved in the Kuwait scandal as a 'trustee'. This never appeared as a declaration of interest despite the potential involvement of the council. Nor did he ever bother, for that matter, to declare his own extensive property and business interests.

When the s***t began to hit the fan Mark James not only decided to retire but ordered a 'review of the council's procurement process'. And who did he bring in to carry out this little task? A firm of solicitors called Acuity Law who also just happened to be his own personal lawyers. They were, quite simply, providing him with a pre-emptive defence funded by the council.

The City Deal internal governance report was less sympathetic and, thanks to the behaviour of Mark James, Carmarthenshire was stripped of responsibility for governance and audit. The chair of the health board went one further and called him out for what he really was, a compulsive liar without a shred of integrity.

I have been researching and writing about all this for over three years, so as usual, there is plenty of background on the blog if you wish to search. Remember as well that Mr James was also involved in his own tax avoidance scandal, let alone the illegal libel indemnity. Tens of thousands he never paid back. He's used council resources for his own personal interests, and breached a serious undertaking to the council, his employers, over the indemnity, all without a care in the world. When it comes to personal enrichment, he's capable of anything.
He's carried on like this since Boston.

He was, and no doubt still is, a malicious and vindictive bully, a liar, and a thoroughly disreputable character, but for the purposes of the current scandal he should be subject to a full criminal investigation and forensic examination of his affairs. He has been involved from the very beginning.

He can't be sacked or suspended now, he's made sure of that...but he can most definitely be bundled into the back of a police car and hauled off for questioning. 

Tuesday 16 July 2019

The 'potentially defamatory' letter; Mark James threatened the Carmarthenshire Herald

Back in April, as I reported here, the Chair of the then ABMU Health Board Andrew Davies wrote an explosive letter to the Chair of the City Deal Joint Committee concerning the integrity, or lack thereof, of Mark James CBE.

The contents of the letter was considered, by 'the council', as being 'potentially defamatory', and public noises were made about suing Andrew Davies. In reality of course it was Mr James, the royal 'we', who considered the letter to be 'potentially defamatory' of himself.

As councils cannot sue for defamation, this raised some interesting questions as to who 'we' were and brought us full circle back to the issue of unlawful public funding for an individual officer to bring a claim for libel, or, getting round the rule that a council can't sue.

Last month I asked, through FOI, under whose or what authority the threatening legal statement was issued.

The response, which arrived this morning, discloses one brief email thread (extract below) which confirms, if nothing else, that the threat came directly from the council keyboard of Mark James himself and, furthermore, he also threatened the Carmarthenshire Herald, using the press office to deliver the statement below.

It is perhaps quite fitting that the death throes of the Mark James regime were marked by a direct threat to sue and silence a local newspaper.
The only contact with elected members was that Plaid Cymru council leader Emlyn Dole was cc'd into the emails.

The email thread (which can be seen here in full) was in response to a detailed press enquiry by The Herald, which was also disclosed.
The council claimed in their FOI response to me that this email thread was the only relevant information they held.

Being a little cynical that this was the case, I approached The Herald, who were surprised that the email trail which had been disclosed did not include all of the emails passing between the paper and the Council, which included an offer of a right to reply which was refused and which responded robustly to the suggestion that coverage would be 'potentially defamatory'.

So, the information released under FOI was sparse and incomplete, deliberately so. One sincerely hopes that they didn't consult the now retired Mr James over this disclosure...)

It comes as no surprise of course that the temper tantrum displayed over this letter, and the assumption that the council would, potentially, deploy the slush fund and sue, came straight from Mr James. He was too cross to even bother with a spellcheck.

As for being 'potentially defamatory', this would not be the case as the factual content of the letter was substantially true, Mr James is a liar, and as for his failure to adhere to any of the seven Nolan principles, this was opinion, and, for that matter, spot on.

The council have since been stripped of City Deal governance and audit responsibilities and the police are investigating the Wellness scandal.

The email from Mr James also refers to the letter as 'private correspondence'. This is laughable given that it was from the head of one public body to another relating to public governance and expenditure.

He had a somewhat different attitude towards 'leaks' when 'Emlyn Dole's' response to the letter, and for that matter the sham Acuity Law report found their way to the Western Mail....

This is all from someone who stated in May that he stopped reading and bothering with pesky newspapers some years ago...

The key question, which was who the 'we' was, and the point about his interest being as an individual was never answered.  My own correspondence with Linda Rees Jones about the matter saw her reconfirm her nonsense that to use public money to sue, or threaten to sue was perfectly fine, and as we saw with their attempt to reinstate the illegal libel clause last year, this is a tactic fully endorsed by Emlyn Dole, and presumably the Plaid Cymru group he leads, as well.

Even against a local newspaper.

The 'suspended' clause must now be urgently removed as it is clear that the 'suspension' meant nothing to Mr James, nor Legal Linda, nor the Rev Dole. Neither is it a comforting thought that the new CEO Wendy Walters was a passive bystander in the email thread.
Whether the 'council's' legal threat against the newspaper was carried out or not is not important, it's the chilling effect that counts. 

Thursday 11 July 2019

Organised Crime Unit investigate Wellness allegations

Later post 10th August; Mark James' home raided by organised crime squad

Later post 31st July; Wellness scandal - University pair sacked, and police raids

Wales Online reports today that the Swansea University suspensions and allegations relating to the Council's Wellness Village and the Kuwait venture, are now also being considered by the Regional Organised Crime Unit, "dedicated to disrupting and dismantling Serious Organised Crime Groups across the whole of southern Wales".

The allegations were referred to South Wales and Dyfed Powys Police by the University in February (see update to my February post here).

Both police forces have issued this statement;

"Dyfed-Powys Police and South Wales Police can confirm that they have received a complaint which is currently subject of consideration by both forces, as well as Tarian, the Regional Organised Crime Unit for southern Wales. 
"Due to the complex nature of the complaint the matter remains under review."

This police and organised crime unit investigation must include Mark James, former Carmarthenshire Council CEO. As I have set out on this blog, numerous times, he has been associated and involved from the outset with the tangled web of self-interest and the key players in this scandal, he was behind the notoriously shady deals with KNS/Sterling, and the undeclared Kuwait venture.

It's time he had his collar felt. In fact, it's long overdue.

His retirement from the council was, shall we say, timely, and, incidentally, three months before his tenure as City Deal lead CEO was up.

And, as of the 8th July, he has resigned as a Director of Trinity St David University.....Interesting.

Tarian - Regional Organised Crime Unit.
"..from fraud and cyber-crime investigators to asset recovery experts and intelligence specialists...dedicated to disrupting and dismantling Serious Organised Crime Groups across the whole of southern Wales"

For background, please use the searchbox on the right to search this blog. There is plenty.

Tuesday 9 July 2019

No call-in for the Wellness planning application

After six months the Welsh government have decided not to call in the Wellness planning application but to let the council determine it themselves. As one of the people who requested the call-in, and attended the planning committee meeting in January, I received the decision letter yesterday. The WG have decided that it doesn't raise issues of wider importance and, presumably, the very belated contamination testing, from fridges to arsenic, going on at the site (and beyond) tick some of NRW's concerns. Apparently the water table is also much higher than previously thought.
However, the growing of vegetables at the site, even Wellness vegetables, might not be such a good idea....

The letter makes clear that the WG is making no comment on the merits of the application; "the decision not to call in the application should not in any way be taken as a reflection on the planning merits of the development".
There were, of course, other issues raised aside from the environmental impact which has put a stop to the project, namely the scandal with Sterling (now dissolved), the Uni and a certain ex-senior officer, and the small matter of a police investigation, which seems to have escalated. But these are not material planning considerations.

Incidentally, Plaid Cllr Alun Lenny has put forward a Motion for tomorrow's full council to boost TAN 20 planning guidance and ensure that Welsh language impact reports are designated material planning considerations and required for developments over a certain size. I find it odd that the Wellness application, heartily endorsed by Cllr Lenny and Co contains no more than a nod to the language, let alone a report under TAN 20.

Anyway, back to the swamp, and I would imagine that the timing of the WG decision was entirely coincidental to the recent retirement of Mr James...and the slightly scaled back 'new designs' trumpeted by Cllr Dole last week. Interestingly, this appeared to be the planned 'rebranding' tactic to lessen the reputational damage that the scandal ridden project has enjoyed. Putting lipstick on a pig.

And would Ministers really want to get involved and tainted with the ongoing scandals? They may also be hoping that the new CEO has a better working and planning ethic than the previous one. Just 'ethics' would be a start.

The 'new designs' also suggest that a new planning application should be put forward, or at least an amended version of the original. I doubt this will happen though and I'm sure the rubber stamp will be wielded post haste.

Unless the council decide to 'go it alone' (despite being already £413m in debt), or just stick to the leisure centre and care home, an amended business case will also be resubmitted to the City Deal joint committee. There is currently no clue where the £127m of private money will come from, Swansea Uni is out of the picture and Trinity St David is shedding jobs to break even. Whatever happens, this time the whole process must be transparent and the business case made public, as recommended by the internal governance review.

It's been a shambles from the start thanks to the dire governance under Mark James and former City Deal monitoring officer Linda Rees Jones. And, as for the other issues, I trust the police are closing in. The council have one more chance to start from scratch and get this right and ensure that this doesn't become another disastrous legacy courtesy of Mr James.
I also suspect he's still pulling the strings.

I have written extensively about this project and, unless everything is now above board and open to scrutiny, and will benefit the many, not a handful of conmen, then I expect I'll still be writing about it in five years time, accompanied, likely as not, by the usual damning audit report.


On the subject of transparency, the FOI department appear to have gone into shutdown mode, towards me anyhow. Maybe their resources have been redirected to the press office again, the two are very intertwined. I have recently made a few requests which are now over the time limit, including one about the letter from the health board Chair concerning the inability of our former CEO to abide by any of the Nolan Principles...
There was nothing terribly complex in my requests and I don't expect information which is not available. This painful and slow process is so often the only way to extract information from the council, it's a shambles.

I will be writing, in due course, to the new chief executive about that suspended, unlawful libel clause. I will be interested to find out whether she approves of her new found potential power to illegally sue critics with public money, or if she finds it all a bit iffy. This is yet another appalling legacy from Mark James for which, amongst other things, I am determined he will be held to account.

The clause is suspended at the moment but the Mark James Fan club, ie Emlyn 'two barns' Dole and Linda Rees Jones are very keen to reinstate the provision and extend it to cover councillors. It can't remain suspended forever (can it??) so I will be curious to hear Ms Walters' views on the matter, and the complete removal from the Constitution. Though, as a long term deputy of Mr James, who was allowed to scarper with his ill-gotten gains, I'd be surprised if her view was any different.

We'll see.

For background to all of the above, please search this blog

Thursday 13 June 2019

Council to blow another £600,000 on the Wellness Shed

At the last Executive Board meeting (June 3rd) attended by former CEO Mark James the final item on the agenda was that old chestnut, the Wellness Village. Naturally, despite the scandals and the screaming calls for transparency, it was discussed behind closed doors. The secrecy was hardly surprising given that they nodded through the 'officer recommendation' to take the project to the next stage (and there are more stages..) and blow another £600,000 on 'design development' for the Sauna-by-the-swamp.

The rest of the discussion was, in smoke and mirrors councilspeak, "to acknowledge the process milestones and commissioning requirements for the alternative scenarios and the impact on completion dates" which roughly translates as cash still had to be found from somewhere (apparently this includes an unsuspecting Scottish university, firmly in their sights, and a new shedload of borrowing) and the whole thing will be mightily delayed and may miss out on the first round of City Deal funding anyway.

Whether ARUP plc will have the pleasure of this £600,000 commission isn't known, or maybe Ffynnon Consultancy or Building and Estate Solutions will get a little look-in somewhere...who knows. Whatever the case, half a million has already been spent on design development and well over £300,000 on the planning application, currently the subject of a Welsh government stop notice, although, with recent activity on the site, this may be about to be lifted. Over £200,000 has been spent on legal costs, including the notorious Acuity Law report. That's just from last year. In the previous financial year over a million was spent on design, development, and of course the inevitable 'Masterplanning'...

Thanks to the toxic conduct of Mr James, Carmarthenshire Council is firmly, and permanently in the Governance dog-house, the 'partners' have scarpered (and so has Mr James), the councils are at loggerheads, and the whole project remains mired in scandal, and under police investigation. And given his involvement, I hope Mr James' peaceful retirement is soon disturbed by a knock on the door from plod. However, to scrap it now would be to lose face, so, no matter what the final cost, or whether they have to 'go it alone', it will continue. For now.

In my view, the best outcome for everyone, including the rest of the county, crying out for investment, would be for the council to count its losses and go back to its original intention to build a leisure centre and a care home for Llanelli; not a private luxury spa, lining a handful of pockets, providing a few menial local jobs, and too expensive for anyone other than retired chief executives to use, commuting from Kuwait...with their pockets duly lined.

It is, of course a matter of priorities. Here are a couple of examples. At Wednesday's full council meeting a Labour councillor tried to raise the serious financial problems and lack of resources faced by his, and other, local primary schools, he was silenced as this dose of reality was spoiling the cosy feel-good presentation of the 'visionary' Corporate Plan.
All schools are struggling.

And at a scrutiny meeting on Monday the subject of public toilets arose. After 'offloading' as many facilities it could in 2013 (also in ridiculous secrecy) due to 'financial pressures', recent consultations attracted over 700 responses, including a plea for more Changing Places Facilities for profoundly disabled children and adults, and their carers. It turns out that there are only two in the whole county and both are privately run.

In general, the lack of public toilets is, arguably, a far more important issue to the 185,000 residents and the couple of million tourists than pouring cash into a failing, scandal-ridden vanity project, however, the councillors were told that there was absolutely no money in the budget to build more toilets, so 'creative solutions' had to be found...

As toilet provision, giving independence and dignity, is non-statutory, the council are fond of repeating that they are not obliged to provide facilities.

As it happens, they're not obliged to provide a luxury spa and private health care vanity project either, but they've just found another £600,000 in the budget for that!

Wednesday 5 June 2019

City Deal - Carmarthenshire Council stripped of governance and audit role

Following the scathing UK government and Pembrokeshire-led internal governance reports on the City Deal, Carmarthenshire Council has now been stripped of the entire democratic governance and audit function.
These functions will be taken over by Swansea and Pembrokeshire Councils respectively.
This is a damning indictment of Mark James' role as 'principal advisor' and 'responsible officer' and the end of Linda Rees Jones' role as City Deal Monitoring Officer. The toxic culture of governance and democracy, Mark James-style has been, predictably, rejected and, short of his arrest, it's a fitting end to his seventeen year regime.

This week's Carmarthenshire Herald has a good write up of last week's Joint Committee meeting of the Swansea City Deal. Following those damning governance reports, of which Mark James was the prime suspect, Carmarthenshire is being squeezed out of the game. Apparently a bid was made to move the Regional Office from Carmarthen to Swansea Council but it seems Emlyn Dole threatened to pull Carmarthenshire out of the entire Deal if that went ahead.

The Herald surmises that the Rev 'two barns' Dole was emboldened by Mr James' recent instructions that the council could build the Wellness Village themselves, and burden the taxpayer for future generations, without all that pesky scrutiny of course.... Incidentally, the Wellness Village was discussed at Monday's Exec Board, behind closed doors, despite the wider calls for urgent transparency, and the catalogue of scandal. A plan B perhaps? It would be a foolhardy investor indeed who put their cash into a scandal-ridden project with no planning permission and a police investigation hanging over it. Or maybe they've bought some magic beans and are hoping for the best...

There was no mention at the Exec Board meeting of the £109,000 overspend on legal bills for the Wellness dream, a tidy sum which might have helped one or two of those struggling primary schools they were talking about, but anyway, no doubt Mr James' personal solicitors Acuity Law have done quite nicely out of it thank you.
Acuity Legal (now Acuity Law), who threatened to sue elected members
Anyway, last week's Joint Committee decided, in the end, that the Regional Office will be centred at the Beacon, Llanelli but with pop-up offices in the other counties.

However, as I said above, thanks to Mr James, the 'responsible officer' for governance, Carmarthenshire has been stripped of its responsibility for governance and audit.

The Herald, in it's inimitable way, mentions that Mark James has been absent from the last couple of City Deal meetings, (chickened out and hid, in fact) and last week, he missed, sadly, the 'ringing endorsement' of the shocking governance reports by the chair of ABMU health board (now Swansea Bay UHB) Andrew Davies. With Mr James own attack on one of the partners a couple of weeks ago and the legal spat between him and Andrew Davies (see here, and my update in the comment section), to say he's unpopular with other partners would be an understatement.

As the Herald says, "It's no secret that a number of other City Deal partners have had little time for the departing Carmarthenshire CEO".

With the axing of his role of Lead Chief Executive, if Mr James wasn't conveniently retiring, he'd have been sacked. And he knew it.
Mind you, as Jac o'the North points out today, rather than take up some innocent retirement pastime like counting his money or evicting bloggers, he has a fully-conditioned Emlyn Dole, and protegé Wendy Walters waiting in the wings....and, with his newly formed consultancy company all ready and waiting, one wonders if Mr James malign influence is far from over and will continue for many years to come...

Putting aside Mr James' arrogance, dishonesty and general poor character for a moment, its worth remembering how we got to where we are. I say we because the City Deal is supposed to benefit the entire region. The disastrous Wellness scandal did have one silver lining, and that was to force something of a rethink of funding such pocket-lining vanity projects. There is now talk of an improved transport network, which is perhaps, a start. Once the current mess has been untangled.

The scandals and allegations over the past few months (all on this blog) are all related to the Wellness project and Franz Dickmann of Sterling Health in one way or another. Added to that we have the Kuwait venture. All involve Mark James. All linked, and all suggesting self-interest (share offers, job roles, discounted houses, etc) rather than public good. The Swansea Uni allegations are hotly denied, although grievance letters from Prof Marc Clement and Vice Chancellor Richard Davies have recently been thrown out by, it is understood, the independent QC brought in to investigate the allegations.
Furthermore, both South Wales and Dyfed Powys Police forces have been investigating since March.

The scandals surrounding the Wellness Village, Sterling etc continues with yet another suspension at Swansea Uni last week. Reported by the Western Mail, though not online, Dr Gerry Ronan, a former director of the commercial spin-off company Swansea Innovations Ltd has, it is understood, been suspended over allegations relating to the Wellness project and email correspondence to former Economy Minister and AM Edwina Hart and the Wales EU funding office, and for revealing information to others, no further details are available yet.

As I have mentioned many times, in my opinion Mark James' involvement goes a lot deeper than a few casual lies to the council and the City Deal board. His priority, as we have seen over the years, is, well, none other than Mark James, a keen advocate of self-promotion, personal enrichment and tax avoidance, and as for 'democratic governance', the warning signs have been there all along.

There is only one reason why Mr James was so insistent that Dickmann's companies, Kent Neurosciences and then Sterling Health were signed up by the council to develop the project, even with bail outs, company dissolutions, debts and no proven track record....I don't need to spell it out surely? He was even plugging the virtues of Sterling when his own officers were having serious doubts about the outfit. Eventually, they were ditched.

To cap it all, Sterling, Mr James and the suspended Uni employees were all involved in the shady Kuwaiti venture, something Mr James didn't bother to declare as a registered interest despite this private enterprise potentially exposing Carmarthenshire Council to financial risk. He has also omitted to declare his own long-running private business interests.

I am of the view, and I'm not alone, that Mr James' behaviour in relation to the City Deal has been dishonest, arrogant, manipulative and secretive; reflecting his management of the council. I am also of the view that he should be criminally investigated.
And, as I have made clear in previous posts, that investigation should not just be confined to his role in the Wellness scandal.

For further background, please search this blog

Tuesday 21 May 2019

A message to Mark James

Mark James chose the momentous occasion of his own self-congratulatory 'farewell' extravaganza at the council AGM last Wednesday to launch an extraordinary attack on the press and 'anonymous bloggers'. Emlyn Dole also took a swipe.
The consensus of opinion, from those who have been in touch, was that the pointed reference to 'bloggers' included myself.
In response, I've sent my comments, which can be read in full below, directly to Mr James. 

To; Mr M James, chief executive
cc Emlyn Dole, council leader.
Friday 17th May 16:04

Dear Mr James,

Your remarks about bloggers at Wednesday's AGM require this brief response, which will also be published on my blog.

As there are not many bloggers, or "keyboard warriors" about, and, as you have actually met me, albeit in a courtroom, the consensus of opinion is that you were including me in your comment. As was Emlyn Dole.

I am not anonymous, far from it as you are well aware, and neither do I hide away in dark corners, and I'm quite capable of speaking my name. There is nothing I have said on my blog which I wouldn't say directly to you, or anyone else, in an instant. If you wish to try and argue over anything I've said, then do get in touch.
It was me who called you out and went through a public trial; you hid behind the taxpayer to make your attack, also calling on them to fund your first class travel and upmarket hotels.

You didn't even have the bottle to attend Carmarthen County Court and face me while you attempted to take my home, you hid, and you may have well used taxpayers money to pay for your legal teams. Who knows. The taxpayer had already funded your legal costs once, and your unlawful tax avoidance scam. I wouldn't put anything past you. I represented myself and was quite capable of saying a lot more than my name.
It is you who have hid Mr James, behind your puppet councillors, your legal department, your money, and your junior staff.

Urging councillors, or anyone, to ignore the press and public opinion is appalling, but has been a trademark of your regime, and councillors who have toed the line have been rewarded. Those who have not have been bullied and treated with contempt.
You have withdrawn support for local newspapers for publishing negative stories and enabled, unlawfully, for the council to sue. And more. As the chief executive of a democratically elected council you are truly beneath contempt.

You do not ignore the press or blogs as you claim, you just get someone else to read it all for you, at public expense. If it was all so unimportant then why did you refer to it all in your farewell speech?

You are a thief, a liar, a malicious bully and a coward. Everything I have said on my blog is the truth. I do not have time on my hands, we work hard to ensure we can live and that you get your monthly 'gutter' money so that you do not take our home. The time I do have I spend unearthing the facts and the truth which you are so reluctant to impart. And as I said, I will continue to hold you to account for your actions at this council, retired or not. You have not heard the last from this particular 'anonymous' blogger.

You will certainly be remembered Mr James, not as a man of vision, nor even one with a ridiculous Honour, but as the man who trashed the reputation of Carmarthenshire County Council, and the Rotten Boroughs Shit of the Year.

Yours sincerely

Jacqui Thompson

(Video clip source; BBC's @aledscourfield, for the full version of Mr James' tribute to himself, see the archived webcast)

Carmarthenshire Herald 24th May

Monday 20 May 2019

Cadno's farewell to Mark James - The Carmarthenshire Herald

As last week's AGM was the last council meeting which chief executive would, er, Chair, Mark James took the opportunity to say farewell to the captive audience. A brief and modest thank you all round and a nod of good luck in the direction of Wendy Walters would, of course, have sufficed.

But no, this is Mark James. First up was leader of the council, Emlyn Dole with his oozing, loving tribute. It was cringeworthy, embarrassingly so, and, had she still been a councillor, would have even outshone Meryl. Dear loyal Emlyn had even made a book full of photos of Mr James to present as an offering, which he did, almost on bended knee. There may have also been tears.
Emlyn also took a swipe at 'anonymous bloggers'.

It didn't stop there, oh no. That was just the warm-up, the main event was Mr James' own tribute to himself; a half-hour Power Point presentation, made all by himself, about himself. It was an unedifying spectacle of arrogance and misplaced self-praise, heaped upon himself without a shred of grace nor humility, a snapshot into the warped world according to Mark James. Need I say more.

However, it was his comments about the press and bloggers which summed up the supreme arrogance of the man and which also deserve a response, one I have sent directly to Mr James and will publish on this blog in due course.

Meanwhile, here's The Herald's excellent 'Cadno' with his observations and farewell message;

Cadno sings a goodbye song

OH WHAT a circus! Oh what a show!
All of those tears shed for the old CEO!” 
Maybe those aren’t the Tim Rice lyrics warbled so fetchingly by David Essex, but the rest of the song neatly captures the hysteria that followed the death of Eva Peron, whose husband was one of South America’s more determined dictators. 
Somehow the above sprung to Cadno’s mind as he watched the parade of hand-wringing tributes to Mark James CeeBeebies. 
First up was Emlyn Dole. 
There is no polite way of putting this: where Emlyn did not suck, he blew.
Cadno was reminded of an incident years ago when he was a young outdoors clerk for a firm of solicitors.
He had to take some documents to Court for his employer. While he was waiting, Cadno sat behind a much older solicitor who was in earnest conversation with his client. The old solicitor was one of those who still turned up to Court with a waistcoat and watch chain and Cadno remembers he had a reputation for persuading Courts to see slightest glimmer of hope in even the most hopeless of cases.
We’ll call him Hywel. 
Hywel was deep in conversation with his client, a well-known thug who – charming while sober – turned into a violent maniac when one over the eight. 
On this occasion, the thug had punched someone’s lights outside a pub and been collared by the officers in a passing panda car (giving you some idea how long ago this was). 
Cadno earwigged, hoping to catch tips.
Hywel leaned in towards his client.
What was his plan? 
“Right, boy, I’m going to tell ‘em you’re very sorry. I’ll tell ‘em you were provoked. Then I’ll tell ‘em your missus is pregnant. And if that doesn’t work, I’ll get the onion out.” 
And so back to Emlyn Dole’s gushing tribute to Mark James. 
Emlyn did not get out a single onion. The greengrocers of Carmarthen must have had a bumper time of it. 
But wasn’t he so miffed about what people he never reads say about his precious mucker. There was no sycophantic praise from Emlyn… he gave credit where it was due. That must have been true, because Emlyn said so. 
He made Mark James sound like a combination of Sherlock Holmes and Yoda.
Which must be true if Emlyn thinks it. 
There was no doubting Cllr Dole’s deep sincerity and attachment to Mr James. Which rather illustrates the importance of the separation of the political executive and the administration. The lines between both have become uncomfortably blurred in Carmarthenshire – and they did in Pembrokeshire before it defenestrated its former long-serving CEO.  
At least Mr James departed on his own terms.
And then he gave his own speech. 
And what a charmingly graceless humble-bragging performance it was. 
“Humble-bragging?” Cadno hears you ask, readers.
For those of you unfamiliar with the term, Cadno will elucidate. 
Humble-bragging is making an ostensibly modest or self-deprecating statement whose actual purpose is to draw attention to something of which one is proud.  
Wow, readers! Does Mark James not half like the old humblebrag?! 
Inviting councillors to join him on a trip through all of his yesterdays, he began by relating that he was not keen on the Carmarthenshire job when first approached. Indeed, readers, rather like Saint Peter, he denied it three times before putting his name forward. He was sure, however, to self-deprecatingly mention what a go-getter the agent who touted him for the job thought old CeeBeebies was. 
He related how, all those years ago, he did no preparation for the final phase of the interview process.
Instead he wandered around the town of Carmarthen and found inspiration in the site of the empty mart and thought of what a waste of space it was in a prime development location. 
Pointing out those accomplices… councillors … who were still on the Council from those days, he was pleased that his vision for ‘getting something done’ was one that had got him the job and – lo! – for seventeen years kept him in it. 
Now, readers, whatever his faults as a person, Mark James’ speech gave a very good idea of just what kept him in control at Carmarthenshire for such a long period of time and how he was able to bend administrations to his will. 
He praised councillors by name and by group for their vision and determination in agreeing with his determination and vision. 
The old oil can was liberally deployed and no opportunity was spared to lard on praise in a way which – ever so humbly – reflected back on himself. 
And then, the beneficiary of an unlawful libel indemnity who has not hesitated to splash around nebulous suggestions that fair comment is potentially defamatory said that he did not read newspapers and denigrated those who had dared to criticise him as barely able to speak their own name when dragged out into the light. Presumably through the benefit of that same unlawful funding. 
As graceless performances go, Mark James’ took some topping. He doesn’t read his critics, he just sues them on the backs of Council Tax payers. 
No wonder Rob James observed that when people thought of the reputation of the local authority (opaque, over-sensitive to criticism, reluctant to accept scrutiny), they thought of Mark James. A little tin god in a bully pulpit who was ready to settle the libel claim against him by Jacqui Thompson until the Executive stumped up the money for him and who lied to the press when he said no offers had been made to settle the judgement debt he secured as a result of Council Tax payers’ unwitting largesse. 
That’s the problem when you spend seventeen years in one job, readers. Eventually the skeletons come tumbling out of the closet and the real you becomes apparent.  
The tax avoidance scheme on a seven-figure pension pot. 
The fact that, as far as Mark James is concerned, he can throw the £35,000 he promised to hand over to his employers and then to charity into the gutter if he chooses. 
That’s a measure of his character and the inheritance he leaves for his successor. 
A wise owl reminded Cadno this week that it was entirely possible that nothing would become Mark James’ career more than his departure from it. 
Nothing underlined Mark James’ character than his reaction to a small still voice in the crowd singing: “The king is in the altogether, the altogether, the altogether/He’s altogether as naked as the day that he was born.”