Monday 18 February 2019

Unlawful payments - payback time?

The Wales Audit Office have confirmed that they will be reviewing any exit package agreed for the chief executive prior to his retirement in June.

That was the response I had when I asked the WAO if they would be instructing Mr James to repay the unlawful libel indemnity and the tax avoidance pension cash.

Whatever agreement is made with Mr James, whether it's a straightforward pension or something more, these illegal payments should be returned to the council. The WAO insisted on a similar instruction when the former chief executive Bryn Parry Jones left Pembrokeshire in 2014. The WAO sent me a link to the details.

I have also asked Jonathan Edwards MP and Adam Price AM to detail the steps they will be taking to ensure Mr James accepts liability and repays the cash before he retires.

I mentioned to them that in 2014 Mr Edwards was in the press stating that Mr James should be instructed to repay the money, and, presumably nothing has changed...? Well, apart from their colleague at the council, Emlyn Dole, now a loyal disciple of Mr James, and, remarkably, trying to reinstate the illegal clauses and also enable councillors to unawfully sue with public money.
Anyway, I emailed them on 3rd February but I've yet to receive a response. When I do, I'll post it here.

The illegal cash directly pocketed by Mr James is detailed in the two public interest reports and amounts to around £60,000, but is the tip of an iceberg. The council were charged £51,000 for the two reports, they spent £30,000 on a QC to defend him, and incalculable hours of officer time, meetings and external legal advice. This doesn't include his misuse of council facilities and resources to pursue his personal agenda and failed complaints to the police.

The scandals were indefensible, I'll not repeat it all again here, but in my view it was theft, and he should not be allowed to get away with it. A more junior employee certainly wouldn't have.
As for the illegal libel indemnity we now know that on top of the WAO's findings, he also made false statements to extort the cash.

Mr James once said to me (in writing) that he would use "all legal means possible" to get his 'damages' from me. Well, he's certainly tried. I'd like to say the same about his ill-gotten gains, or proceeds of crime, being returned to the council, but unfortunately I don't have an unlimited pot of taxpayers cash and the free use of a publicly funded legal department, complete with a complicit head of department, at my disposal to do so.

I'll certainly try though, retired or not, and so should those who have the clout, and the bottle, to force the issue.

* * *

My second query to the Wales Audit Office was a request for the detailed remit of the investigation they are carrying out into the Council's decision making relating to the Wellness Village.

This was refused on the grounds that disclosure of documents could interfere with the work of the Auditor General. For instance, the council would become even more reluctant to hand over information, and also that "political and media" interest could effect the impartiality of the process and 'weaken the mechanisms by which local authorities are held to account'.

So, we'll have to wait and see the final report.

As I have already mentioned, the outrageous use of the chief executive's own personal solicitors, Acuity Legal to carry out the council's own 'review' is not, for reasons which are obvious, worth the paper it's expensively written on. 

Incidentally, the WAO's detailed response did not suggest for one moment that they had been 'invited' by the council to carry out the review, as claimed by the chief executive to all 74 councillors.

As I have reported here, Mark of Arabia, Mr James has failed to register any interests apart from his directorship of Trinity Uni, and definitely not his exploits in Kuwait, or even Cardiff.

Register of officers' interests, FOI, February 5th 2019

And as I have mentioned here, the net is closing in, and there are now two police forces investigating the latest scandals involving Mark James CBE.

* * *

Update 20th February
Since publishing this post, and the FOI response for officers' interests above, I received a further response this morning. Apparently, and inexplicably, I was not sent the full list of interests on the 5th Feb. This 'omission' was blamed on a junior member of staff...despicable.

Anyway, for Mark James, we now have this;

There's still no mention of Kuwait, or Cardiff.
Nor, for that matter a financial interest in a certain resident's home...
And I wonder where the candidate site for the LDP is? It couldn't be the one for several acres of residential development adjoining his residence in Carmarthen could it? Well, that'd be one way of giving him a nice little nest egg I suppose....

(For the remaining officers, please follow this link.)

One consolation is that the pay for the new chief executive will be £145k, a drop of over £30k, this was announced at today's full council meeting.

Please use the searchbox on the right for background to the two issues discussed in this post


Anonymous said...

Quote: "An MP has called for the chief executive of Carmarthenshire Council to pay back money deemed ‘unlawful’ by the Wales Audit Office.

Following Pembrokeshire councillors’ request last week that Bryn Parry Jones should pay back his unlawful pension payments, Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards has renewed his call for Mark James to do the same.

Mr Edwards goes one step further and states that Mr James should be ‘instructed’ to pay back the money".

Plaid's problem in this is one of their own homegrown sycophants who will at all costs protect Mark James even though it is embarrassing for the Plaid party. Emlyn clearly has no respect or regard for his parties credibility or standing in the community. It will be interesting to see if either Adam Price or Jonathan Ewards has the grit to prove to the public they don't just 'talk the talk' but 'walk the walk'. When Mark James goes so should Emlyn and Legal Linda.

Anonymous said...

So, according to Wales Online Mark James must have lied again when he said he'd told members of his interests in Kuwait, as they report he told noone. Bet your life he told his disciple Dole! Are Ministers in cahoots with this man as it is certainly looking that way.

Anonymous said...

That is called "Passing the buck".
As expected.
Keep your backs to the wall Councillors.

Sian Caiach said...

Emlyn Dole is just a weak man trapped by a clever man. He may have joined Plaid Cymru and become a councillor more for personal ambition and status than ideology - many do. He does not believe in working for Independence because, he says, if it ever happens it won't be in his lifetime. His politics seem quite shallow.
I don't see the point of blaming all this on him when a succession of previous Council Leaders of all parties have also been persuaded by Council officers to approve and support not only the Wellness project but other schemes of questionable value to the people and economy of Carmarthenshire.
T have heard a story that one day recently a local MP, Nia Griffith, was minding her own business when she was approached by a middle aged lady cyclist who dismounted and then berated Nia .in quite aggressive tones, as regards the MP's opposition to the current plans for the Wellness Centre in Llanelli. Nia, founder of the LLanelli Flood forum, had raised concerns on the failure of the County Council to address the flooding and other environmental issues of the site. The lady cyclist was very angry and upset about this. Nia did not recognise her and only after some time did she realise the identity of the bitter complainant was Mrs Emlyn Dole, Gwenda Owen, the owner of the famous 2 barns demolished without planning permission and with the support of an allegedly forged statement.

If true it suggests that perhaps the whole Dole family are feeling the strain. T don't know who is advising Emlyn from Plaid Central but he should surely resign , not only for his family but for his party. He is in too deep and the longer he hesitates the more likelihood of further damaging revelations. A new leader of Council without close past links to Mr James is needed from Plaid's back benches, there area number of quite competent Plaid councillors who meet this criteria and I'm sure the group can find one.

Anonymous said...

Emlyn Dole is doing a fine job on his own of disgracing himself and his party and doesn't require any assistance from his wife to make things worse - if that's possible. It seems, just like her husband, challenging and asking searching questions on council matters of huge importance for everyone, to ensure everything is above board and taxpayers money well spent, is just not acceptable here in Carmarthenshire. Mark James clearly gets the backing of both Mr and Mrs Dole. Banners next then?

Anonymous said...

The way Plaid is imploding in Carmarthenshire - Adam Price needs to step in especially it being in his own back yard

The mess going on in Carmarthenshire beggars belief any promises for job creation and reducing deprivation is pie in the sky

There needs to be a fresh start

Anonymous said...

Goodness knows how many Plaid supporters have been lost in Carmarthenshire purely as a consequence of the dire goings-on led by Dole etc. so you are quite right, Anon @ 12.42, Adam Price needs to get a handle on this - and quickly.

As for entry in the register of interests which has suddenly, miraculously materialised (after a "mistake by a junior" ha-bleedin-ha), the word on the street is that there are plans afoot to build in the field behind the CeeBeebie's current residence.

Martin Milan said...

Mistake from a junior?

I'm a school governor - not as lofty as Mark James of course but it's a public office and I too am required to make a declaration of interests...

As a software developer who out of 200 projects has ONE with Coolmilk (A school milk provider), I declared that straight away. My employer, and so indirectly I myself, benefit from Coolmilk's prosperity - so down it goes...

I am perfectly able to set Coolmilk's interests aside when making decisions, but instead I would recuse myself from any discussion on school milk. Why? Because it's not about having a conflict of interest - it's about the potential perception of one. Joe / Joanna public have every right to know that their is scope for there to be an issue, and to hold me to account for it. The point is, My own opinion of whether there is a conflict of interest doesn't matter - it's their opinion that counts...

For this reason, when I accepted office and declared my interests, one of the first things I did was to check that they a) Have been recorded correctly, and b) Are being openly published on the school website. I could have asked the school secretary to do that, but as a holder of public office it's my own responsibility to see that it is done, not her's...

It was never Mark James's junior's responsibility either...

Anonymous said...

There are a number of plaid councillors who have or still hold senior management position in their day by day activities
They know themselves how badly run Carmarthenshire is

Why do they do nothing to change the current situation - they are professionals in their own right and must act to sort this out