Monday 25 March 2019

Email from my MP....and Acuity Law threaten to sue 'elected members'

Last month I asked my MP, Jonathan Edwards (Plaid) a few questions. Essentially they concerned the repayment, by Mr James, of the unlawful payments; the farcical CRWG meeting last July including the Monitoring Officer's conflict of interest, and last but not least, whether it was appropriate for Acuity Legal, (now rebranded as Acuity Law) who also represent Mr James personally, to produce a report on the council and the Wellness scandal.

The passage of time, and, more to the point, the passage of Plaid from opposition to power in Carmarthenshire appears to have had a diluting effect on the once rigorously expressed criticism, prevalent from Plaid politicians. Fancy that.

The response got off to a bad start as Mr Edwards' appears to have misunderstood my question concerning repayment of the unlawful payments. I'd made it quite clear I was referring to the Wales Audit Office public interest reports and reminded Mr Edwards of his call for repayment back in 2014.

However, and I suppose there may have been some confusion, he referred instead, (and I paraphrase), to the chief executive's failure to honour the undertaking to his employers to hand over the libel damages to the council. A slightly different thing. He also said there was nothing that could be done about it.
What they could have done, following the revelation in 2017 that he had lied about handing over the damages, was to call for his dismissal for gross misconduct. But never mind.
As for repaying the unlawful payments before he retires, damn right he should.

Anyway, moving on, I also asked about the minutes of the CRWG meeting, namely the Plaid led majority decision to reinstate the unlawful indemnity clause, and the (still non-existent I think) letter to the WAO.

Whilst I am still fairly certain that Mr Edwards personally believes the clause, and the whole indemnity thing to be wrong, and unlawful, Plaid council leader Emlyn Dole has now dutifully changed his view to that of his benefactor, Mr James, so Mr Edwards' response to me was a fudge.

The group were, according to Mr Edwards, seeking 'clarity' on the 'rights of indemnity', which is not quite what the minutes reveal. Neither do the minutes reveal, as he asserts, a lack of appetite amongst the Plaid group for reinstatement.
In actual fact, they even wanted to extend the unlawful provision to councillors.

I have, as it happens, already sent the minutes to the WAO and asked their opinion on the resolution made at the CRWG meeting. I await their response.
(Update 17:25; Received a response from the WAO's Anthony Barrett, the then Appointed Auditor who issued the 2014 report. He has confirmed that further to the minutes of the CRWG meeting no correspondence has been received by the WAO and 'In the absence of any other information being brought to our attention my current view is unchanged from that documented in the report.' ie, it was unlawful)

As for Ms Rees Jones dispensing her 'independent' advice to councillors on the 'lawfulness' of libel indemnities, given her central role in defending Mr James during the libel trial and beyond, he said; "It would not be appropriate for me as an elected member of another body to question whether it is right or not that an employee discharges their duty.  However, it is open to all elected members and the public to question the advice given."
So, er, that was that, although he certainly has a point about questioning the Ms Rees Jones' legal advice, this is something elected members should have been doing long ago. They should have sacked her.

And then we come to Acuity Law, the chief executive and the conflict of interest.

To be clear on this point, I had asked;

"I would be grateful for your comment regarding the appointment of Acuity Legal to produce a report on the council's actions and processes concerning the Wellness Village, as the company also act in a personal capacity for Mr James. This was far from irrelevant, and was in fact highly improper and undoubtedly brings into question the independence and objectivity of the report.
This is all the more relevant given Mr James' involvement with the developers [Sterling] and the currently suspended University staff from the inception of the project. As you are aware, matters have now been referred to the police." (Emphasis added)

Mr Edwards did not give a view, but reveals, within his response, that

"...I understand that the firm in question have challenged those elected members who have made the same accusations as yourself in your letter to justify their insinuations/accusations or face action" 

So, in plain language, Acuity Law have threatened to sue elected members for defamation and have, I understand, issued a letter, or letters, before action. Letters before action usually demand the removal of the alleged defamatory statement(s), a promise not to repeat, and the payments of costs and damages to date.

Very interesting.

I have, as you may imagine, plenty to say about this disappointing legal posturing from Acuity, but it will have to wait for now until matters progress one way or another...


Tessa said...

Have I misread? It reads to me like your MP avoids giving a view (thereby turning away), and even perhaps hints with a threat ( re Acuity Legal) that you might face legal action, and thereby becomes complicit?! BOLLOCKS (his being the size of garden peas)! You have simply raised the question of Conflict Of Interest. EVEREYONE should have raised this question - indeed Acuity Legal should have some kind of checklist or whatever to raise and consider it and to provide to those who question it! UNBELIEVABLE that in response to such questions, they threaten legal action! Won't someone please contact the Legal Ombudsman?

Anonymous said...

Not surprising politicians aren't exactly respected for being open and honest. To add insult to injury Mr Edwards suggests members and members of the public can exercise their right to ask questions! Really Mr Edwards? You know full well that asking Ms Jones or the CEO, or anyone else for that matter, within this rotten council, questions Mark James does not want answered,truthfully,is to invite hostility for daring to ask in the first instance, followed by a threat to sue if you continue to challenge the web of deceitful responses you receive. What should happen at that point is for our politicians to step in and demand proper truthful answers. Do they? Do they hell! Wales = Sicilian cartel.

Unknown said...

Looks like dissenting questioning members are to suffer the same fate as you Jacqui. Somehow I would not have thought this legal firm would have gone ahead with these strong arm tactics without Executive and the CEO's approval. If these members are taken on for defamation by this legal firm and as they were only asking legitimate questions we'd all like to know the answer to the CCC would rightly be expected to support them in court financially if it went that far. Time the Executive and CEO stopped digging the metaphorical hole they're in, jumped out, and started to address the concerns we all have.

Unknown said...

I expect you've had quite a few comments about Acuity Legal and its threats. I'm reminded of the CEO Mark James' complaints to the Ombudsman against Sian Caiach when she was a CCC member for putting forward questions which neither he nor the executive wanted to answer. I believe the Ombudsman told him to grow a thicker skin and Sian was cleared of wrongdoing each time. Good to see there are others standing up to the bullying and intimidating actions of our Council. Be nice if there were more members speaking up and our AMs getting involved as the ball is in their court to actually do something not our MPs as it's the Welsh Assembly/Gov that oversees our Local Government not Westminster.

Martin Milan said...

Sian was by far the best councillor they had, and the rest of the members were too stupid to recognise it...

Anonymous said...

Good to hear Anthony Barrett gave an honest response, no fudge there. What is wrong with Cllr Dole who runs with the fox but thinks it OK to hunt with the hounds. Clear the smoke Cllr Dole and shine the mirrors. When are you going to step down from this role that you are totally unsuitable for. Although Plaid don't seem to have an issue with your deception, the public do - it is totally unacceptable.

Redhead said...

I'm confused. What would Acuity Legal sue them for?

Sian Caiach said...

Not too stupid Martin, too scared, and the bullying, threats and control by legal action seem alive and well today just like when I was in Council. Jacqui is a clear example of how you and your family will face financial ruin and endless harassment if you dare to expose the greed and misdeeds of a senior local government civil servant. You might even be prosecuted now it seems by your own elected colleagues [in theory, but we know who pulls the strings on these puppets]

Emlyn Dole has got himself caught in the mire of what the public would call cronyism, corruption and misuse of public funds, but of course its all O.K. because Emlyn, an elected representative of the people and nominal leader of council, has, on paper, sanctioned it all. The Wales Audit office claim actions were unlawful but rely on those who supposedly run this council, the councillors, to deal with misdemeanours.

If maladministration like this was found in the private sector in a firm with a turnover of over £ HALF A BILLION ,the shareholders would be up in arms but the only "victims" here are democracy in general and the people of Carmarthenshire in particular. It beggars belief that it has been tolerated by all the political parties represented in County Hall, and by the National Government itself. I personally will not stand by and let these bastards get away with it.

I lost my career in NHS hospital medicine by exposing other Llanelli surgical consultants who worked with me and who bolstered their private practice profits by persuading the local management to let them see and operate on private patients in their NHS time using NHS resources such as operating theatres, NHS beds and implants and pocketing the "private" fees when much of the treatment was payed for by the NHS while the doctors themselves were apparently paid twice, their NHS salary while actually treating paying private patients. It seems Wales is such a sh~t hole, full of poor people, that they were able to threaten that they would leave if not enriched by public funds, and got their way.

Many of these scumbags see stealing public money as a victim-less crime and in the case of my colleagues in Llanelli, they were clearly on another level, high above the lazy and feckless locals who were not queuing up to pay privately but trying to use the NHS when surely putting money straight into the pockets of the doctors was much more desirable. My colleagues said they would make sure I never worked again and although my blacklisting was not recorded anywhere, it was very effective.

How can ordinary people, without money and powerful friends,be they councillors or members of the public, stand up to all this? I'm disgusted with AM Jonathan Edwards who has decided to put Party before Justice for Jacqui and Carmarthenshire. His reply to you sounds like it was written by legal Linda herself and maybe passed on to gutless Jonathan by Desperate Dole?

I remember the days when Emlyn Dole, as an opposition councillor, treated you, Jacqui with respect and some compassion. Very different now when he is entrapped in the web spun for every leader of Carmarthenshire County Council to keep them in their place while others, the local government civil servants, run the show. Even when these protagonists are gone the toxic culture will take a lot of effort to eliminate.

Anonymous said...

Notice Before Action letters are usually sent out by dodgy solicitors to try and intimidate people into declining to speak out.A reference should be made to the Law Society, asking that Acuity's apparent conflict of interest be investigated. The Law Society get very exercised about such activities by it's members, as so it should.

caebrwyn said...

Well said @SianCaiach.
I won't let the bastards get away with it either.

Patricia B said...

I too say 'well said Sian'. There are so many of us who have not only been treated appallingly with lies and smear but also, as in my case, have been the subject of many false arrests. (I wonder why?) Some of us have lost large amounts of money, jobs, and homes. Our crimes; simply whistleblew or complained. It doesn't seem possible. The emotional toll of this on a person can be manifestly destructive, impacting upon every single aspect of their lives. For me, this is yet another crime amongst the several already committed against myself. Until Wales accepts it has a deep-rooted problem it is never going to be rectified. Is it time for whistleblowers and complainants to form an action group? One such group was formed a few years ago and had some minor successes. It had the potential of exposing so much had it continued.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Edwards is the MP, I believe, not an AM. I think Adam Price is the AM for Carmarthen East & Dinefwr

Unknown said...

Well said Sian you're still putting your head above the parapet I see. Keep safe as it isn't the Ombudsman hearing Mark James' complaints against his critics now but a group who also seem to also want to silence & act against CCC's members right to ask questions. Toxic culture still fully in operation.

Anonymous said...

I think Adam Price has gone into hiding.
He does not appear to like effort.
He only criticises others.

Anonymous said...

An FOI request for all correspondence from ABMU Chair to joint committee?

caebrwyn said...

Anon 22:54. Ah yes indeed, see my next post (29th March).

Tessa said...

@MartinMilan - well said.
@SianCaiach - the other councillors don't deserve your excuses for them. I was present at more than one Council meeting to hear them baying over you when you tried to speak. Arseholes.
Also well done for disclosing the details of your whistle-blowing. I daresay it continues unchecked all over the place - same as the MP's expenses - but good for you for taking a stand.
Proper brave, you are.

Lesley said...

Hear, hear, Tessa. I, too, watched in horror several times as Sian was treated with extreme discourtesy before being ordered to sit down like a naughty schoolchild when she dared to try to make a point during council meetings. How she kept going as long as she did fills me with admiration. They are an appalling lot who have the nerve to mouth Christian prayers before acting with such disregard for common decency.