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You have withdrawn support for local newspapers for publishing negative stories and enabled, unlawfully, for the council to sue.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.”

Saturday 11 May 2019

City Deal; The 'potentially defamatory' letter...the row continues

Please see previous post; Health Board Chair slams Mark James over City Deal for background

Back in March, as above, I blogged about an explosive letter from the Chair of ABMU health board Andrew Davies to the Joint Committee of the City Deal questioning the truth of statements made by Mark James in this whole sorry saga and the scandals surrounding the Wellness Village.

The letter included reference to the Nolan principles, or rather the lack of them. In fact it cites all seven principles of public life; selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and promoting these principles through leadership.
In particular, the letter focussed on integrity, and all breaches related directly to Mark James.
The letter was leaked to the press.

True to form, Carmarthenshire Council started threatening legal action claiming it was seeking legal advice as the contents of the letter was 'potentially defamatory'. As it was, according to the council, 'potentially defamatory' of Mark James, it wasn't clear just who was going to sue, nor who was going to fund it.
Whether this was just noisy legal posturing isn't clear, but Plaid council leader Emlyn Dole, ie Mark James, has penned a bitter response to the Chair, and leaked it to BBC Wales.

Cllr Dole has accused Andrew Davies, who was previously a Labour minister in the Welsh Government, of trying to cause "as much trouble as possible" rather than ensuring that plans for the Wellness village progress, he dismisses his claims and describes his comments as "a remarkable attack on the Chief Executive of our County Council".

Councillor Dole, or rather, Mark James, was also outraged that the Chair's letter had been released to the press, (...and duly leaked Cllr Dole's response to it to BBC Wales...)

Plaid Cymru AM Helen Mary Jones has even joined in the row and said that Andrew Davies'  intervention could be interpreted as a political act and questions why he did not raise concerns directly with Carmarthenshire County Council. (Really?!)

Mr Davies told BBC Wales that his letter was not politically motivated, and his only concern was highlighting the transparency (or lack of) of the City Deal and making sure "things are done right ". adding that the recent damning internal and external governance reviews had supported his concerns. Too right they did. He made it clear he was chair of an impartial Health Board, which, as a City Deal partner, sought to raise concerns about governance.

In my view, the letter from Mr Davies was spot on, and refreshingly forthright and honest.

As I have pointed out throughout recent months, and indeed years, Mark James is a compulsive liar, he has not only misled the City Deal Board, but his own council.
And not just, of course, over the Wellness village and the City Deal, he's spent seventeen years cultivating his toxic power trip which started, allegedly, in Boston.

There was no political motivation for the letter, this is a typical accusation used against anyone who says anything untoward about Mr James, or his current 'ruling' cabal, in County Hall, it doesn't wash in the wider world where, to be honest, neither Mr Davies, nor Labour, would have anything to gain. Nor would he have anything to gain from causing 'trouble' for the sake of it.

Cllr Dole's outrage that the letter was leaked to the press is equally remarkable, hilarious even, given that the notorious sham report prepared by Mark James' personal solicitors, Acuity Law, was also leaked to the press.

That leak, in my opinion, could have only come from Mark James himself.

Clearly Emlyn 'two barns' Dole is happy to take the bullet, again, for Mark James. His unwavering defence of the tin-pot dictator, and willingness to act as a paid mouthpiece, suggest again that he owes his position as leader to Mr James, in return for his astonishing u-turn over those illegal payments and his support to reinstate the unlawful clauses...and goodness knows what else.

In what capacity he has responded to Mr Davies is unclear, as a spokesman for the entire council, or leader of the Plaid group, or Mr James' bodyguard? If the accusations were against Mr James, why didn't he respond? Then again, I suppose Emlyn has his uses...just like Meryl. The next stage of the defence will come on Monday when the Exec Board PR machine, complete with a report blaming everyone else apart from Mark James, 'considers' the governance reports.

As for a 'remarkable attack on the chief executive', let's have a look at Mr James' recent rap sheet.

He's been involved and implicated in the Wellness fiasco from day one. He was behind the scandalous appointment of Kent Neurosciences aka Sterling, even claiming that Sterling were up to the job when other officers of the council were having serious doubts, and his close association with the suspended academics at Swansea University goes way back to the inception of the project leading up to his equally scandalous, and undeclared venture in Kuwait.
The appointment of his solicitors, Acuity Law to provide nothing less than a publicly funded personal defence, was the pinnacle of self-serving arrogance.

Furthermore, the police are now involved.

The recent governance reports, the ones not under the control of Mark James, give a damning indictment of the governance of the Deal, and conclude, in so many words, that neither he, nor Legal Linda and co are fit for purpose.
This catastrophic failure was one I predicted over a year ago, they gave the job to the wrong man, and the wrong council and this has irreparably damaged not only trust, but the progress of the Deal. Neath Port Talbot's recent threat to pull out of the Deal is a case in point.
Hopefully the convenient retirement of the wrong man, and a major shake up of the Deal will ease the long and expensive path to repair.
Just as long as they don't use Ffynnon Consulting Ltd as their management consultants...

The threat of legal action by 'the council', whether they were bluffing or not, is, of course, very interesting and deeply concerning. I asked Linda Rees Jones to elaborate on the matter, and also whether this legal advice was being sought from Acuity Law, which would be very concerning, on so many levels.
I reminded her that a council cannot sue, and neither can they fund Mr James to sue either.
She was predictably cagey, insisting that they could quite happily fund Mr James if they so desired but "As regards the ABMU Chair’s letter I have no instructions in the matter". 
I should think not. Though it would be useful to Mr James if they could kindly cough up the cash just before he retires though wouldn't it...

At the risk of repeating myself, Mr James should have been suspended months ago, he is in it up to his neck. He should be investigated by the police whether he's at the council or not. Likewise, he should not be allowed to retire without repaying the illegal tax avoidance and libel indemnity payments, these amount to nothing less than fraud and theft. He is a thoroughly dishonest and untrustworthy individual and should have been sacked when those scandals emerged. Mr James' priority is personal enrichment, nothing else.
It is a disgraceful indictment of the law, Welsh Government and his employers that he has been allowed to get away with so much and for so long.
However, as I have said, I will pursue him to ensure he is held to account, retirement or not.
And, unlike Mr James, I keep my promises.