Friday, 14 November 2014

"Scrutiny committee set up to look at the East Devon Business Forum, which Mr Brown chaired, should now reconsider its scope."

Following on from yesterday's announcement
Futures Forum: Ex-Cllr Graham Brown, the East Devon Business Forum and the District Council's CEO's pre-emptive strike against the Business TAFF

... there have been further reports in the media:
BBC Spotlight features ex-councillor Brown news | East Devon Alliance

Tory councillor cleared after 20 month police investigation

By Western Morning News | Posted: November 12, 2014

Police have cleared an East Devon councillor and planning consultant of criminal wrongdoing after a newspaper sting operation sparked a 20-month investigation.

Former Feniton and Buckerell Conservative Graham Brown resigned his last March seat after being caught on camera boasting he could secure planning permission for a fee.

East Devon District Council referred Mr Brown’s comments to the police, under the Bribery Act 2010, and the council’s own policy on fraud, theft and anti-corruption. Police yesterday said the matter “is now closed.”

“No arrests have ever been made in relation to the investigation, although there has been extensive and robust enquiries into the allegations as a result of a report in the national media,” the force added.

Council chief executive Mark Williams told councillors a scrutiny committee set up to look at the East Devon Business Forum, which Mr Brown chaired, should now reconsider its scope.

He said the committee was set up amid a “febrile atmosphere during which all manner of things were being alleged” and now should narrow its focus.

Tory councillor cleared after 20 month police investigation | Western Morning News

At last night's District Council Overview & Scrutiny Cttee, the Police Commissioner gave a presentation and took questions:
Police and Crime Commissioner at this evening’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee (6.30pm, Knowle) | East Devon Alliance
The Official Site of the Devon and Cornwall Police and Crime Commissioner
Tony Hogg's Quarterly Report November 2014

The final item on the agenda also included:
On completion of TaFF: Business Task and Finish Forum final report

There were several points raised by Councillors and members of the public during the three-and-a-half hour meeting:

Knowle relocation project:


November 14th, 2014

….So said Councillor Halse, referring to his opposition to the Knowle relocation project, at tonight’s stormy Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting. He argued that the economic climate had changed so radically since the Council office move had first been mooted, that relocation no longer made sense. He told the assembled councillors, “We need to make a modern decision” not to have a white elephant in some outpost of the District.

More revealing quotes from the meeting to come later……

“I have to warn councillors, an election is coming”, O&S Committee told | East Devon Alliance



November 14th, 2014

There were several…
For starters….

Devon and Cornwall Police & Crime Commissioner(PCC),Tony Hogg, spent nearly an hour and a half addressing last night’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee(OSC). He answered a barrage of councillors’ pre-submitted questions, some directly or indirectly linked to the police investigation into an influential EDDC ex-councillor. (The case was closed on 12/11/14, the day before yesterday ).

For example (N.B. Below is a summary only.Recording of the meeting, available on EDDC website soon):

1. Q. Is a PCC informed of progress of ongoing police investigations?
Ans. Only ones that promote a risk to the public or to the reputation of the police/ only high-profile ones

2. Q. Are there safeguards to monitor police relations with partner organisations?
Ans. “I have every confidence” that D&C police are impartial. A joint Audit Committee keeps checks, and a complaints process and appeal system exists.

3. Q. Is declaring membership of the Freemasons a requirement for all staff?
Ans. Membership of this large, charitable organisation “has no bearing on police membership”. No obligation to declare, as it is not a prohibited organisation.

4. Q. As Transparency International warns that bribery in local government, and electoral corruption, are both increasing, what measures should be taken?
Ans. a) Electoral corruption..follow Electoral Commission guidance. b) Bribery…local governments have their own defence against fraud.

5. Q. Why had the Graham Brown Investigation been so lengthy?
Ans. (from the PCC’s colleague, Chief Superintendent Keith Perkin) There were delays in the initial part of the investigation, which “didn’t start for a number of months”. That was regretted, he said. The case was “a complex one” , with “in excess of 40 individuals” being seen. It was “undertaken by specialist investigators”, who had not found enough to reach “the threshold of evidence” for criminal charges to be made.

Three supplementary questions were asked. Two were from Cllr Claire Wright (Independent), who picked up Mr Williams’ phrase (in his e-mail to councillors, 12.11.2014), that the Brown investigation “hasn’t identified (anything) worth pursuing”. She asked if there would be a report and recommendations from the police to EDDC, and whether that would be made public. “I’ll get back to you.”, Chief Superintendent Perkin replied. He gave the same reply to her second question about whether or not Devon and Cornwall are satisfied that they have interviewed everyone.
Cllr Ben Ingham (Independent) was concerned that the initial delay had contributed to the findings, and had perhaps influenced the outcome of the inquiry. The Chief Inspector assured him that “No evidence was lost as a result of the initial delay”.

Much more to come on last night’s OSC…

Repercussions of the Brown affair at last night’s Council meeting | East Devon Alliance



November 14th, 2014

More on the Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OSC)……

A heated clash took place at last night’s OSC meeting, between Independent Councillor Roger Giles and the Chief Executive, over the content of Mr Williams’ letter to councillors on 12 November, 2014.

Cllr Giles took advantage of the presence of Chief Superintendent Keith Perkin to as what view the officer would take of someone divulging the name of a person interviewed by the police in connection with a criminal inquiry. “A dim one”, was the reply.

Cllr Giles then asked “What view would you take of the Chief Executive of EDDC yesterday issuing a message in which he named a person interviewed by the police, that person being an East Devon District Councillor”.

Cue applause from the public seats and tut-tutting from some Tory members.

Commissioner Hogg intervened: “You can’t put the police in this position!”, and Chair Tim Wood hurried on to the next question.

Later, after the Police & Crime Commissioner(PCC) and his colleagues had left, Mr Williams called on Cllr Giles to apologise to the PCC for asking an embarrassing question.

Cllr Giles retorted angrily to the CEO that he had never known such inappropriate behaviour from a Chief Executive.

While no Conservative councillors expressed any concern over the revelation, Independent Susie Bond commented that such “outing” of witnesses in police inquiries could well discourage “whistle-blowers” from coming forward in the future with information of possible interest to the police.

Councillor slams CEO Mark Williams over “outing” of witness in police inquiry | East Devon Alliance



November 14th, 2014

Thank you, Chairman. Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Paul Arnott, second chairman of the East Devon Alliance, a local pressure group constituted, you may wish to note, in APRIL 2013. May I also, on behalf of many in the public seats, say how good it is to see the Police Commissioner here this evening? Interesting timing.

I think many people here tonight will share my sense of depression at the grim inevitability of a finding by the authorities announced yesterday. A half-hearted report, not an allegation, had been made by a compromised authority to another body – with whom it shares many formal and informal connections. A “robust” and “extensive” investigation is then claimed to have been followed – although, to most reasonable minded observers it looks in fact “weak” and “perplexingly delayed”.

We will, of course, never really be allowed to know who was spoken to in this enquiry, or what investigative lines were followed. Yet an announcement was made yesterday by the putative investigators and the compromised authority that it was all over – nothing to see here.

And almost immediately, the chief executive of the compromised authority did what he could to meddle with the internal investigations which, in a normal healthy establishment, must now follow. Instead he chose to turn his fire back against his very best members, who have done nothing but fight in the open to protect the public interest.

Yes, chairman, I think we all know what I’m referring to: Yesterday’s boast by FIFA President Sepp Blatter that Qatar’s astonishingly successful bid for the World Cup in 2018 was in fact the model of probity … and moreover, that, after an extensive and robust investigation, the unpleasant English Football Association is in fact itself at fault for complaining in the first place. Thank heavens, Chairman, that under your watchful gaze there is no danger of anything like that happening round here.

Coincidentally, Chairman, you will recall that this very authority chose to report one of its own, now-former, councillors to the Police in March 2013. Since then, roughly 600 days has elapsed. Yet yesterday, indeed the very day before the Police Commissioner is to appear here before the council – let’s call it Day 599 – we hear that the police will take no further action. My question for Tony is, does he think this is a coincidence, and what comment would he make on both this timing and the extraordinary delay?

EDA Chairman’s speech to last night’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee | East Devon Alliance

See also:
East Devon Business Forum | East Devon Business Forum

No comments: