A VIEW FROM BOTH ENDS OF THE TELESCOPE.

The Corporate Resources Meeting was more interesting that I had expected and the Chief Executive played a major part in taking members through the complexities of the forthcoming budget proposals. As I had expected, I did not learn much more about the Early Retirement issue that was up for discussion. Both the elected chair for the meeting and another member closed any debate down, an action I accepted as the press was present. The press is frequently used to get a story out that a member wishes to have published in a round about way, but obviously my story and my concerns of a certain early retirement did not press the right buttons on this occasion.

I was chuffed when the Head of Human Resources credited me with pressing officers to bring the costs etc. of early retirements to members’ regular attention. Head of HR graciously agreed that this policy had fallen by the way side and my doggedness had put it back on the agenda once more. I was happy to praise officers in return as I thought our Chief Executive, Colin Everett had displayed a masterful command of the budget brief. He answered detailed and complex questions without hesitation and I recalled how I had been so impressed with his abilities when I became a cllr again in 2008, our salad days of the new Coalition.

His command of the Housing Revenue Account budget the following day was equally impressive when he opened batting for the housing officer team. Head of Housing also never faulted whilst she reported progress. Members heaped praise on her when she announced that tenants utility bills would actually fall despite the financial climate and other reductions on tenants purses were being worked on. Since Clare arrived, the housing portfolio has been electrified into a new spirit of certainty and commitment with excellent results now showing in most departments. Money has been found to give first time buyers a helping hand and the troubled housing repairs depot that hit heavy criticism from the Audit department will soon be closed completely and mobile working and other important schemes being now on line and giving an improved service. The Canton depot land should bring a tidy sum to swell Flintshire’s depleted coffers. No wonder we wholehearted agreed to give her a full time PA.

CONTROVERSAL KLAUS LIVES TO STAND AGAIN.

The Ombudsman must be wondering what he has to do to land a heavy blow on Flintshire members as his latest attempt regarding Cllr Klaus Armstrong Braun seemed jinxed. The usual practises were followed along the lines of the PSOW’s long pursuit of Patrick Heesom. Long delay between date of alleged breaches & the tribunal start date, no chance for the accused to make a statement, total denial of human rights issues and little time allowed for the member to respond to the O’s charges once known. Klaus was not legally represented and our Monitoring Officer turned his request down for an indemnity. I do not know the reason but may have been a blessing in disguise as he had to defend himself only with the help of a business friend.

The upshot was amazing. He was found guilty of various charges, including failing to give details of his mayor’s allowance, leaking dubious “confidential” information about a school issue, making derogatory remarks of fellow members and the incredible one of being disrespectful to Saltley by describing the place as a “backwater”. This is a worrying interpretation of free speech and could make every member vulnerable for an unwitting comment. If a member muttered that the Shotton traffic was a disaster or the ever increasing sprawl of new build in Ewloe had wrecked the area, will these opinios be pounced on the PSOW? Members need to know?

I can only guess why Flintshire lawyers gave their controversial member a life line! Interim Monitoring Officer Jones was called to give the panel her views on the possibility of KAB’s behaviour as a town councillor also impacting on his Flintshire role. She thought not. So, any sanction would only apply to his role as a Saltley town councillor and this was his punishment; suspension from that office until the next election. Thus, he had avoided the more worrying sanction of possible suspension as a county councillor which could have been long enough to bar him from putting himself to the electorate next May which could have resulted in missing the chance for standing again for another four years. I suspect that officers, aware of a £3million and rising; legal bill for the still ongoing Heesom tribunal, had no appetite for yet further costly involvement with the Ombudsman.

It was the right result. The view is that Klaus has escaped lightly. He was humiliated and found guilty and we know the stress was intolerable as he was reduced to uncontrollable tears. Even his detractors felt ill at ease at witnessing such distress. Klaus has caused much irritation to many of us. He is not a team player. His habit of meddling in issues not associated with his ward has really upset members and new policy has been invoked to stop this infuriating meddling. KAB will hopefully reflect on his behaviour that pressed decent hard working collegues into being driven to complain after months of enduring his thoughtless actions.

Chairman Kate Berry was impressive. She acted impeccably as she struggled to oversee an even handed contest that could never be fair whilst Klaus was not legally defended. Human Rights Article 6 demands a fair trial and the panel knew they were treading on very dangerous ground in whatever they did. Klaus could not find a lawyer willing to take on his case and Martin Howe, Patrick’s lawyer who was prepared to act was ruled of out taking the brief by the Monitoring Officer’s decision to refuse an indemnity.

The difference between the attitude of the chair to Klaus and my own tribunal chair in 2010 and the attitude of the Ombudsman who wrote his reports that sent me to my tribunal was stark. The PSOW left any decision to find Klaus guilty of charges to the panel. And rightly so! The reports that brought Klaus to the tribunal were in a different league to the three reports that Peter Tyndall wrote sending me to my tribunal. Mr Tyndall gave his very clear opinion that I was guilty of my alleged misdeeds. Three times he confirmed that Arnold Woolley’s journal gave a fastidious account of events & conversations and of course it was contemporaneous. He was badly fooled by the document and some time soon NWP will no longer be able to stay the perjury investigation. I do not blame my panel. They just followed the Ombudsman’s premature and biased view that I was guilty as charged.

Coincidentally, all my own panel members by were present at Klaus’s tribunal. The two lay members on my panel played the same role in Klaus’s tribunal and Mrs Helen Cole, my chairman was also present throughout the proceedings just seemingly watching and ordering the panel’s morning coffee.

Members are entitled to protection from a maverick and strong willed colleague. There can be no criticism of seeking redress from Klaus’s antics but the discipline process just leaves so much to be desired. The complainants feel let down and wonder if he will ever change his tiresome ways. And the cost to the taxpayer?. Panel of three plus another Adjudication Panel watcher, the officials, the transcribing service, hotel accommodation 4 nights ? Travel and cost of the investigation and what have we got for our money?

As community councils usually meet once a month & one more to set the budget, with canvassing kicking in from March/April, KAB will be forced to miss as many as 3/4 meetings. Wow. May we be told the cost please of this latest PSWO’s foray into Flintshire?

It was very sensible for our legal officers to not intervene & allow the tribunal to run its course, thus not imposing further cost and bad publicity on this county. Maybe the tide is turning against this truly one sided and stressful Adjudication Panel business. The failure of the PSOW to recognise the Human Rights Act must mean the system has become more pernicious and harmful to most well meaning elected members.

Martin Howe has the Armstrong Braun file. He is a highly acclaimed human rights lawyer. He is deeply involved in Patrick Heesom’s tribunal that also has failed totally to acknowledge Patrick’s human rights & Martin will draw comparisons.

Watch this space!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.