Patrick’s supporters promptly attended at 11am for the anticipated start but the Panel is not known for punctuality. Meanwhile, 4 legal bods, probably on up to £500 an hour; twiddled their collective thumbs. The cotton bag caught our attention under the feet of Ombudsman’s lawyer. “Ombudsman’s Association”. “Independent complaints resolution” the bag boasted. This produced gales of muffled laughter. We thought the bag was telling “porkies”. Its owner, a thin, humourless lady hurriedly pushed the object of our mirth under her feet.

Former Cllr Peter Pemberton and I passed the time discussing our mutual exchange of lettuce plants whilst a former officer of the Council quietly regaled us with stories of a Cllr with an alleged reputation for bullying. The Cllr had laboured under the uncharitable names of ‘Adolph’ or Mr Beetroot as the face went red as the fury rose.’ Who did he mean?

12.10 p.m.; we were asked to switch off mobiles and then at 12.30, the Panel filed in. Having spent yesterday softening us up the previous day for big sentence, Hywel James pronounced that Stage 3, the punishment had arrived. Panel’s decision unanimous there had been 14 breaches amounting to failing to show respect, bullying behaviour towards the £90k a year former Director, the fragrant Susan Lewis, and several breaches for undermining officers. Patrick apparently was ‘menacing’ towards an officer and finally he had bought the Authority into disrepute over a ward mutual council house exchange. So, no theft, no flogging planning consents for cash, even assaulting officers maybe? None of these but really serious stuff of upsetting officers. Incredible!

Patrick was always guilty from day 1. 15th March 2009 – yes 2009, the date he was removed from being an Executive Member by an over eager Cllr Arnold Woolley. Much of the delay in the Panel’s progress was blamed on Patrick who had the temerity to go sick with stress for a long period. “Not sick enough to stop him from being re-elected” was the Panel’s muted view. 58 days over a 2.5 year period; 48 witnesses and 12 months waiting time.

As the judge read the Panel’s findings we became even more incredulous. It was the panel’s view that Cllr Heesom had arrogantly refused to plead guilty, had never shown remorse, he had dared to attack the integrity and calibre of officers by contesting the allegations against him and too many legal applications (challenging points of law and Ombudsman’s evidence), had been made. He was judged as ‘over-powerful and could do as he wished’.

Despite hearing cross political character opinion that Patrick helped anyone who sought his assistance, who was a workaholic and witnesses denied he was sexist or a bully, the Panel decided his breaches were so serious that he was to stand down immediately as a councillor and would do so for 2.5 years. The Panel had even toyed with giving him the maximum: 5 years suspension but generously gave the lesser time. The same as it took to hear the case. Such was the Kangaroo Court venom; they had ignored his barrister’s plea to delay the suspension till an appeal could be mounted. The Panel was just too eager to see him off & forgot that period of appeal is 21 days and everything should have been on hold till then. Of course, by demanding such speed in insisting Cllr Heesom is suspended, the Panel was keen to open the way to calling a by election.

Martin Howe, Patrick’s lawyer stated “this decision has a chilling effect on the role of elected cllrs.” The James Panel has emasculated an elected member’s capacity to robustly call officers to account or virtually make any criticism of the performance of officers. As explained in Blogs “passim”, the Flintshire Housing portfolio was in a mess since the appointment of a weak Director, (a drinking buddy of the then ruling Labour boss) in 1994. He was finally booted out 10 years later. Why the incoming Chief Executive added this failing’ housing portfolio to Susan Lewis, already stretched with community Services remains a mystery!

Every Housing scrutiny meeting must have been her worst nightmare. She was under so much pressure, her eyes were glazed when challenged vigorously & regularly (but not by Patrick). She was the Director & it was she who consistently refused or failed to engage with members’ requests. Susan Lewis was a disaster as Director Housing was the collective opinion of all members on Housing Scrutiny Committee!

If it was clear to members unless she was removed, housing would continue to go downhill, why not to the head of Paid Service? Patrick has been a victim of ruthless and arrogant officers, helped by an out of control Ombudsman’s procedure and a Kangaroo Court panel whose antics reek of bias.

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