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Open Letter to NYCC CEO Richard FLINTON
– an ‘In My View’ article, by Nigel Ward, in response to an astonishingly draconian attempt to suppress valid criticism of County Councillors and Council Officers in the run-up to the 2nd May 2013 County Election.
describes a punitive measure/punishment that is overly harsh in relativity to the crime or transgression.
Normally done for the purpose of making an example for others to deter them from doing the same.
Also issued out of fear/anger by an authority.
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
Having received a very intimidating letter from NYCC CEO Richard FLINTON, in which he has sought to minimise my influence in democratic affairs by suppressing my right to freely engage directly with the Council for twelve weekse – until after the County Election – I am left with no alternative but to respond to him here, in the public domain.
Mr Richard FLINTON – Chief Exec and Head of Paid Service – NYCC
Thank you for your email.
I do not know whether or not you are ‘authorised’ to summarily disregard the Complaints Procedure. I do not know because you have refused to provide me with the documentation that specifies your duties and responsibilities as Head of Paid Service – and those of your s.151 Officer and your Monitoring Officer. Further, you have asserted that no such documentation exists – though a Google search confirms that it does indeed exist and, at other Councils, is rigidly observed. Other Councils have not hesitated to provide the documentation.
It now appears that you have taken it upon yourself autocratically to ignore the Council’s Complaints Procedure in respect of my Formal Complaint against your Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer Carole DUNN, to protect her from censure.
Please confirm what authority has authorised you to disregard stated Council policy.
You assert that the Formal Complaint against County Councillor John BLACBURN, in respect of an allegation from a member of the public “is in hand”. Why, then, have I heard nothing from any designated Investigating Officer?
You assert that, “over a period of many months”, the Council has experienced a “significant burden in terms of officer time”. You do not, however, concede that the prevaricative, evasive and obfuscatory nature of your Officers’ responses to me has wasted a great deal of my time and that of many other members of the public.
Please allow me to remind you of the Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government’s pronouncement on this topic:
You appear to believe that your personal ‘authority’ is such as may countermand that of the Secretary of State.
I strongly refute, as patently untenable, your assertion that my concerns have been properly addressed.
I offer you the following examples – just a few of the many inadequately addressed and/or unresolved issues that have thus far been studiously evaded:
“Another issue which emerged out of this hearing was that a County Council official appears to have provided at least four of the eight members with a paragraph long statement which those members then used in response to the County Council’s own investigating officer’s inquiries. This would be like a detective providing you with the answer to his own questions, and clearly this has muddied the essential independence of the officer–councillor relationship. It is a matter which warrants further investigation.”
It is indeed “a matter which warrants further investigation”, though apparently not in your mind, Richard. Why is that?
I could go on. And on. And there are other far more serious matters that I may not yet explore here.
It should be remembered that four of the six examples cited above arose as a direct result of information received from a member of your own staff who is entirely disaffected with the Council’s Whistle-Blowing Procedure, having referred to it as “the cover-up machine”.
Notwithstanding this greatly abridged list of unresolved matters, you seem to imply that a member of the public (myself, or any other) has no business alerting the Council to patent abuses and wrong-doing; has no business raising Formal Complaints against those who breach the requirements; and – above all – has no business in publishing reports of the Council’s apparent determination to protect wrong-doers (elected members or paid public servants) rather than embracing information that would enable the Council to weed out those who abuse the system.
How do you justify that position? Or is it that you feel that you (and they) have no duty of accountability to the electorate?
You have provided a bullet-point list of accusations against me, each of which is utterly unfounded and clearly untenable, in an attempt to justify a denial of my democratic rights to express my opinion and engage with the Council to alert Officers to abuses of the system as evidenced by NYCC’s own public record.
There exists no prohibition against me (or any member of the public) forming an opinion (based on considerable experience, or none) that is critical of certain elected members and paid public servants.
Nor is there any prohibition against me (or any member of the public) expressing that opinion, through whatsoever medium and regardless of frontiers. That is our right, under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, to which this country is a signatory and which your own Council has adopted.
Therefore, your personal “requirement” that I desist from doing so has no lawful basis and will be ignored.
Your assertion that my emails are insufficiently detailed and precise is, frankly, ludicrous – and in diametric contradiction of your earlier assertion that my emails demand such an exhaustive explanation of clear indicants of wrong-doing that they are burdensome to your Officers. If my emails were any more specific, you would no doubt complain that your Legal department was being taxed beyond its collective capacity.
Your assertion that my “tone” is anything less than punctiliously polite is refuted by the written record of the email correspondence. You have been unable to support your offensive assertion with a single example; suggesting otherwise may amount to an offence against me under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.
However, you do concede that my correspondence has led to further correspondence “with other parties”, thereby acknowledging that my concerns are held by many others who have felt themselves sufficiently motivated as to alert the Council to the very same acts of wrong-doing that I have raised, also in vain.
Let us be clear that:
and so on, are not in any sense trivial matters. Nor are they matters that you, or your staff, have any business attempting to conceal from public scrutiny – most especially so in the run-up to an election, when electors have every right to a clear view of candidates’ records in ethical matters.
Addressing your numbered so-called “requirements”:
“For too long those in power made decisions behind closed doors, released information behind a veil of jargon and denied people the power to hold them to account. This coalition is driving a wrecking ball through that culture – and it’s called transparency.” - [David Cameron]
Your staff appear to have been instructed not to provide information that might prove damaging to defendants. That is unacceptable. What you have characterised as my “personal attacks on individuals” is no more than a frank and honest disclosure to the public of the way in which certain parties have conducted themselves. If you (or they) wish to characterise such disclosures as “attacks”, it begs the question as to what secrets those same parties feel the need to defend from “attack”.
On the basis of the series of transparently false and unsusustainable allegations that you have levelled against me, you have attempted summarily to curtail my right to engage in the democratic process. You seek to limit my freedom of expression, without any authority so to do.
You have issued a thinly-veiled false accusation of the criminal offence of harassment against me, without providing a single example, and without evidence of your own competence to evaluate such matters.
Carole DUNN has been severely criticised in the national press, following her ridiculous predetermination on the “entitlement” of ‘double-dippers’ to profiteer from the system. Do you intend to accuse Private Eye of harassment?
You final remark occasioned a wry smile – so breath-taking is it in its sheer arrogance.
You “require” me to adhere to your edicts (without citing any authority or providing evidence of your perceived powers and/or duties) for a period of twelve weeks – until, that is, shortly after the County elections. Your inadvertent transparency amuses me. The official period of ‘purdah’, during which media coverage is severely constrained by ‘protocol’, begins on Tuesday 26th March 2013 – yet you seek to set your own start and finish dates. This is redolent of a political motivation to your actions, since the vast majority of those elected members against whom unresolved complaints are hanging are either Conservatives or Independents widely recognised as closet-Tories. Have you made a predetermination that there are certain Councillors of a certain political persuasion whom you wish, irrespective of conduct, to see returned to office in May? Is it your purpose to favour those particular candidates? Or is it your purpose merely to favour the status quo?
Moreover, you appear to be attempting to ensure that there will be no democratic accountability in respect of wrong-doing in your Council – not in the media, nor even at the ballot-box. You appear to be attempting to ensure that my concerns, and the publication of them, must be allowed to have no significant impact on the electoral prospects of those against whom unresolved complaints have been made – and continue to be ignored. You appear to be attempting to deny the voter a clear view of certain candidates’ lack of moral rectitude. Why is that?
So I do not stand under your “requirements”, nor do I recognise your authority to issue them.
Contrariwise, I (a member of the public) “require” you (a paid public servant) to investigate all of the allegations of corruption against elected members and paid public servants within the boundaries of your Council, in accordance with your duties and with Council policy, with immediate effect.
You have declined to meet with me one-on-one; you have declined to engage with me in due process; you have actively attempted to curtail my freedom of expression and the freedom of the press.
You will recall that I have always informed NYCC that I reserve the right to share my correspondence with whomsoever I please, in accordance with my rights under the Human Rights Act 1998, and to publish at my own prerogative into the public domain; you are long aware of my policy and have never before raised any objection to it.
Consequently, I find myself with good grounds to form a highly critical opinion of your own leadership qualities, and I will continue to express my opinions, privately and publicly, as I have a real “entitlement” to do.
Yours, with very kind regards,