“TIMBER!  (How are the mighty falling?) – By Nigel Ward. First Published June 14th 2012

It surely is a funny old world – and a small one. As I have mentioned elsewhere, I was out on the hippy trail back at the beginning of the 70s.

It was a great time for making friends from all over the world – especially from the United States.

There were quite literally hundreds (if not thousands) of young Americans on the road at that time, keeping well clear of dear old Uncle Sam and his dreaded Draft Notices; not everyone was eager to be hauled off to Viet Nam to fight an un-winnable war.

Of course, many of those passing friendships were just that – passing. But the internet has provided untold opportunities for getting back in touch with one another.

So, as luck would have it, I did not find it too difficult to look up my old friend Gary McG, a native of Hawaii, with whom I travelled back to Europe from Afghanistan.

Day after day, he told me that he was going to be a journalist once the war was over – specialising in something which, at that time, I thought was very much a niche interest – personal computers. “One day,” he kept enthusing, “everybody will have one”. Yeah, right.

But Gary was right. Absolutely right. Every now and then, I use my personal computer to track down old pals. Small world, indeed.

I managed to get through to Gary three or four weeks ago. It turns out that Gary’s life-plan worked out rather well; he is now a successful IT journalist and he is at present working on a book about some of the PC pioneers who made big bucks when the Silicon Valley gold-rush was first kicking off.

He was telling me about a forgotten ‘hero’ called Dennis Barnhart, whose company Eagle Computers built early MS-DOS IBM clones.

On 8th June 1983, the very day that Eagle Computers went public on the NY stock exchange (raising $37 million), Dennis Barnhart was killed crashing his red Ferrari in rather mysterious circumstances. Riches to ashes, all in a day’s work! Talk about ups and downs.

And whaddya know (small world), only a couple of years previously, so the story goes, one Dennis Barnhart was involved in the total wipe-out of another fledgling personal computer corporation, Belvedere Computers Inc.

(BCI) – (registered in California, No. CO999400 on 11/08/1980), set up by two ‘officers’ (US term for Directors) of English nationality.

In due course, BCI went bust in a blaze of lawsuits and owing big bucks, and the Directors skedaddled back to dear old Blighty, leaving creditors and employees unpaid.

BCI was placed in suspension by the Franchise Tax Board of Sacramento California on 8th February 1982, and cannot, under US law, be dissolved due to its outstanding debts and liabilities

As a Corporation, therefore, it exists to this day and can be re-activated at any time, providing that the officers arrange for the debts to be discharged – ie paid. 

According to the State of California Domestic Stock Corporation, the officers of BCI are: T William Miller (Chief Executive), Jane Margaret Kenyon (Chief Financial Officer, Secretary and Agent for Service of Process).

That was when my interest picked up – big style. Because I remembered a tale about a Scarborough company in the late seventies with the strikingly similar name of Belvedere Computer Services (Scarborough) Ltd. – (BCSSL – Reg.No.1407311 – 02/01/1979).

The chap who started that company was also a Thomas William Miller – subsequently an SBC, NYCC and NYMNPA member, more generally known as ‘Bill Miller’, the ‘life-partner’ of Councillor Jane Kenyon.

That company went down the tubes, too. Small world, indeed, eh?

So it turns out that Thomas William Miller is the same man as T William Miller, who has certainly had some ups and downs with his various companies here in the UK over the years, including: Landscape Design & Construction (Northern) Ltd. (LD&CNL – Reg.No.04223064: 24/05/2001-16/06/2009), Landscape Design & Construction Ltd. (LD&CL Reg.No.06356119: 30/08/2007-28/04/2009), UK Fencing Solutions Ltd. (UKFSL – Reg.No.5467743: 31/05/2001-01/03/2007), Fencing Solutions Northern Ltd. (FSNL – Reg.No.05467742: 31/05/2001-01/03/2007), Scarborough Fencing Ltd., (SFL – Reg.No.05467740: 31/05/2001), all of which have since been dissolved.

One might think, despite the demise of all those companies, that there ought to be something very lucrative about the business of supplying timber derivatives to local authorities.

Bill certainly persevered. Indeed, there was another company, a Dales Timber Ltd. (DTL – Reg.No.5467739: 31/05/2001-28/04/2009) (formerly registered as, Agricultural Fencing & Groundwork Supplies Ltd.), whose Directors included Thomas William Miller and his life-partner Jane Margaret Kenyon (who was also Company Secretary).

DTL ceased trading as of 22nd January 2009, with two hundred grand’s worth of debt.

DTL numbered amongst its main trading partners North Yorkshire County Council (NYCC), Ryedale District Council (RDC) and the North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority (NYMNPA).

I am not the first person to be concerned by this pattern.

Others have enquired as to how it can be that elected members of NYCC, NYMNPA and even Scarborough Borough Council (SBC) could hold directorships in companies trading with the authorities, without declaring their interests.

After all, as elected members of the authorities, they would almost certainly be aware well in advance of up-coming procurement requirements in respect of fencing, gates and so on – especially in the light of Health & Safety regulations that forced authorities to tighten up on safe public access.

And yet, this appears to have been a commonplace – Councillors with an undeclared interest in companies that seem to have swept in and out of existence specifically to fulfil emergent procurement requirements.

On 25th June 2007, a member of the public wrote to NYCC’s Head of Legal and Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn, asking her to explain anomalies in the Register of Interest of Councillor Jane Kenyon in respect of her Company Secretaryship in DTL. Carole Dunn responded (albeit five weeks later), stating:

  • “In relation to the position of Company Secretary at Dales Timber Ltd, Councillor Kenyon was in fact unaware of the matter”.

Let me ask you something; do you find that it beggars belief that Councillor Jane Kenyon could conceivably be unaware’ of her position as Company Secretary of DTL – a company supplying tens of thousands of pounds worth of timber derivatives to NYCC and other local authorities – even though she had accepted her appointment back on 5th October 2006, lodging signed documents to that effect with Companies House?

‘Unaware’ that she was Company Secretary at DTL?

‘Unaware’ that she had signed legal documents lodged at Companies House?

‘Unaware’ that she must declare that interest within 28 days?

And another point; why would Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn, amongst whose statutory duties it is to ensure that the Register of Interests is accurate and up-to-date, allow Councillor Jane Kenyon to fob her off with such arrant nonsense? SBC’s Democratic and Administrative Services Manager Gill Wilkinson has stated that it is a criminal offence to fail to declare an interest within 28 days of a declarable event.

Surely, such a significant flaw in the Register must reflect very poorly on NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn? Surely, her clear duty was to inform the North Yorkshire Police (NYP) that a criminal offence had taken place?

However, one might do well to remember that Councillor Jane Kenyon is, in fact, Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority (NYPA) and Chair of the NYPA Management Board – as well as being an elected member of NYCC and SBC; perhaps Carole Dunn formed the opinion that a referral to the NYP would be a waste of time? We have all heard about ‘businesses’ that are ‘too big to fail’ . . .

The same member of the public who asked that very pertinent question about Councillor Jane Kenyon’s Register of Interests has been in the habit of attending the meetings of the NYPA.

He did so on 26th March 2012, at the Allerton Court Hotel in Northallerton, and took advantage of Agenda Item #2 – the opportunity for members of the public to ask questions oc the committee.

This is what he asked:

  • “How can it be that the Chief Financial Officer of a suspended California Corporation can be Chairman of a British Police Authority?”

I was not present, but I am told that the meeting was immediately suspended by Chair Councillor Jane Kenyon on the advice of NYPA Chief Executive Jeremy Holderness, virtually every member of the authority rose to their feet in protest at the question, whereupon our member of the public was asked to leave, threatened with arrest, and promptly escorted from the building by Chief Superintendent Taylor and another ranking police officer.

Thus, Councillor Jane Kenyon, with the support of the police and the entire membership, side-stepped the question and ensured that it never received an answer – and take note that the responsibility for that decision rests with the Chair alone – Councillor Jane Kenyon. But why the ‘closing ranks’? What is the big secret?

Clearly, Councillor Jane Kenyon, as Chair of the Meeting, was prohibiting any public scrutiny of her US business liabilities by effectively censoring a legitimate public question. Every member of the NYPA backed her up and the questioner was summarily removed by police officers, under pain of arrest. His offence? To ask, in civil and courteous terms, a perfectly reasonable – if potentially embarrassing – question of an elected representative, at a public meeting at which questions from the public were invited as an Agenda Item, and to which Councillor Jane Kenyon has still not provided an answer.

Lest we forget, Councillor Jane Kenyon was elected to office on the Conservative Party platform main-plank of total commitment to “openness, transparency and democracy”. This is utterly incompatible with the police being co-opted into silencing a legitimate question from a member of the public – a question, by the way, that is not recorded in the Minutes of the Meeting . . . why not?

And why is it that Councillor Jane Kenyon will not answer this question? Why did every member of the NYPA protest at it? A simple “this is not true” would surely have sufficed to resolve the matter? Does Councillor Jane Kenyon feel threatened by confronting the truth?

Following the Meeting, our man wrote to the NYP, requesting an explanation. On 3rd May 2012, he received a response from Deputy Chief Constable Tim Madgwick (who, following the departure of disgraced former Chief Constable Grahame Maxwell, is presently the top man at NYP), who stated:

  • “Chief Superintendent Taylor has liaised with a number of public bodies and other persons regarding the matters within our jurisdiction specifically looking at whether there is evidence of criminal action which justifies a prosecution.
  • Matters relating to Belvedere Computers Inc (BCI) took place in the United States of America are not within the jurisdiction of the North Yorkshire Police and this aspect has not been pursued.”
  • The conclusion of Chief Superintendent Taylor’s investigation is that, from the information available at this time, there are no matters identified that would require any further investigation or prosecution by North Yorkshire Police.”

Well, if the compelling suspicion of there having been criminal non-declaration of interests in local authority trading partners is not a matter ‘that would require any further investigation’, one is left to wonder what would be. Are we to believe that Councillor Jane Kenyon is above the law?

Prosecutions apart, is it now even remotely appropriate that Councillor Jane Kenyon should continue in public life? Or has the time come for her to fade away to that mythical sumptuous villa in Sharm al-Siyalehta?

But before she departs, I call upon Councillor Jane Kenyon openly and transparently to provide an answer to the following question:
“How can it be that the Chair of a British Police Authority can also be the Chief Financial Officer of a Corporation suspended for non-payment of debts who has concealed this and other interests and abused a position of trust to effectively censor legitimate scrutiny – yet remain Chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority, Chair of the NYPA Management Board, Director of the Association of Police Authorities Ltd., and Scarborough Borough Councillor Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement and Legal?

Or to resign . . .

Coming soon: “The ‘Lord’, his ‘Lady’ and a bunch of real suckers”

Related articles in Nigel’s “In My View” series: