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“THE MULBERRY BUSH” By Nigel Ward

Further to my article on Councillor Jane Margaret Kenyon recently – and I am much heartened by the unprecedented public endorsement (800+ FaceBook ‘Likes’) – describing my attempts to have both elected representatives and paid public servants held to account, I hope readers will be interested in some of the background details.

Readers of my first article on this subject will recall that I conclude by calling upon Councillor Kenyon to openly and transparently address 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 . . .

I have, of course, meanwhile addressed that question to Councillor Kenyon through the auspices of the Senior Solicitor at SBC and Ms Kenyon’s Personal Assistant in her rôle as Chair of the NYPA.

I have received neither acknowledgement  nor response from either.

Entirely resulting from an examination of hundreds of documents (Registers of Interests, Minutes of Meetings, correspondence, Companies House reports, Court summonses and submissions, etc), the following concerns have become clear:

  • that Councillor Kenyon is presently an Officer of a still extant bankrupt corporation in the United States – Belvedere Computers Inc. (BCI) – which information she has for three decades wittingly to declare in her Register of Interests. Why?
  • that her life-partner, former elected member for NYCC, NYMNPA and SBC, Thomas William “Bill” Miller, is also presently an Officer of a still extant bankrupt corporation in the United States (BCI), which he himself also wittingly failed to declare in his Register of Interests – nor did either of them declare their respective life-partner’s status as an Officer of a still extant bankrupt corporation (BCI). Why?
  • that Councillor Kenyon was Company Secretary of Dales Timber Limited (DTL), a company that went bankrupt for circa £200,000, which information she has also wittingly withheld from declaring in her Register of Interests
  • that, as Company Secretary of DTL – a company enjoying a trading relationship with Ryedale District Council, the NYMNPA and NYCC – Councillor Kenyon failed to declare that conflict of interests. (There presents itself, therefore, the obvious suspicion that Councillor Kenyon’s failure to declare (and former Councillor ‘Bill’ Miller’s failure to declare) may have been motivated by a desire to benefit from the trading relationship between DTL and the three local authorities).
  • that Councillor Kenyon’s life-partner “Bill” Miller was a Director of Dales Timber Limited (DTL) and also failed to declare his interest or to separately declare his interest in a company that enjoyed a trading relationship with two authorities for which he was an elected member – and, as noted above, Councillor Kenyon similarly withheld that information, too; she had a duty to declare her relationship with ‘Bill’, and his interest in DTL (as well as, and separately to, her own), just as with BCI.
  • that in response to an entirely lawful question concerning these matters at a NYPA public meeting, Councillor Kenyon abused her position as Chair of that authority, making no response to the question (she should, of course, have ensured that the question was minuted, placed on the record her reasons for disregarding it, and moved on with the meeting) – instead of which, she evaded public scrutiny by having the questioner removed from the meeting by the police, on pain of arrest.
  • that the Minutes of that meeting do not record the form of words of the question (and are therefore not a true record) and that Councillor Kenyon, as Chair of the meeting, bears full responsibility for that deception by omission.

Let us be very clear, for the avoidance of any doubt whatsoever, that these concerns are in no sense frivolous and they are very far from trivial. They stand at the root of integrity in public life.

Councillor Kenyon’s political and administrative experience spans four decades (the Poulson affairs – about which, more I due course – was in 1972) ; she has without any shadow of a doubt played a leading rôle in the decision-making processes of several local authorities (and is, at this moment, and amongst other positions of responsibility, the Chair of the NYPA, the NYPA Management Board, Director of the Association of Police Authorities Ltd., and Portfolio Holder for Finance, Procurement & Legal at SBC) that have each disbursed, over the years quite literally millions and millions of pounds from the public purse, yet the record indicates that she has been fundamentally dishonest for at least the last thirty years. And she cannot plausibly claim ignorance – which, in any case, forms no defence in law.

But there is more. Much more:

  • In response to an enquiry by Chartered Accountant Timothy Hicks FCA about these matters, NYCC’s Head of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn consciously misled Mr Hicks by stating she (Councillor Kenyon) has had no connection with Belvedere Computers Inc since November 1980 which predates her membership of the County Council. The issue of registering an interest simply would not therefore arise.” (One assumes ‘wittingly’ – the only alternative is that Councillor Kenyon wittingly misinformed her). As Mr Hicks pointed out in his article (See ‘Chief Officer Corruption in North Yorkshire Police’), this is quite simply untrue. To be clear, it does not matter how long Councillor Kenyon has been associated with BCI; what matters is that she still holds the position of Chief Financial Officer in that corporation; she therefore has been under a duty to declare that interest, whether it arose before or after she was elected – because she and her life-partner remain to this day Officers of a corporation that has been suspended on grounds of bankruptcy from trading, but still exists as a separate legal entity to this very day. The records show that Councillor Kenyon is Chief Financial Officer NOW, as I write. It is irrelevant that the corporation is in another country. And let us not forget that Councillor Kenyon does not deny the existence of this corporation, or that is bankrupt, or that she remains the Chief Financial Officer of the BCI.
  • In response to a question concerning her Company Secretaryship of Dales Timber Limited (DTL), Councillor Kenyon implicated NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn by having her (Dunn) provided false information in an official council letter, stating that Councillor Kenyon was ‘unaware’ that she had signed legal documents appointing her as Company Secretary of DTL, and/or ‘unaware’ that she had delivered these documents to Companies House for registration and/or ‘unaware’ that she had a duty to declare the fact.
  • Councillor Kenyon is the only elected member of NYCC and SBC and the North Yorkshire Police Authority who has for years declined to publish her interests on their respective web-sites – in my view, this can only be because she has attempted to restrict access to information likely to expose her unlawfully concealed business interests.

The above concerns were published less than a week ago and I have received no denial of them or any comment of any kind from Councillor Kenyon or any of the three Monitoring Officers.

There has been no denial.

Earlier this week, I wrote to Baroness Warsi and Lord Feldman – Co-Chairs of the Conservative Party – suggesting that Councillor Kenyon’s conduct may have risked bringing the Party into disrepute. Their Lordships declined to investigate, instead washing their hands of the matter by suggesting that I report the matter to the Monitoring Officers (as if I had not done so weeks ago), and, in the event that something was indeed amiss, to the police. I wrote back asking if they wished to make a statement to the public expressing confidence in Councillor Kenyon. Not a word has been forthcoming. In fairness, Baroness Warsi has other things on her mind; her own integrity stands at this moment under a very dark cloud. .

So, nothing from the Conservatives.  But Councillor Kenyon has shown a reaction.

Her Register of Interests is now published on the NYCC website (the same as every other elected member) and she has acknowledged that she was indeed Company Secretary of DTL (thereby tacitly confirming that she unlawfully withheld this information from the Register of Interests at the time) – though she continues to withhold the information that DTL enjoyed a trading relationship with the authorities on which she and her life-partner ‘Bill’ Miller were elected members – and that both she and he remain Officers of the bankrupt US corporation, BCI. In short, she is still continuing to withhold information that is required by law.

There remains some confusion about a very important point.

Information provided by SBC Legal Officer Gill Wilkinson and NYCC Monitoring Officer Carole Dunn, is diametrically conflicting. Gill Wilkinson has stated that failure to declare an interest within 28 days of it arising is a criminal offence; Carole Dunn has since stated that it is not.

Under Sections 29 – 34 of the Localism Act 2011, which received Royal Ascent in November 2011, failure to declare interests is a Criminal Offence.  So who is dissimulating here? And is she wittingly colluding with Councillor Kenyon to withhold the truth?

All of this is bad enough. In fact, it is truly disgusting. If Councillor Kenyon were not Chair of the Scarborough & Whitby Conservative Association, she should have been the subject of a vote of no confidence and inevitably sent packing. However, incredible as it may seem, even more grave concerns can be exposed:

  • Under the heading ‘Financial Transaction & Contracts’ on her SBC Register of Interests, Councillor Kenyon has listed ‘Specialist Recycling – occasional services’. What is that all about? Her life-partner, former SBC, NYMNPA and NYCC Councillor ‘Bill’ Miller used to have a company called Scarborough Skip Hire Limited (SSHL), now recorded as ‘dissolved’. Is this an additional instance of a company that was trading with some of Councillor Kenyon’s Councils – as per DTL? Is it one of many? Will Councillor Kenyon now disclose that information, please?
  • Councillor Kenyon registered an interest in Whitby Regatta in her SBC Register of Interests and has described herself for many years as Director and/or titular President. It was confirmed by SBC Legal Officer Gill Wilkinson recently that Whitby Regatta is a Charity – NOT a Limited Company (a Limited Company must, of course, have the word Limited in the name and cannot have a ‘President’), whose purpose was the administration of the Whitby Regatta.  Review of the Charities Commission web-site this week has revealed that there is, in fact, no such Charity listed.
  • An examination of Councillor Kenyon’s Directorships at Companies House has revealed that she is a Director of a company called Whitby Regatta Ltd (WRL – Reg.No 07693284, with Registered Offices at 5 Bobbies Bank, Whitby, YO21 1EF), which has seven Directors. It was registered on 5th of July 2011. Councillor Kenyon only placed this on her Register of Interest at some point since April 2012.
  • Astonishingly, a complaint made about Councillor Kenyon’s non-declaration received the following response from NYCC’s Senior Lawyer (Governance) Moira Beighton: “I can confirm that Councillor Kenyon has registered an interest relating to Whitby Regatta in her interests form and therefore your complaint of a non-declaration of this interest is unfounded and will not be placed before the Standards Committee”. Excuse me! This conveniently (and quite obviously) ignores the fact that Councillor Kenyon’s interest in a Limited Company remained undisclosed for nearly a year. The conclusion can only be that Councillor Kenyon has once again contravened the Code and the Localism Act 2011, having only registered her interest since her falsehood was discovered, and that, like Carole Dunn before her, Moira Beighton seems to have been either misled into, coerced into, or was of her own volition complicit in, concealing Councillor Kenyon’s deception.

So why did Councillor Kenyon declare on her SBC Register of Interests, over a period of years, a body that she fictitiously described as a ‘charity’ and a ‘charitable trust’, and then only last year form a Limited Company (WRL) – so named as to be innocently taken by the public to be the same hitherto voluntary organization that has administered Whitby Regatta successfully for 172 years?

Whitby Regatta is a traditional annual and much-loved event in Whitby, run by volunteers on a non-profit making basis, and financed in part by donations from the public.  It has now become incorporated covertly; therefore ‘legal ownership’ of the Regatta has passed from the traditional voluntary body to a Limited Company in the thrall of Councillor Kenyon. (WRL now effectively ‘owns’ Whitby Regatta – and any income therefrom?). Had it been registered as a Charity, full accounts would have had to be published, it would not be have been subject to tax, though it would have been subject to scrutiny from the Charities Commission and Trustees. Yet Councillor Kenyon has affirmed to her electors, via her Register of Interests, that its is a Charity. Now that it is registered as a Limited Company, control has passed to seven Directors (Councillor Kenyon, Mr Thomas McIvor Greer, Mr Stephen Thomas, Ms Rebecca Jane Turton, Mr Stephen John Greer, Mr Arthur George, all of whom give 5 Bobbies Bank, Whitby, as their addresses), and as such WRL is not bound to file full accounts to the same scrupulous standard, or to disclose information to the same meticulous level as would a Charity. Worse, the public are donating to what they believe to be a long established, voluntarily-run Charity, when they are, in fact, donating to a Limited Company, whose objective (like any Limited Company) is to trade for profit.

How can Councillor Kenyon remain as a Councillor and a member – let alone Chair – of the North Yorkshire Police Authority, when she has:

  • been serially disingenuous with the electorate, and consistently misleading the public for thirty years,
  • made false entries in official documents,
  • dissimulated in her Register of Interests,
  • concealed wrong-doing by a fellow elected member (life-partner ‘Bill’ Miller),
  • abused her position as Chair of a NYPA meeting by evicting a member of the public who challenged the integrity of her position,
  • wittingly misled (or perhaps coerced) the Monitoring Officers, who in their turn have themselves misled the public,
  • gained advantage from undisclosed trading with local authorities on which she sat as an elected member, thereby serially and routinely abusing the public trust?

Equally concerning is the role played by the NYCC and SBC Legal Officers, as well as Councillor Kenyon’s fellow Conservative Councillors, who have collectively turned a blind eye to serious misconduct.  Clearly, this is a terrible indictment of Councillor Kenyon, the Monitoring and Legal Officers, the Standards Committees of the three authorities on which Councillor Kenyon sits, and her Party – the Conservatives – whose commitment to ‘transparency and accountability’ was loudly trumpeted by our Prime Minister David Cameron, both before and after the 2010 General Election.

It has been demonstrated beyond any question that Councillor Kenyon – whose appalling financial performance with NYPA has been thoroughly exposed, both here on Real Whitby and in the national press – is in a position whereby it is no longer remotely tenable for her to remain in public affairs in any capacity at all.

I leave you now with Ms Kenyon’s remarks reported in the Yorkshire Post on 1st June 2012:

“My first love has always been the people I represent in my council work, the people of Whitby.”