The ARGOS ‘Leak’ Investigation
Our regular Guest Author – Stormin’ NORMAN MURPHY – offers an informed view.
The current interest into who did, or did not, leak the report into the £22 million pound ratepayer-funded, ARGOS development, as published in the North York’s Enquirer, has for me, thrown up a number of very perplexing and challenging questions. As a general principle, let me say from the outset that members, or indeed employees, of the Council who release into the public domain reports that the leadership would prefer residents not to see should, in most cases, be applauded.
It has been my sad experience to note, from both inside and outside the confines of the Clown Hall, that whichever ruling junta is supposedly in control of the Borough’s affairs, they will habitually seek to conceal their activities from those who will ultimately have to foot the bill for Council policy decisions; good, or more usually, bad.
However, my views, and indeed anyone’s else’s views, over the rights and wrongs of leaking Council documents, and whether we feel they should be in the public domain or not, is completely irrelevant; the law says leaking Council documents is illegal and according to our chief legal director, Mrs Lisa Dixon:
- “Such a breach may constitute the offence of misconduct in public office which carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.”
We are, at least according to our chief legal officer, if we leak Council documents, committing a serious offence punishable by law with a maximum sentence of life in prison. Therefore, when there is a leak, such as in the case of the leaking of the ARGOS report, Mrs Dixon has told anyone who will listen that the full force of the law will be used to discover who leaked the report and they will be punished.
In the case of the leaked ARGOS report Mrs Dixon confirmed that this matter was:
- “…under investigation by both Internal Audit and the North Yorkshire Police cyber-crime team”.
So there you have it; leaking confidential Council reports is a serious offence, punishable by law with a possible sentence of life in prison. It is an offence so serious that the Council will use every means at its disposal to find out who made the leak and that, when they are caught, the full force of the law will be brought against them. The police cyber-crime team and the Council’s Internal Audit team will leave no stone unturned until they discover who the culprit was.
Well, that’s what Mrs Dixon said. However, it will come as no surprise to residents to learn that what was said by a Council officer and what has actually happened are two completely different things.
It would seem obvious to most right-minded people that when investigating such a leak the first port of call would be to the outlet which published the leak, in this case the North Yorks Enquirer. However, it seems that this obvious path to discovery was far too complicated and difficult for our Clown Hall sleuths to pursue.
Instead of picking up the phone and asking staff at the Enquirer from where they obtained the ARGOS report, no such enquiry was ever made and as far as I know has still never been made.
However, it must be asked why would the Audit Team even needed to ask anyone who had leaked the report as the Clown Hall IT department can, and does, on the orders of Mrs Dixon, monitor all and every email members send. I myself, quite innocently, fell foul of the Council’s cyber police soon after the policy of reading members emails was introduced. I sent a Council document from my Council i-Pad to my home computer so that I could print it out and read and annotate the document as and when time and the acquisition of information allowed.
Up until the close monitoring of members emails was introduced. this had been normal practice for most, if not all, diligent Council members. However, my act of treachery was now, under the new regime, quickly picked up and within hours I had received a threatening email from Mrs Dixon informing me that the cyber police had picked up my indiscretion and that I was now under investigation for leaking Council documents.
Nothing came of the investigation, but the point is that the system can and does pick up all email activity undertaken by members and therefore if the leak was from a members i-Pad it would have taken seconds for the culprit to be discovered: if that is what was desired.
So the question that must be asked here is: why, when the means to discover who leaked the report were at hand, and it was so easy to discover who leaked the report, did our chief sleuth, Mrs Lisa Dixon, not quickly establish who the culprit was and carry out her fearsome threats?
Well, it does not take a genius to work out that whoever leaked the ARGOS report, it did not suit either Mrs Dixon or, perhaps more importantly, Labour leader Steve Siddons, for the culprit to face justice. Therefore, the whole ARGOS leak incident was quickly swept under the huge Clown Hall carpet where so many embarrassing episodes of Council mismanagement have been swept in the past.
As has been said about Scarborough Council many times; all PIGS are equal except some PIGS are more equal than others.
The normal hatred of residents and elected members who don’t agree with officers’ decisions or express their discontent with the way in which the Council is being led are prosecuted, ridiculed and ignored. This despicable behaviour comes in sharp contrast to how those who support the regime are treated; these individuals are rewarded and praised for their loyal service.
This divide and rule mentality is, in my view, sickening and goes against everything a local authority should be about. Indeed, in many people’s view the current leader and our senior officers are not fit for purpose.
Public service, working for the common good and treating residents and members with respect and courtesy, even understanding and appreciating the fears and concerns of those who pay them, and elect them, seems to be the last thing on their minds.
The leadership of SBC are, as I see it, only concerned with clinging to power in the forlorn hope that as long as they control the IVORY TOWER they will be able to keep concealed their multifarious miscalculations and misdemeanours.
The leader protects the officers and the officers protect the leader; together they exist in an armoured bubble, oblivious to the harm they are doing to the reputation of the Borough, and deaf and blind to residents’ well-founded concerns.
However, judgment day is, in my view, imminent; the County Council elections will be held in May and, as has been pointed out by various commentators, several by-elections look to be on the horizon.
My guess is that once the electorate are given the opportunity to give their verdict on how the current Labour administration has served them the voters’ sentence will be justifiably harsh and the current leadership will be quickly consigned to the proverbial dustbin of history.
A fate which one suspects might also befall the Borough’s officer élite, whose noses, when COMRADE SIDDONS falls, will be well and truly turfed out of the unequal PIG trough; then there will be some squealing, and it will be no good them asking Internal Audit to come and help them as, with any luck, the Audit Team will be being interviewed by the Police Cyber-Crime team.