Friday 19th October 2018,
North Yorks Enquirer

DILLON: “I Am God” (Part One)

DILLON: “I Am God” (Part One)

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD  shedding light on the burgeoning scandal of a Councillor having been prohibited from acting as a Councillor. Confused? You are supposed to be . . .

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Background

Readers who caught my article “NOCK and DILLON: Formal Complaints”, published on Friday Tuesday 5th June 2016, will be aware that there is much disquiet about SBC CEO Jim DILLON’s decision to prohibit a Scarborough Borough Councillor from entering the Town Hall and attending Council Meetings, and even to communicate with Council Officers.

The very idea that a mere employee of the Council could take it upon himself to countermand a Councillor’s democratic electoral mandate is deeply abhorrent for, if legal, it would signal the fact that the will of the people amounts to nothing in the Borough of Scarborough, at least in the mind of the would-be omnipotent Mr DILLON.

The Formal Complaints set out in my article were, in fact emailed to SBC Monitoring Officer and Director of Legal & Democratic Services at 3:50pm on Friday 1st June 2018. The Council’s Complaints Procedure informs us that the Council “will aim to provide a full and in-depth response to your complaint and we will aim to do this within 20 working days” – so keep that start-date in mind.

At 5:05pm on Wednesday 6th June 2018, I received a bounce-back notification. A five-day delay. It is now 15th June 2018.

Again, the time is noteworthy because 35 minutes earlier, at 4:30pm on Wednesday 6th June 2018, SBC CEO Mr Jim DILLON emailed all Councillors, as follows:

Nice touch, that quaint little ‘Jim’, isn’t it? Friendly. Benevolent. Almost avuncular.

Here is his attached statement, which amounts to little more than the bald assertion “I Am God:

Download the PDF file DILLON_STATEMENT.

I would make the following observations:

  • the CEO makes reference to “queries”; he does not disclose that Formal Complaints have been received – and not only from me. I am reminded of when the CEO did not disclose the fact that Mr Trevor HARRINGTON had lodged a Formal Complaint with him, personally, alleging that former Councillor, Mayor and Alderman Peter JACONELLI [Con.] was a rampant paedophile. ‘Silent Jim’ has form for being secretive; transparency is not his forte.
  • the CEO does not disclose which Article(s) of the Constitution extend his right to exercise his corporate management and operational authority over his staff (he is the Head of Paid Service) to include democratic authority over elected Members. That is solely the prerogative of the electorate.
  • the CEO imagines that he has the right and authority to prohibit an elected Member from carrying out a mandated duty. If this were true, there would be nothing to prevent the CEO from prohibiting any elected member, at any time, from carrying out her/his mandated electoral duty. It follows that there would be nothing to prevent the CEO from prohibiting every elected member from carrying out her/his mandated electoral duty. If such were the case – if a mere paid scrivener (some would say over-paid) has the power to contermand the will of the people – then democracy, as we understand it, is non-existent. This cannot stand.
  • the CEO refers to legal advice from the Monitoring Officer, and (do not laugh) a “specialist Regulatory and Public Sector Solicitor” – believed to be Bevan Brittan LLP (the law firm from whom Lisa DIXON allegedly secured ‘external legal advice’, over the telephone, to support her Dispensations to allow the Leader, the Cabinet and the Leader’s spouse to vote on the No Confidence Motion, the terms of which specifically excluded them). Incidentally, Bevan Brittan LLP is understood to be the new employer of former SBC Deputy Monitoring Officer & Regulatory Governance Manager, Mr David P. KITSON. (Here I must interrupt myself to thank the thousands of readers who have joined me in expressing felicitations to Mr KITSON and congratulating him on his step up in the world).

But could you make it up?

It is as well that the CEO intends to “keep the matter under review”; my information, from an absolutely impeccable source, is that the higher reaches of Local Government are deeply perturbed by the CEO’s actions. As is proper.

It is interesting to compare and contrast Mr DILLON’s remarks with the following response from the FOIA Department of Scarborough Borough Council, which falls under the purview of the Director of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer, Mrs Lisa DIXON:

The second paragraph at least offers us two verifiable sources (Article 11 of the Constitution and Part 3, Schedule 3 of the Constitution) though (as we shall see) they verify nothing.

As for the third paragraph – is the Council (i.e. Mrs DIXON) really maintaining that the CEO acted using powers “vested in the Council” conferred under “general law” which is NOT RECORDED by the COUNCIL? This is astonishing.

How the devil can the CEO act without knowing that he has such authority? He will not find it at the Council – that FOIA response (i.e. Mrs DIXON) confirms that the Council has no record of it. Ah, you say, but perhaps the CEO sought ‘external legal advice’? That is always a good jape. (Who knows? Perhaps he sought ‘external legal advice’ from Bevan Brittan LLP ). But then there would be a record of it –  the CEO’s correspondence record. So no ‘external legal advice’, then? Thank you very much for that piece of information, Mrs DIXON.

So it boils down to this:

“I have the authority; I just don’t know what or where it is at the moment. Honest, guv.”

As I write this, I keep thinking of The Krankies.

More seriously, and moving on:

Let us follow advice and examine Article 11 of the Constitution:

As I have related elsewhere, Article 11 contains no authority, explicit or implicit, over Councillors – and certainly not such that would empower the CEO to countermand an electoral mandate. The cupboard was bare, Mother HUBBARD.

Let us now examine Part 3, Schedule 3 [in fact, the Article defining the CEO’s  authority is contained in 4.1 Clauses (i) to (viii)]:

This delineates the CEO’s corporate powers. Part 3, Schedule 3, 4.1 Clauses (i) to (viii)  contain no authority, explicit or implicit, over Councillors – and certainly not such that would empower the CEO to countermand electoral mandate.

In my view – and I have presented for consideration the material which informs my view – nothing, either in the CEO’s letter to Councillors or in the Council’s FOIA response, offers a shred of authority for the CEO to brandish at any elected Member to keep her/him out of the Council Chamber. In my view, both documents may be described in one word.

Looking Back

On 20th February 2018, the CEO issued his first edict of prohibition against the Councillor concerned.

Since Monday 26th February 2018, I have been sitting on an email from SBC Director of Finance and s.151 Officer Mr Nick EDWARDS. As far as I can determine, this was the first elected Members knew of the prohibition of one of their own number from attending Council meetings – this despite the fact that the acrimony between the Leader (and certain Cabinet Portflio Holders) and the Councillor concerned goes back to October 2016.

In short, the Leader and the Directorate held a tight, black veil over their actions as directed towards Councillor Michelle DONOHUE-MONCRIEFF [Con.>Ind.>Con.>Ind.] – for fifteen months. Another example of shining transparency is here abstracted from Mr EDWARDS’ email:

As per my previous email, this email must not be forwarded on.”

Here is that EDWARDS email [SPOILER ALERT – We will not encounter any authorisation here, either]:

Download the PDF file SBC_CABINET.

There is plenty more to tell, folks, but I have elected to save that for Part Two. A good many Councillors will find it instructive. Whether or not that motivates them to stand up in defence of the democracy that elected them (and pays their Allowances and Expenses) remains to be seen. Many are content to be the dog that the tail keeps on wagging.

Granted, not all – and my respect to the exceptions.

On a lighter note, the curious thing about transparency is that when you look for it hard enough, all hues seem simply to disappear . . .

Try it.

Stare at it for a few moments . . .

Nothing to see here, folks. Keep shopping.


 

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