More Intimidation from the Puzzle Palace
- an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD reporting on a further example of the delusion of ‘power’ that infests the upper reaches of our local government Paid Service.
This article follows publication of my article “Tail Bullies Dog” on Friday 26th July 2019, in which I made known my opinion that certain emails from Council Officers to elected members, apparently in response to Enquirer coverage of the leaked Argos Project financial docs and the ongoing investigations into the CEO-position applicants’ CVs leaks (1)(2)(3), were heavy-handed, oppressive and intended to scare the living daylights out of our elected representatives; thou shalt not leak – on pain of life imprisonment! The spectre of 1984 was raised. Metaphorically, the North Korean flag was raised. That is why I highlighted certain hypocrisies revolving around the fact that the very Officers who sent these intimidatory emails were themselves at fault for failing to ensure that leaked documents had been secured by digital encryption – as the Council’s own Email Policy document requires.
Since publication of my article, several Councillors have expressed the concern that these Officers seem determined to point the finger of suspicion over the leaks at Councillors – and only at Councillors, but never have they admitted that the leaks may have been perpetrated by one or more of the Officers who prepared, created, collated and distributed the leaked documents, and who were therefore best placed to evade the Council’s ‘security’ systems. Occam’s Scalpel.
All in all, it is a very shabby set of circumstances.
The ‘Red Mist’
Out of hours, in fact after close-of-play (5:00pm), on Friday 26th July 2019 – i.e. outside of the working week – I was surprised to receive an email from a *@scarborough.gov.uk email address that was every bit as intimidatory as the emails reproduced in my article earlier that same day. The email was not marked ‘Confidential’, nor was it encrypted. I have little doubt that it has been ‘monitored’ (and possibly reproduced) under the Council’s unlawful email interception regime. I would characterise it as a ‘red mist’ email – all anger, resentment and malice; self-interest, but no self-control.
It breaches a whole host of Articles of the Council’s Email Policy, as well as the GDPR.
The simplest and most transparent way in which I can report this blatant abuse of position is to reproduce my response to the sender, deconstructing the offensive email, together with the offensive email itself.
Were it not for the very sinister ‘Big Brother’ aspects, the present circumstance would transend the bounds of farce. Life imprisonment, is it? Pathetic.
I have responded in the following terms:
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Re: Data Breach
Date: Mon, 29 Jul 2019 10:10:54 +0100
Mrs Alison JOHNSON – Audit & Fraud Manager and Data Protection Officer – Scarborough Borough Council
IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST
I address your email of 17:15 on Friday 26th July 2016, received from your Scarborough Borough Council email address and bearing the SBC Disclaimer. It is now my material, to do with as I please. Thank you.
I shall number my comments for ease of future reference, should any arise.
1) Thank you for confirming that you write using the Council’s corporate email server in your capacity as an private individual and not as Audit & Fraud Manager/Data Protection Officer for Scarborough Borough Council.
Notwithstanding your explanation, to which I will return in due course, your email would appear to be in breach of the Council’s Email Policy (attached) in a number of Articles, not least:
a) you appear to have obtained and used my personal email address from Council data storage for your own private purposes by abusing your high position of trust within the Council. As Data Protection Officer, you – of all people – have a compelling duty to respect the Council’s Email Policy, the Data Protection Act 1998, national and international human rights legislation and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR).
b) having unlawfully abused my personal data rights, you have abandoned your corporate Duty of Care to me, an old-age pensioner with several long-term disabilities – a vulnerable person – by seeking to intimidate me with overt threats of “investigation” by the Information Commissioner’s Office.
c) unless and until you are able to show otherwise, you appear to have confirmed that you spent considerable time procuring advice (in your own words: “After lengthy conversations [I note the plural] with the ICO this afternoon . . .” [Friday 26th July 2019]) – in pursuit of what you have confirmed to be a strictly personal grievance against me, using either your own mobile or by accessing the Council’s telephone system for your own use, but, in either case, during work time.
d) you have referred to an article of mine by using inverted commas (quotation marks), thus; “article”. Clearly, you seek to imply that my article is, in some sense, not a real article; rather, merely an ersatz or faux article. You have sought deliberately to demean me and my voluntary work in the public interest. This is disrespectful to me and does not conform to Lord Nolan’s Seven Principles of Public Life or the standards to which you are bound under the terms of your employment contract.
On these grounds (and perhaps others, which I reserve the right to iterate at a later date, at my own prerogative), you must now report yourself for disciplinary investigation in respect of the foregoing infractions. Please confirm, by email to my solicitors (DDE Law of Liverpool), that my Formal Corporate Complaints against you, as set out above, have been acknowledged and logged. Thank you. I trust that you are aware that, taken together, these infractions may amount to the Common Law offence of Misconduct in Public Office. Mrs DIXON, the Council’s top internal solicitor has expressed an opinion on sentencing, etc.
2) You appear to have made a number of false assumptions which, before moving on, it will be useful to correct.
The North Yorks Enquirer, to which I frequently submit articles for publication, is not a ‘blog’; it is an online local news outlet. Its Mission Statement reads:
“The North Yorks Enquirer is an internet news magazine covering local, regional and some national news.
It provides a forum for citizen journalists working in the public interest to expose wasteful spending,
malpractice and corruption in authorities around North Yorkshire and beyond.”
I am not the Owner/Editor/Webmaster of the North Yorks Enquirer. I am not a Data Controller. I have no professional relationship with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). The articles which I submit are clearly headed as “In My View” articles, signalling uniquivocally that everything thereafter contained is an expression of my opinion – my right to which is enshrined in the UDHR, the ECHR and the HRA 98. You may disagree with my opinion if you so wish. Be my guest. Neither you nor the Council may suppress it.
In my article, I reproduced your email to all Councillors, and Mrs DIXON’s, both of Wednesday 26th July 2019, so that readers may evaluate the accuracy of my more critical opinions, amongst which I include my view that both emails are intimidatory, misleading and hypocritical.
I note that you have not attempted to deny, refute or rebut any of these criticisms, thereby acknowledging and accepting their validity. I thank you for that.
3) Turning now to the matter of the image to which you refer:
I am a human being; as such, I am far from infallible. Nevertheless, I always take more than reasonable care to establish my facts. This is why, in ten years of publication, I have never been sued for defamation. In the present case, I sought and received confirmation of your identity from several sources all familiar with you in your role as Audit & Fraud Manager/Data Protection Officer for Scarborough Borough Council. Being mindful of the importance of protecting personal data, I reproduce, in redacted form only, one such confirmation from a former colleague of yours at the Council, obtained over Facebook Messenger:
You seem to be asserting that the image is not you. You assert that you have an official Council ID photo of yourself, but you have not provided it, either for comparison with the image which you assert to be ‘wrong’, or to enable the Enquirer to replace the image which you assert to be ‘wrong’. This is remiss; and unhelpful. It suggests that any putative contention over the image is not a principle purpose of your email.
You appear to contend that an image which is not an image of you has been reproduced without your consent. This contention is not coherent. It is frivolous. You appear to be unfamiliar with Facebook’s Terms & Conditions in regard to the sharing of images. You appear to imagine that providing an alternative route to accessing an image of an alleged third party, allegedly not yourself, already widely available on the internet, without your explicit consent, is in some sense improper. This is patently absurd.
You assert that there is something incorrect about the way in which the image has been processed, but you have omitted to acknowledge that the image has been processed in precisely such a way as to redact the image of a third party, not yourself, unconnected with the content of my article, thereby to respect and protect the personal data of that third party. That third party is not you; you assert that the remaining figure in the image is not you. You therefore assert that you have no standing in the matter. Case closed.
4) You assertions (summarised in cursive blue script) are that:
a) it is not in the public interest to have reproduced an image of one of two main protagonists in my article.
This is nonsense; it has been the practice and policy of news media since time immemorial to ‘put a face to the name’ when reporting on politicians and paid public servants. In the case of a paid public servant entrusted with the position of Data Protection Officer at the very apex of responsibility for the Council’s procedures regarding the necessary encryption (or not) of highly sensitive documents known to have been compromised, there is no justification for depriving readers/ratepayers of exactly who it is who has failed them.
b) the image has been “uplifted” without your explicit consent.
I do not intend to insult your intelligence by repeating myself on this point. The image is either of you, or it is not of you. If the former, its inclusion in my article is quite proper; if the latter, you have not made the case for it being any of your concern. Nor has any third party raised any objection;
c) your name and position-title would have sufficed to identify you.
Not in my view, which is the view that prevails when I write my articles. I am not bound to consider your opinion as to what may or may not suffice to illustrate my articles. See a) and b), above.
d) the image has been used for a purpose for which the individual in the picture has no involvement or employment with SBC, etc.
This assertion is incomprehensible to me; I can only refer you once more to a), b) and c), above.
e) the image is not processed according to the rights of the individual.
What processing? What rights? Whose rights? Which individual? Again, if there is a contention here, it is incomprehensible to me.
Taken together, your alphabetically itemised assertions appear confused, poorly set out and motivated by personal resentment at having your professional performance closely scrutinised and found wanting in despreate degree. Your email is nothing other than an aggressive rant intended to intimidate and occasion fear and distress. Your email bears all the hallmarks of having been written rashly, in haste, ‘in a red mist’ and without proper regard to the consequences or to my data rights, or to your (and the Council’s) Duty of Care. Nothing about your email does you credit. You have performed inadequately, as the collander-like properties of the Council’s Data Protection service in recent times clearly demonstrate and, having been exposed, you have sought vindictively to bully me, abusing your powerful position at the Council in an attempt to make ‘trouble’ for me.
I expect a full and unconditional apology, to my approval and satisfaction, for publication at your own expense (not the Council’s) in the Scarborough News and (free of charge) in the North Yorks Enquirer before close-of-play (5:00pm) on Friday 2nd August 2019.
Please note that this email has been submitted for inclusion, and as supporting documentation, in an article bringing this disgraceful (and typical) example of Council bullying to the attention of the wider public.
I conclude by placing you on notice that I regard your email as unsolicited, intimidatory, malicious and offensive, intended to cause alarm and distress. I expressly forbid you to contact me by my personal email address ever again. Any repetition of this conduct will constitute a ‘course of action’ as defined under the terms of the Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and is likely to result in civil action against you, as an indiviudal and/or in your position as Audit & Fraud Manager/Data Protection Officer for Scarborough Borough Council.
You will note that this email has been copied Cc: to my solicitor of record, and Bcc: to selected elected members.
——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Data Breach
Date: Fri, 26 Jul 2019 16:15:52 +0000
From: Alison Johnson <Alison.Johnson@scarborough.gov.uk>
To: Nigel <[REDACTED]>
Dear Mr Ward,
I write to you in my capacity as an individual, and not in this instance, as Audit and Fraud Manager/Data Protection Officer for the Council. I am merely using my council email address in the first instance to confirm my identity to you to avoid any lengthy delays. Should you wish to liaise with me in relation to this, please use my personal email of [REDACTED] going forward
The photograph you have included in your most recent “article” was taken from a Facebook account, and not linked in any way to my capacity as an employee of the Council. I have an ID picture for that.
After lengthy conversations with the ICO this afternoon about this photo being published, they have advised that I need to advise you in the first instance that I intend to complete a formal report to them claiming excessive processing of my personal data for a blog for which the picture is a) not in the public interests nor relevant, b) uplifted and used without my explicit consent c) necessary for a specific purpose (my name and job title would have sufficed), d) used for a purpose for which the individual in the picture has no involvement or employment with SBC, nor has she ever, and e) not processed in accordance with the rights of the individual. They will then investigate further.
You have published a photo of someone who not only isn’t me, with no consent, it is also neither processed fairly or lawfully and I will pursue this personally.
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