Saturday 17th November 2018,
North Yorks Enquirer

Open Letter to Lisa Dixon (SBC Legal)

Open Letter to Lisa Dixon (SBC Legal)

On 31st July 2018, the North Yorks Enquirer published an Open Letter from Mr Geoff PICKERING, a member of the public formerly an East Riding of Yorkshire Councillor [Con.], to Mrs Lisa DIXON, the Director of Legal & Democratic Services at Scarborough Borough Council, who holds the statutory position of Monitoring Officer. Mrs DIXON is a solicitor and an Officer of the Court.

Mr PICKERING has confirmed that the period in which Mrs DIXON was required to respond, as set out in the Council’s Constitution, has now elapsed; no response has been forthcoming.

In consequence, Mr PICKERING has invited the Enquirer to publish, as a second Open Letter, his follow-up missive which, as we shall see, has occasioned the first three steps of the customary soft-shoe shuffle.

~~~~~

30th August 2018

Re: Liability for reckless behaviour of Chief Executive and others – Failure to respond.

Dear  Ms Dixon,

It comes as no surprise that you have not responded to my email of 31st July 2018.

Indeed, the predictable nature of your complete disregard for your own Customer Service Standards is the very reason I made the letter public in the first place. I also for the same reason place this communication in the public domain.

I remind you of your policy:

Letters, emails and on-line enquiries

  1. Our preferred form of communication is via electronic mean We aim to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the development of digital technologies to keep you informed on the progress of your enquiry and advised of relevant timescales where practical to do so Unless the subject is complex, you will receive a full response within 10 working days

  2. If the subject is complex, we will update you within 10 working days and provide a full response within 20 working days.Our letters and emails will give the name and direct telephone number of the person dealing with your enquiry “

It is now 31 days – 21 working days since my letter. I have not had so much as an acknowledgement.

In anticipation of your next  predictable response, denying receipt, I remind you that your policy also includes the following.

Social media

We monitor our social media sites regularly. If your post on twitter or Facebook requires a comment from us, we will provide this within 2 working days. If actions are required the relevant timescales set out above will apply.

My email to you has been published and widely-read on social media. Nevetheless, I attach a copy below so there can be no possible doubt as to its contents.

The letter you have chosen not respond to contained a reasonable and measured request that you fulfil the requirements of your post and remove the risk to the taxpayer of an illegal action – i.e. disbarring an elected member.

The understanding of such risk is not simply mine but is now published opinion by Richard Clayton QC (a barrister at Ely Place Chambers) and Jonathan Goolden (a partner at Wilkin Chapman LLP):

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=35344%3Adisciplining-councillors&catid=59%3Agovernance-a-risk-articles&Itemid=1

  • “We, therefore, would, underline that a local authority will be on risk if it tries to discipline councillors outside the governance procedures laid down by the Localism Act. “

You are  continuing to act illegally in interfering to prevent an elected Councillor from fulfilling her democratic mandate, disenfranchising  4,065 electors, all in full knowledge of the risk that poses to the Council and the Taxpayer.

You appear to have perverted and allowed the perversion of the Council’s Procedures and Policies to prevent scrutiny and challenge to thes illegal acts, blocking and undermining attempts to hold those responsible to account. You have now refused, by inaction, to fulfil the role for which you are employed; to prevent illegality and act to remove risk.

Make no mistake, this is institutional corruption and you now stand publicly recorded as being fully complicit.

I have no idea why you should choose to risk your livelihood and professional reputation in this manner. I can only assume that, in the small bubble of ‘power’ and perverted accountability at Scarborough Borough Council, you enjoy a mutual cabal of protection and compliance which leads you to believe you are above the law.

I assure you and those others involved that you are not.

I repeat my request but place you on notice that failure not only to respond but to act properly and fulfil you duties with due diligence will result in formal charges being brought against you.

Once again – Could you please confirm:

(1) that you have already, or will forthwith, fulfill your statutory duty and ensure that all Officers and Members desist from any illegal or reckless act immediately, and that the appropriate actions and remedies are put in place to minimise the risk to the Taxpayer,

and

(2) Confirm that you will ensure that any costs to the Authority arising from ultra vires illegal or reckless actions of any Officer or Member are recovered through a personal surcharge or other such means against those liable, including the full commercial cost/value of any of the Council’s internal or external legal services or advice.

I look forward to receiving your notification of fulfilling your duties and assurances that you have removed any risk to the taxpayer by return.

Yours sincerely

Geoff Pickering

attachment

copy of original email

~~~~~

It was four weeks before Mrs DIXON responded:

From: Lisa.Dixon@scarborough.gov.uk
Date: 30 August 2018 at 11:50:21 BST
To: Geoff Pickering
Subject: Automatic reply: Liability for reckless behaviour of Cheief Executive and others – Faiure to respond.

I am currently out of the office. I will be back on Monday 3 September 2018.

Please contact Jane Groom on 01723 232437, if you require assistance before then. 

Kind regards. 

Lisa Dixon

Director

Scarborough Borough Council

~~~~~

On the presumption that Mrs DIXON’s outgoing Auto-Response could be relied upon, Mr PICKERING then proceeded to email Ms GROOM:

Subject: Liability for reckless behaviour of Cheief Executive and others – Faiure to respond.
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2018 12:39:21 +0100
From: Geoff Pickering
To: jane.groom@scarborough.gov.uk

Dear Ms Groom

I have received an automated response from Ms Dixon asking me to forward my communication to you.

As the continuation of illegal activity by your council and risk to the taxpayer is a matter of urgency, particularly as it prevents a member rightly attending the council meeting on Monday, disenfranchising over 6000 voters I am forwarding for you to deal with as requested.

Please ensure the illegal activity is ceased and that all cllrs are able to attend the next council meeting.

Yours sincerely

Geoff Pickering

~~~~~

Readers will by now be unsurprised by the Auto-Response from Ms GROOM:

From: Jane.Groom@scarborough.gov.uk
Date: 30 August 2018 at 12:39:28 BST
To: Geoff Pickering
Subject: Automatic reply: Liability for reckless behaviour of Cheief Executive and others – Faiure to respond.

I am out of the office returning on 3 September.  If your enquiry is urgent, please contact Sharon Robinson on 01723 2323202 or via e-mail at Sharon.Robinson@scarborough.gov.uk.  Otherwise I will respond on my return.

Many thanks

Not to be deterred, Mr PICKERING went the extra mile and emailed Ms Sharon ROBINSON:

——– Original Message ——–

Subject: Fwd: Liability for reckless behaviour of Chief Executive and others – Failure to respond.
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2018 18:36:29 +0100
From: Geoff Pickering
To: Sharon.Robinson@scarborough.gov.uk

Dear Ms Robinson

Having received an out of office redirection from Ms Dixon to Ms Groom I am surprised and not greatly impressed to find Ms Groom is also out of the office for the same period and has redirected her correspondence to you.

I therefore repeat my request and ask you to deal with this as a matter of urgency

Thank you

Yours sincerely

~~~~~

It would appear that Scarborough Borough Council Officers are intent upon keeping the door firmly slammed – perhaps until after the Full Council Meeting on Monday 3rd September 2018:

https://scarborough.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/369542

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