Saturday 24th August 2019,
North Yorks Enquirer

Tail Bullies Dog

Tail Bullies Dog

  • an “In My View” article by NIGEL WARD, exposing further outfall from the failure to encrypt ‘sensitive’ information.

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The Enquirer has published a series of article referencing the failure by Scarborough Borough Council adequately to protect the personal data of the applicants for the (then) vacant position (arising from the ‘retirement’ of Mr Jim DILLON) of Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service at Scarborough Borough Council.

Emails in my possession confirm a series of internal investigations into the leak of the CVs – which the former CEO maintained had never taken place. New Leader of the Council, Councillor Steve SIDDONS [Lab.] has even stated in an email to a member of the public that talk of a leak is nothing more than “mischief”. But now, yet another “internal investigation” is under way.

It is a great shame that the Council did not exercise such diligence when first I (six years ago), then SBC whistleblower Ben MARRIOTT, tipped them off to the systemic corruption taking place in the Technical Services and Asset Management departments of the Council.

Readers will remember that Ben MARRIOTT went to law with the Council. Not only did he win his case hands down, His Honour Justice Humphrey FORREST stated that Scarborough Borough Council OFFICERS had conducted a “complete whitewash”. And Ben MARRIOTT’s official whistleblower status was leaked to his work colleagues by the Officers who are now in rehab over the leaking of the CVs – which may be just one reason why they are pulling out all the stops to pin it on a Councillor. Pass the vomit bag.

In the aftermath of Enquirer editor Tim THORNE’s revelations about that ludicrous Argos deal, two of the Officers at the forefront of the MARRIOTT ‘investigation’ have now emailed all Councillors in strong terms – thereby exposing the level of panic in the Town Hall.

The first of these, at 11:47am Wednesday morning, was Alison JOHNSON (pictured below, left) who is the Council’s Audit & Fraud Manager and Data Protection Officer, the second (11 minutes later) Mrs Lisa DIXON, Director of Legal & Democratic Services and Monitoring Officer (also pictured below).

Mrs Alison JOHNSON (left) and Mrs Lisa DIXON

Readers will immediately perceive the irony of the Data Protection Officer’s remarks:

Beginning with the second paragraph, can Mrs JOHNSON direct members to the legislation prohibiting Councillors from sending material from their Council i-Pads to their own private computers?

No. Of course not. No such legislation exists. Mrs JOHNSON is just blowing smoke.

If it is “unacceptable” to Mrs JOHNSON (or her masters), then that is a problem for them. To others (with no less ‘authority’) it is both acceptable and necessary – in the public interest.

Many Councillors prefer to read their Council documents on a full-size screen. Many prefer to print them off, so that they can easily be annotated and/or highlighted. Viewers of the Council’s webcast will have seen members referring to hard-copy in full view of the public (and the cameras). Not all Councils use i-Pads for member communications; not all Councillors conduct their business using the Council’s very flakey IT systems. Mrs JOHNSON is merely trying to intimidate members into the false belief that they are not permitted to forward docs to their own email accounts. Of course they are – the fact that the Council’s IT department spies on members’ emails notwithstanding.

In the same paragraph, the assertion that the ICT department “works tirelessly to ensure that all data is encrypted and secured to the highest level” is pure bullshit – the CEO-job applicants CVs were sent to the five members of the Appointments Panel without encryption. How do I know this? I invite Mrs JOHNSON to guess . . .

The fourth paragraph is very interesting indeed. Mrs JOHNSON has accepted responsibility for ‘potential’ data breaches – which, by law, are required to be reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office within 72 hours of any concern arising. In the case of the leaked CVs, this most definitely did not take place. So Mrs JOHNSON has put herself right in the frame. I suggest that Mrs JOHNSON now reports to the ICO her department’s failure to encrypt the CVs when they went out to the five Appointments Panel members three months ago, before the local elections.

Eleven minutes after Mrs JOHNSON’s ‘heavy’ email to all members, Mrs DIXON entered the fray, stage-left, with what in my view is an even more intimidatory – even threatening – email to all Councillors copying in Mrs JOHNSON, as well as Deputy Monitoring Officer Carol REHILL and her temporary stand-in, Wendy TRAINOR:

Mrs DIXON’s third paragraph is quite bizarre. It is, for a reason, compartmentalised in a email quite separate to Mrs JOHNSON’s intimidatory remarks; Mrs DIXON’s statement “We will refer any act or omission which may [“may”, mark you – not “does”] constitute this offence to the appropriate authorities” is therefore not explicitly tied to Mrs JOHNSON’s statement “Please note that it is not acceptable to forward any [What? “any”? – really? “Any”? Don’t be silly!] Council related data to your own email address”, but the threat is there implicitly, all the same.

In fact, that third paragraph is cribbed from the CPS website:

[Readers (and I include Mrs DIXON) who would like a better understanding of Misconduct in Public Office may wish to read the transcript of the Rt.Hon. Lord Justice BEAN’s Reform Club Atkin Lecture of 6th November 2018, here.]

Noteworthy is the fact that Mrs DIXON omits the second paragraph of the CPS guidance. Even if sending emails from Council i-Pads were a criminal offence (which it most definitely is not) then the CPS cautions that there is some uncertainty as to whether or not it would be “appropriate” to prosecute. If memory serves, it has not been “appropriate” in the last forty years. Mrs DIXON is waving a big, hefty stick – made of hot air.

Then, at 4:58pm (and 5:05pm) Thursday:

https://www.yorkshirecoastradio.com/news/local-news/2920863/police-to-investigate-scarborough-council-leak/

Mrs DIXON is correct when she emphasises the importance of Councillors complying with “all relevant legislation and the Members’ and Officers’ Code of Conduct”. The same applies to Officers. Nor is the Criminal Law Act 1967 excluded:

But if she wishes to imply that the forwarding of Council emails/documents to members’ own private email accounts constitutes the heinous offence of Misconduct in Public Office and will attract a lengthy prison sentence, she is wildly wrong or extraordinarily ill-informed – and (which is far worse) attempting to intimidate members (also a breach of “legislation and the Members’ and Officers’ Code of Conduct”) to prevent certain information from reaching the public domain.

Waving a life sentence over members is certainly intimidation. A few of the Councillors who normally share relevant information with the Enquirer have, on this occasion, failed to do so precisely because they felt intimidated by Mrs DIXON’s email – as I did once myself, before I knew any better. Councillors need only to have felt intimidated for an offence to have taken place.

One Councillor has emailed the Enquirer, as follows:

“Life Imprisonment. I have never seen such a blatant attempt to intimidate Councillors. I am disgusted and disappointed.”

(The last sentence is, of course, a sharp stick in the eye of Councillor SIDDONS [Lab.], our new Leader, who has been bleating petulantly about his disappointment and disgust over the leaking of the Argos Report).

More seriously, intimidation is a form of anti-social behaviour. Bullying and/or intimidation in the workplace is particularly offensive. It can also constitute an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. I have to say, if I had to pay many thousands of pounds a year to retain a solicitor, I should want a proper one.

Taken together, the two emails above signal all to clearly the blind panic stalking the corridors of ‘power’ in theHouse of Secrets. What is making Officers so hyper-nervous? And why, in the face of threats of life imprisonment, do members continue to share documents with the Enquirer?

The reason is simple: they act in the public interest, which provides a complete defence to bullshit allegations from Officers attempting to conceal their own incompetence, stupidity or corruption.

Mrs DIXON’s email drew a response from one Councillor, whose identity I have redacted in the true spirit of GDPR:

Other members are vacillating in the forlorn hope that they may one day grow a pair.

Count on the Enquirer to disclose all.

NYE/SBC Challenge Number One

Certain lily-livered members may be daunted by Officers’ threats of life imprisonment. The Enquirer is not.

Let Mrs DIXON and Mrs JOHNSON report ALL of the Council’s leaks to their colleagues at the North Yorkshire Police and the Information Commissioner’s Office and bring charges of Misconduct in Public Office (a Common Law ‘crime’) against just one member – and I will provide equally (or more) compelling evidence against Officers.

NYE/SBC Challenge Number Two

Provide proof that the leak of the CEO-job applicants’ personal data – their CVs – was reported to the Information Commissioner’s Office within 72 hours, as the law requires, and I will provide proof of three other reportable ‘offences’ – within 72 hours. You cannot do it – I can.

Game on.

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