A number of issues arose during the James v Thompson trial last week which deserve closer attention. Here are a few for starters.
In an otherwise difficult few days for the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council, he was able to give the court at least one piece of good news which was that his appointment as a non-executive director of the Board of the Welsh Assembly Government has been extended for a further three years.
There is absolutely no reason to disbelieve this statement, although Mr James's name does not appear on the list published by the Welsh Government (here). Perhaps there is another board with non-executive directors.
A search on Mr James's name on the Welsh Government website returns only two references, both from 2011. In one of those Mr James was leading the "Asset Management Workstream" in the government's Efficiency and Innovation Programme. According to the announcement, this was a limited interim activity.
The other announcement, regarding the government's 21st century schools programme, says that Mr James is the representative of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives and Senior Managers (SOLACE) on the "Board", although the press release contains no other reference to a board.
All very mysterious, so to clear things up a Freedom of Information request will be winging its way to Cardiff asking a number of questions, including how much time is devoted to board activities, how much non-executive members receive in allowances and expenses, if anything, and what the role of a non-executive member is.
Rhodri Glyn Thomas, Assembly Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, has tabled a question to First Minister Carwyn Jones for next week asking for a statement on the Local Authorities (Indemnities for Members and Officers) (Wales) Order 2006.
Can we expect more than the hand wringing and hot air produced by Local Government Minister Carl Sargeant? Well, there's always hope.
Another mystery surrounds the presence in court of Debbie Williams, the manager of the county council's press office, for the final three days of the trial. Since she withdrew her witness statement, there appeared to be no reason for her to be in London. Who was paying for that, and how much?
On the final day of the trial there was a brief flurry of activity in the James camp following publication of a damning leader in The Times. Mr James's legal team hurriedly distributed copies of their closing statement to members of the press present, but the horse had already bolted.
Perhaps County Hall will now add The Times to its blacklist along with the South Wales Guardian.
I would like my A.M.Rhodri Glyn Thomas to raise again his request for a Public Inquiry into CCC's Planning Department relative to the highly dubious decision making and misconduct following the Ombudsman's report into my case. Three weeks ago, following my A.M's request for a meeting with the Minister Carl Sargeant(refused) I also wrote requesting to meet with him. To date I have not yet received even the courtesy of an acknowledgement. It has been easier for me to meet with my former M.P. in Sussex, who is now a Minister in central Government, than to get an audience with any Minister in the Assembly. It is scandalous when exceedingly serious matters are raised, Ministers appear to 'turn a blind eye'. I am acutely aware there have been many requests for meetings with Welsh Ministers, all refused. I do not intend giving up on my call for a Public Inquiry into CCC. Is Mark James association/involvement with Ministers jeopordizing openness and transparency within our own Government? Serious questions are being left unanswered.
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