The latest edition of "Y Gair", Carmarthenshire County Council's in-house newsletter for staff, contains a message from the Chief Executive.
Ignoring the abuse of apostrophes, there are a couple of points which may surprise some readers, and possibly the Wales Audit Office.
First is the claim that the Welsh Government has apparently confirmed Mr James's view that the Council did have power to grant him an indemnity to bring an action for libel, contrary to what the Wales Audit Office found.
Second is the claim that changes to HMRC rules on pensions for senior officers (i.e. top earners) "forced" them out of the local government pension scheme, that the scheme was introduced on the condition that it did not cost the Council any additional money (in truth it cost the Council a small fortune), and that there was nothing intrinsically unlawful about it. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Mr James says that the scheme has been withdrawn "for now".
In other words, a complete and total rejection of the Wales Audit Office's findings.
"It has been some months since I have penned an article for Y Gair. During that time, the Council found itself in the headlines and in the middle of a political row. As with all such matters people take the opportunity to grab media attention for their own ends, irrespective of the facts of the matter.
"There were two matters raised by the Wales Audit Office. The first was whether the Council could indemnify an officer in respect of proceedings for defamation. The legal advice the Council had from two QC’s (sic) was very clear, it could indemnify its’ (sic) officers in exceptional cases. They granted that indemnity to me, as Chief Executive, on behalf of the officers, to not only defend an action for defamation brought by a local blogger, but to counter sue. Following a six day trial last year, the blogger’s action against the Council was thrown out in its entirety. In turn, she was found guilty of unlawful defamation, harassment, attempting to pervert the course of justice and generally being so dishonest that her own insurance company cancelled the policy to underwrite her legal action and the judge said that he would not believe a word she said unless it was backed up by evidence, other than her own words.
"The Council has refused to accept the Wales Audit Office report and has subsequently confirmed with Welsh Government that the Council does have the powers to grant such indemnities. The Auditor was wrong in the Council’s view.
"On the second matter, the Council had agreed to make a payment to senior officers equivalent to pension contributions where such officers were forced to leave the pension scheme because of new restrictions by the Government. This was on condition it did not cost the Council any money. Many employers make similar arrangements and whilst of itself not intrinsically unlawful, there were some procedural deficiencies in how the decision was taken and the Council decided to withdraw this scheme for now.
"Some politicians felt there had been criminal wrongdoing and asked the police to investigate. This, they did and were subsequently fully satisfied that there had been no such wrongdoing. I said publicly at the time that I was utterly convinced that no officers had done anything wrong, but in order that no one could subsequently allege that I had attempted to influence any investigation I would be “out of office” until the matter was concluded.
"Can I place on record my sincere thanks and appreciation for all of you who got in touch, by email, letter, card, phone or in person, to offer your support. It was very much appreciated.
"The Council can hopefully put this hiatus behind it and now move on. The Council has excellent services which are highly valued by our residents. Our Education and Social Care services are second to none. Our investment in housing is delighting our tenants and in schools, is delighting teachers and students alike.
"Our refuse and cleansing services are the envy of many councils and our fantastic regeneration of our County is widely respected across Wales and England.
"I am extremely proud of what we together have achieved in Carmarthenshire and I am certainly not prepared to allow our County to be talked down because of these minor matters."