Friday, 14 February 2014

Mark James to 'stand aside' whilst police investigate unlawful payments

Update; Jonathan Edwards MP, who has also called for council leader Kevin Madge to stand down, spoke to the press today asking Cllr Madge to make Mr James' position clear;

"He needs to publish a statement regarding the full terms and conditions of the chief executive's departure.

"County residents need assurance that the chief executive is to have no contact with elected members or employees whilst the police investigation is ongoing, or to have access to any of the council's computer and telephone systems."


Fifteen days after the auditor issued his two reports, on the pension payments and the libel indemnity, and two days after the police announced their investigation, the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire Council, Mark James has finally 'stood aside', a 'voluntary suspension' I assume, whilst the investigation is carried out. Kevin Madge has issued the statement which can be found at the end of this post.

Presumably this also includes Mr James' various roles in the Welsh Government and also the Local Service Board.

Coincidentally, this is a year to the day that I was being cross-examined by Mr James' barrister during the libel trial.

Given the speculation over Mr James' refusal to stand down yesterday; Kevin Madge's failure to secure his suspension and Meryl's determination to stand by her man, this is slightly unexpected; the "mutual agreement" Cllr Madge refers to in the statement did not seem probable a few hours ago. Perhaps there was enormous pressure from Cardiff.

The statement is not short on spin and states that the auditor did not refer the reports to the police. No he didn't 'refer' the reports but he, or the WAO as a body, made Dyfed Powys Police aware of them the day they were published.

It remains to be seen what will happen to the rest of those involved, the row will not go away. As per my previous post, Plaid AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas has launched a petition to bring those involved to account, it can be signed here.

Given the astonishing events today in Pembrokeshire Council involving an 'envelope' (brief summary in previous post) where the unlawful pension payment was discussed, the meeting in Carmarthenshire on the two unlawful findings on the 27th February will be one to watch.

Here's the statement from Carmarthenshire council's website;

Statement by Cllr Kevin Madge, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council:

“By mutual agreement the Chief Executive Mr Mark James will no longer undertake his duties as Chief Executive from now until Police enquiries concerning the two Wales Audit Office Public Interest Reports have been concluded.

“I welcome the police investigation which will give the public the assurance they deserve.

“The Auditor has not referred his reports to the police nor has he made any suggestions of any criminal wrongdoing, and I hope that the investigation can be concluded as quickly as possible in order for us as a council to move forward.

During the absence of the Chief Executive his role will be performed by the current Deputy Chief Executive Mr Dave Gilbert.”

Mr James added that he was absolutely certain that neither he nor any of his officers had done anything wrong but that it was only right and proper that  he should not be in the office whilst the police concluded their enquiries.   This would avoid any perception of undue influence being brought to bear.

Mr James hoped that the police enquiry could be conducted as quickly as possible as this was in everyone’s best interest.

Cllr Madge concluded:  “I have nothing further to say on this matter, there will be a full, frank and public debate on the reports at the Council meeting of February 27.”


Anonymous said...

Good at last, this should have been done as soon as the police were called to investigate

Anonymous said...

The chair and councillors behaved remarkably in the webcast in Pembroke. A breath of fresh air compared to council meetings closer to the SA31 post code.

Anonymous said...

But please take note of the fact that it was "by mutual agreement".

Anonymous said...

Based on what happened in today's pembs meeting, hasn't king kev not prejudiced himself with some of the statements released. If he has, he should declare an interest and take no part in the meeting.

Anonymous said...

Surely Mr Madge should be suspended for bringing the council into disrepute, if nothing else.

Anonymous said...

"Mr James added..... it was only right and proper that he should not be in the office whilst the police concluded their enquiries..." How honourable!

Anonymous said...

Given that Mark James wasn't suspended as he chose to stand down does this mean that he will not be in receipt of his extortionate salary?

Anonymous said...

Mr Mark James says 'Right and proper' he should not be in office while police concluded their inquiries,well people have said that for weeks ,he was one of the few that thought he didn't have to.
Kevin Madge says 'I welcome the police investigation which will give the public the assurance they deserve',late again that has been repeated over the last few weeks.
' Hopes the investigation would be conducted as
Quickly as possible as it will be in everyone's interest'
Well it's his lot that have been dragging their feet.

Anonymous said...

Despite the CE's suspension, I hope Plaid continue with their vote of no confidence against the 3 Executive board members on Monday.

Anonymous said...

What will happen at the Carmarthen meeting.

Will Mr Kerr have a similar role as to todays in Pembs. Will the acting head of legal be present.

Can not Carms learn lessons from Pembs - is there a need for him to attend at all ?

These are not rhetorical questions - does anyone know the answers ?

Anonymous said...

Mr James will still be on full pay.

Martin Milan said...

Mr. James SHOULD still be on full pay. Suspension is non-judgemental, and it is important we respect this in this case every bit as much as we would for someone in the typing pool.

I don't like Mr. James, I believe the treatment of Jacqui has been a massive injustice, but I won't compound that by taking a "two wrongs DO make a right" stance...

Anonymous said...

Chickens coming home to roost. James has a chequered history & if he manages to evade prosecution over this his future surely is tainted.

His employment prospects must surely be nil as of now.

Hope he enjoys all that money, it wont argue with him and its certainly no friend.

All he can look forward to is a solitary retirement.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Martin Milan. I am uncomfortable with this public slogging of Mark James. Love him or hate him , both of which i think are ridiculous, no-one has the complete inside story. He is a family man with young children and we all need to respect that and consider the impact of all of this on his family.

I post this knowing the likely vitriol that this will produce but i am making a stand for "being human" and in my opinion the protection of Mr James children is the most important thing . He is a Dad and a public servant and sometimes the two do not sit side by side comfortably. Lets cut his family some slack until we all know the truth.

Anonymous said...

You are joking? He will be in another CEO job at another inflated salary in a trice - this is the way local government works - it looks after its own.

Anonymous said...

@ Martin Milan - You are right; two wrongs do not make a right! However, I for one am judging Mark James on the evidence CCC THEMSELVES DISCLOSED!! Don't kid yourself about suspension being non-judgemental. If your face doesn't fit then you are highly likely to be treated unfairly and less favourably. Do you honestly think that an employee e.g. A CCC employee working in a typing pool wouldn't have been suspended immediately?

Sorry anon 00:46 but i'm afraid that Mark James has brought the public's scrutiny upon himself. HE CHOSE to benefit from these unlawful transactions despite the alarm bells ringing. As a result of the risk HE took and the CHOICES HE made there is no doubt that sadly his family are suffering just like the many other families who have suffered at the hands of this despicable man. They too are human!!!

Anonymous said...

Anonnymous @ 00.46
This is mind-boggling.when did Mark James ever consider other people's children or anybody else for that matter.The argument is pathetic and
tells us much more about the writer of the comment than they realise.Perhaps it is a person who is a member of the Towy church.
Mark James had no consideration for Jaqui's children but I am not using that as an argument to criticise him.
Matin Milan is correct.Everyone should have equal rights.The fault over all the problems in CCC lies with Kevin Madge and co who did not act promptly enough to save the taxpayers and their children
from any extra expence.Doesn't the writer know the salary of the chief executive? That shows Mark James and his family could live very comfortably thank you on what he has earned from his former post in Boston and through his time in .CCC.
Oh please! Do try and make a well informed arguments when discussing conduct of officers and not churn out that which really does sound like something from a Towy church discourse.

Anonymous said...

Martin Milan 23.47

The difference here being, the person in the typing pool would have been suspended long ago!

Anonymous said...

What has being "A family man" got to do with an allegation of wrongdoing?Kevin Madge and executive board are probably family people.Is it the suggestion then that everyone should
refrain from criticism of them?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10.14

I don't think so somehow this time.

Mrs Angry said...

Anonymous 00:46: Mr James is of course entitled to be treated with courtesy, decency and justice. But so does Jacqui Thompson, and she also has a family, and faces the loss of her home because of the very harsh findings of a court case partly funded by an unlawful payment. Justice must apply to all, and be seen to apply to all.

Martin Milan said...

Anon @ 0046

I fear you give me too much credit... I'm well aware of what this chap gets up to, and I agree with the vast majority of the posters here who think he needs to go. Jacqui has been treated quite appallingly, and quite deliberately - and he's going to find it hard to find sympathy now.

THat said, proper process is proper process, and the proper process is that when someone is suspended it should be viewed as non-judgemental. In this case, for many, many reasons, the suspension HAD to happen (and it happened FAR too late) - but we can't go around saying "He's suspended so we've won".

There has to be an investigation.

As for his being a dad, and I'm a new dad myself, I don't care. It's not relevant here. Jacqui is a family woman to. Your point being?

Anonymous said...

He has brought it on himself.So what are we supposed to
do?say no more about it is it.

Anonymous said...

Hasn't anyone noticed that Mr.James has NOT been suspended ?
There is one heck of a difference between suspension and just standing down voluntarily.
Suspension according to CCC rules is the only and proper way to do things.
If we do not push Mr.Madge to suspend Mr.James there could (will) be major problems in the future pipeline.

Anonymous said...

The standing down of an employee is different to the suspension of the employee:
Stand down is designed to deal with a situation where the employee cannot be usefully employed for reasons beyond the employer’s control and, consequently, the affected employee(s) do not receive payment for the period of the stand down
Suspension involves the temporary cessation of certain rights of an employee, but it is not an implied right under a contract of employment for the employer unless the employee is paid for the period of the suspension. Whether imposed as a disciplinary measure or to allow time for the consideration of some incident which needs to be settled before the employee’s future employment with the organisation can be determined, a suspension is normally only barring the employee from work duties and attendance at work, and does not include a cessation of payment of wages or salary.

Delyth Jenkins said...

I have a family too, but that didn't stop Mr James from bullying me and making me feel threatened by his behaviour when I went to see him accompanied by my M.P in Oct 2009 when the Ombudsman released 2 damning reports. You wouldn't think it by his behaviour, but I had done nothing wrong.

My pension is now frozen as I was forced out of my job. It seems one rule for one .....

Anonymous said...

You cannot have a "proper process" if the proper process has not been followed. Yes, if the rules are followed Mr James is entitled to all the safeguards that go with them. But he and Councillor Madge have chosen NOT to abide by the rules so there is no precedent for treating them with the fairness that would come with following them.

Anonymous said...

I simply asked for consideration for his children. I am not a member of the Towy church or any other church for that matter! I can express an opinion as a decent human being without being a member of a church!
I am simply saying that i am seeing this through the eyes of his children who have to go to school and deal with this.
It is clear from the comments on here that people don't agree with this.
I will leave it with you , i have no axe to grind one way or the other but i feel for his children who are innocent victims in all of this.
And before there is another barrage of comments i accept that other families have been affected

Anonymous said...

I think there are many children in Carmarthenshire would
Wish to be in the position his children are in,if I was a child I would ,Dad £180,000 + better than Dad on the
Minimum wage,money it's everything but it helps a lot.

caebrwyn said...

To the commenter who was concerned about Mr James' family, this blog is only concerned with Carmarthenshire Council of which, Mr James happens to be the Chief Executive. It is right and proper that he should be suspended, or 'stood down' pending an investigation and as a high profile public figure there will be considerable interest, and strong opinions voiced. That is par for the course. As I'm sure Mr James accepts.

My children have been subjected to considerable and unwarranted pressure by comments by Mr James himself. To give just one small example, a vitriolic newsletter written by Mr James was sent to all 9000 council employees after the judgement last year. I was unaware of this until my daughter came home from school upset after being questioned about the contents by a dinner lady.

If you're going down the road of '...but think of the children', don't do it here.

Anonymous said...

Interesting Caebrwyn, im one of those 9000 employees,
I must have missed the vitriolic newsletter!
Wonder why that is???

Anonymous said...


I give you an example:
you go into work and your Boss says can you work out of (say) haverfordwest today, we'll pay your milage?
You agree and off you go.
some months later you recieve a letter stating your boss had no right to give you that money and that it looks as if you'd taken in unlawfully... WHOSE TO BLAME?

You or your Boss, its the Exec. Board that should be suspened for the decision to allow the payment to take place not JUST Mr James. Anyone present at the meeting should be suspended until their involvement if determinded.

Mr James aka the £180k fall guy

Anonymous said...

The WAO stated the payments were unlawful, does this not then mean anyone present at the meeting (which passed that the payments be made) have infact broken the Code of Conduct

PART 5 - Codes & Protocols:
7. You must not —
(b) use, or authorise others to use, the resources of your authority —
(iii) unlawfully;

Anonymous said...

I am also an employee and never received any newsletter which was mentioned above either.
This is a one sided argument and a personal attack at Mark James
At the end of the day the decision was made by the Council and the Exec Board about the pension payments not Mr James himself. They should be accountable for this, but instead this is just being used as a political war for Plaid to win some points.

caebrwyn said...

Anon 17th Feb 12.32
As for comments referring to the newsletter, Y Gair, I have a copy. Whether or not everyone received one, or even noticed that it had been delivered/emailed I cannot comment on.

This is not a one sided argument, the arguments are based entirely on the Auditor's findings. And you are right, the Executive Board are also responsible and should be accountable.

This has nothing to do with political point scoring but everything to do with the questionable integrity and governance of this council

Anonymous said...

Seeing as Plaid haven't done anything that has been deemed UNLAWFUL, why shouldn't they win some points. the Labour ran Council attempt this every time they print that rubbish 'How Good Are We' rag.

I imagine everyone right now whether Labour, Plaid or an Indy that wasn't involved or were given false information will be distancing themselves at this moment in time.

@Anon 12:32 The Exec Board made the decision not the Council. please don't confuse the two. on is part of a democracy the other is a dictatorship.

Angharad said...

Does this mean Mark James will avoid attending the public meeting on the 27th of February?

Anonymous said...

FYI I remember when plaid created the 'Carmarthenshire news'. It's their fault we've got it.

Angharad said...

The Council could easily stop the publication and save thousands of pounds. I only use it to wrap up rotten fruit.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 10:52 - Plaid created the Community News; which talked about the community.

Mr Madge (Leader of CCC & Vice-Chair of LSB) gave use the LSB rag entitled CARMARTHENSHIRE NEWS, which in its earliest form was also about the community, however it has since transformed into a rag for CCC to blow their own trumpet.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 11:55 I havent heard so much rubbish in my life. all parties are the same when it comes to council rag mags, when Plaid went into opposition they realised that the rag mag boot was on the other foot. I used to be a labour voter, but i'm not going Plaid because I'm sick of hearing about the high ground that doesn't exist.