When my NoM calling for the release of correspondence between PCC, WEFO and Mr Cathal McCosker on the subject of repayments of grant monies came before last week’s audit committee, I took the opportunity to have a bit of fun at the expense of my old chum Cllr Johnny Allen-Mirehouse.
Old Grumpy: “Some members will have a sense of deja vu because it is almost exactly one year since I last requested information through this process and you will recall that at the council meeting on December 12  I was accused of being a liar by several members and my request was refused.
One of those members was Cllr Allen-Mirehouse who said I was the sort of person who wouldn’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Unfortunately, Tim Kerr QC isn’t here today, but if he was I would be asking his advice as to whether Cllr Allen-Mirehouse should be declaring an interest because he may have demonstrated predetermination and bias.
Obviously, that’s a decision for him to make”.
Cllr JAM: “May I say, Mr Chairman, I haven’t changed my mind since I made that statement.
Chairman Mike James: “Excuse me, we will move on now.”
Old Grumpy: “Just a point of interest: everyone else seems to have changed their minds because the matter is now with the police, which is why we have this report before us today.”
Some minutes later, having had a bit of a think, Cllr Allen-Mirehouse interjected to qualify his earlier remarks.
“If I could come back on the comments made by Cllr Stoddart earlier on. I did indeed say he was inclined to not let the facts get in the way of a good story.
If he recalls, I said after that (my emphasis) if he comes up with proof, I will personally back him to the hilt.”
Well, thanks to the wonders of the webcast, I can tell you exactly what Cllr Allen-Mirehouse said at the meeting on December 12 last year:
“We’ve talked about this quite a lot, and I think in many cases we are losing sight of the object of the exercise.
Cllr Stoddart has said that according to his views there is impropriety in the various schemes in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock. Therefore it is mete and right that it should be looked into.
However, I don’t think he has produced any actual facts – and facts is what we need to go on.
I would draw the council’s attention to to page 54 – second paragraph down. This is in the officer’s report where it says there have been four different audits – four different auditors have been through this: Wales European Funding Office, Wales Audit Office, Welsh Government European Funding Audit Team and Director General Urban Regeneration Policy European Commission.
Now, none of these have found the slightest thing wrong.
I say to Cllr Stoddart that, if he has facts to support his transmissions to the public – and the same applies to Cllr Miller – produce them and we will have a look at them. But I do say he should not continue with his policy of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story. Thank you!”
So, the stuff about facts not getting in the way of good story was his final flourish and all he said “after that” was “thank you”.
But why let the facts get in the way of a good story?
Of course, JAM could be forgiven for taking the opportunity to put the boot in last December because he had just listened to his Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, and Cabinet member David Pugh telling members that my allegations about these grants were the purest fantasy.
Indeed Pugh told the meeting that I “didn’t have the truth on my agenda” and both he and the Leader described how they had visited the attic at Coronation School and seen for themselves that, contrary to my claim that only part of the roof had been renewed, the whole/entire roof had been reslated on new felt and battens.
Of course, at that time Cllr Allen-Mirehouse had no way of knowing that the two of them were lying, but had he been keeping up to speed, he would know by now that they didn’t have the truth on their agendas because it is not possible to inspect the whole/entire roof from the two available access hatches.
Despite his professed love affair with the facts, which include the audit committee of which he is a member approving wholesale changes, designed to prevent fraud, in the way these grants are administered and the council providing the police with a thick dossier of evidence, Cllr Allen-Mirehouse clearly prefers his own prejudices to the truth otherwise he wouldn’t be standing by his original statement at this stage in the game.
When the matter came before Thursday’s full council, I couldn’t resist further fanning the flames. After all, this is a gift that keeps on giving.
So after relating what he had said in December 2013 and the fact that he was still of the same opinion in December 2014, I said: “Now, that’s a man who has no regard for the facts above his own half-baked, second-hand opinions.”
That had the desired result because Johnny was immediately on his feet to protest: “Mr Chairman, that’s insulting – I would ask the councillor to withdraw that remark if you please.”
I must admit things were going even better than I expected, so I gave the pot another stir: “Cllr Allen-Mirehouse has asked that I withdraw – he can ask away to his heart’s content”, I responded.
Johnny didn’t disappoint: “Mr Chairman, I would ask that you use your authority to restrain the member.”
I was half-expecting to be led out in chains, but the chairman took a gentler line and silenced me before I could further assist Cllr Allen-Mirehouse in his hole-digging activities.
Johnny appears to believe that, while it is perfectly acceptable for him to accuse me of not letting the facts get in the way of a good story – tantamount to calling me a liar – I am not allowed to make some fairly innocuous remarks about his opinions.
As we look forward to celebrating the octocentenary of the signing of Magna Carta in June next year, it comes as something of a surprise to learn that feudalism still holds sway in more isolated, backward parts of the United Kingdom.
In actual fact I emailed a long account of my concerns about these grants, including a whole string of facts, to all members of the audit committee, including Cllr Allen-Mirehouse, on 20 September 2013. A month later I had an automatic message from the council’s server informing me that my email to Johnny hadn’t been opened.
My submission was reported to Cabinet on 2 December 2013, so Cllr Allen-Mirehouse had no excuse for not having read it.
For an account of Cllr Allen-Mirehouse’s easy way with facts click here.