The sound of silence

Cllr David Bryan submitted two written questions to last week’s meeting of full council on the subject of the discrepancy between what deputy Leader, Cllr Rob Lewis, told the Ombudsman during the investigation into his unlawful use of council computers for party political purposes and what he told the returning officer on his election expense return.

This subject has been extensively covered both here and on that other website.

For the sake of brevity I will only quote Cllr Bryan’s first question, though both can be found on the agenda (items 14 and 15).

Cllr Bryan asked:

“At the Standards Committee hearing in March concerning Cllr. Robert Lewis, the Cllr confirmed that the contents of his interview with the Ombudsman’s representative, Mr Eirwyn Pritchard, on 7 March 2013 were correct.

In particular, in answer to the following questions he answered as below…

“So who printed?” … “Clive done (sic) all the printing”.

“the cost roughly?” … “Oh, £90 to £100, somewhere around there…”

An Inspection by 3 Councillors at the Electoral Office in Goodwick found that, contrary to those answers, Cllr. Lewis stated that (he) had spent £55.96 on materials to print his electoral leaflets, although he provided no receipts.

Can I ask Cllr. Lewis which of those statements is correct? They cannot both be true. If the latter he was obviously not telling the truth to the Ombudsman. If the former he was not telling the truth on his electoral return of expenditure.

Could Cllr. Lewis inform the Council where the invoice from Clive James is and when will it be available for inspection by concerned parties?

As untruths carry penalties under the Electoral law of our country could Cllr. Jamie Adams give a personal opinion as to what actions should be now be pursued.

The residents of Pembrokeshire want honesty in people elected to public life and they will be taking a keen interest in the Leader’s response.”

Unfortunately Cllr Bryan was ill and couldn’t attend the meeting.
The Leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, said that, as Cllr Bryan wasn’t present, he would forward him his written response rather than, as is the usual practice, answer aurally.
Cllr Bob Kilmister asked that all members be copied in to the leader’s response.
Cllr Adams replied: “I’m not aware that I can, but I’m sure if Cllr Bryan feels so moved he can disseminate it to whoever he wishes.”
Why do these people find it necessary to be so shifty?
Had Cllr Bryan been present, the answer would have been provided there and then and, in any case, it will appear in the minutes in due course, so “I’m not aware that I can…” was simply playing for time.
I suggested that the presence or absence of Cllr Bryan was irrelevant and, as the question was on the published agenda, it should be answered there and then.
I added that, as far as I was aware, there was nothing in the constitution to the contrary.
That had the Chief Executive leafing through the document for something to justify Cllr Adams’ refusal to answer.
When this search proved fruitless, Mr Parry-Jones fell back on custom and practice concluding that: “It is entirely up to the leader how he answers, and he can quite properly determine to answer in writing.”
In other words, the constitution means whatever I say it means.
Now the usual routine with these questions is that the leader or one of his cabinet read out a prepared statement, so presumably such a document existed on the day of the meeting.
That being the case, you have to wonder why it took the Leader a full week to send his written answer to Cllr Bryan.
However, having now been forwarded a copy by Cllr Bryan, I can understand why the Leader was reluctant to answer on the day and risk a barrage of boos and hisses being broadcast on the public webcast.
It reads:

“The provisions of Council Procedure Rule 9.2 limit questions to any matter in relation to which the Council has powers or duties or which affects the Council.
As you are seeking to ask a question about another elected Member about whom the Standards Committee have considered and concluded, it is therefore not appropriate for me to answer.”

This was out of the same stable as the Leader’s reply to my question about the veracity of what he and Cllr David Pugh told council on December 12 about their visit to the attic at Coronation School Pembroke Dock.
If, as Cllr Bryan asserts in his question, the people of Pembrokeshire want honesty from their elected representatives , they will have to look beyond the Leadership of the IPPG.
Though, on the plus side, I have a feeling that Adams, and his increasingly beleaguered clique, are living on borrowed time.