Exit strategy

So Mr Parry-Jones has departed, accompanied by a large dollop of taxpayers’ money, though, thanks to the intervention of the WAO, not quite so large as that approved by the IPPG and its friends on October 16.

As a result of the WAO’s insistence on the removal of the unlawful pension payments, the final settlement is some £52,000 less than the £330,000 that Cllr Keith Lewis told the Western Telegraph following the meeting on October 16 was “best deal available for the people of Pembrokeshire”.

When I first heard the figure of £52,000 mentioned, I thought there must be some mistake because the figure for the pension payments given at the meeting was just under £17,000.
This was a small part of the three-part settlement which also included three months’ salary in lieu of notice and 71 weeks as compensation for loss of office.

During the meeting Cllrs Jacob Williams and Bob Kilmister queried this £17,000 in respect of what the WAO had described as “unlawful” pension payments, but were assured that this was all in order.

Indeed the report before members stated quite clearly that:

“this element of the settlement payment is in recognition that the chief executive has a contractual entitlement to pension contributions, and would therefore be able to pursue a claim for breach of contract in relation to this separate element of pay.”

And, in answer to the two members’ questions, Mr Adam Barker of the Local Government Association (LGA), who was representing the council in the negotiations with the chief executive, said that should Mr Parry-Jones pursue such a claim he would “almost certainly be successful”.

Mr Barker was also keen to impress on members that Mr Parry-Jones was an extremely clever chap – qualified solicitor and all that – with the obvious implication that, if the council took him on, it would come off second best.

What wasn’t in the expert legal advice, or reported verbally, was that these “unlawful” pension payments – amounting to almost £2,000 per month – were also factored into the three months’ salary in lieu of notice and the 71 weeks’ pay.

Hence the final figure of £52,000.

Unfortunately, as this revised settlement will not be coming before the council for approval, members will not have the opportunity to question our legal advisors on the reasons for these omissions.

Given all that, we are entitled to ask why the chief executive seems to have so easily capitulated and agreed to this £52,000 reduction in his pay-off.

One theory is that, had he stuck to his guns and the matter had returned to full council he might have found himself having to explain his conduct during the meeting with Cllrs Mark Edwards and Peter Morgan to the Designated Independent Person (DIP) – a QC, who was likely to be an even cleverer chap than himself.

Much of the debate on October 16 revolved around the comparative costs of engaging a DIP and the proposed pay-off.

As I have already explained, there were three possible scenarios:

(a) The DIP found nothing seriously amiss with Mr Parry-Jones’ behaviour, leaving the council with a big bill for the DIP, the chief executive’s salary and legal advice + a compensation package at least as costly as the one on the table.

(b) The DIP found gross misconduct sufficient to warrant dismissal, but, due to the lengthy process, the costs were roughly equal to the settlement before the council, and

(c) The DIP found gross misconduct at a cost much less than the that of the proposed settlement.

It should be pointed out that the DIP route also had the advantage of serving the interests of justice.

Those who voted in favour of the settlement all took the scenario (a) as the major premise of their argument. Once that was accepted as a fact, the conclusion that the settlement was the best option followed almost automatically.

However, whether there was justification for taking this view, or whether it was a case of a conclusion looking for facts to support it, is a moot point.

The legal advice before members stated:

“The DIP process is likely to be lengthy (it could take up to a month for the DIP to be appointed before he/she can commence work) Such processes can take many months – we know of one case that took 16 months to conclude.”

Whether this wording is clumsy, or clever, is debatable.

It is noticeable that while there is a worst case example (16 months) there is no indication as to how quickly such a process might be concluded – only the wonderfully vague “can take many months”.

Whatever, several supporters of the settlement who made statements to the Western Telegraph, seemed to have no trouble interpreting this to mean that the process would take 6-15 months.

They were helped along the way by the man from the LGA who told us that a clever chap like Mr Parry-Jones could easily string the process out if it suited his purposes.

And members of the IPPG were eager to believe all this because it supported the conclusion that their Leader had already reached.

Of course a long drawn out DIP process, followed by a finding of no gross misconduct, would have suited the chief executive who could have enjoyed a 6-15 month paid holiday AND a big payout. So it is surprising that he should forgo £52,000 worth of pension payments to which he has “a contractual entitlement” in order to facilitate his own exit.

The Leader himself urged those who had long wanted to see the back of the chief executive, to “seize the opportunity” to have him gone by 31 October. When they looked at the £330,000 price tag, this was an opportunity opponents of the deal were happy to pass up.

Interestingly, when I did a search on the Internet, I came across a very recent case involving Thanet District Council in which Mark Lowe QC, acting as DIP, managed to interview nine witnesses; read a wide range of correspondence; and write a 48 page report, all within the two-month period 2 July 2014 to 5 September 2014.

That brings us to the third leg of the argument – the strength of the council’s case against Mr Parry-Jones. This, we were advised, was weak.

This revolved mainly, but not entirely around the fateful meeting between the chief executive and Cllrs Mark Edwards and Peter Morgan in his office some time after the meeting of council where it had been resolved to write to the two recipients of these “unlawful” pension payments asking them to return the money.

If the evidence of the two members is to be believed, Mr Parry-Jones was none too pleased with the way they had voted.

As the matter was due back before the July meeting of council, there is a clear implication that the chief executive was trying to ensure that they didn’t vote the “wrong” way again.

As I have said previously, much hangs on whether the evidence given by Cllrs Edwards and Morgan would stand up to challenge, but as nobody has suggested otherwise, we will have to assume that it would.

So what we are expected to believe is that a QC well versed in constitutional issues would look at this, shrug his shoulders and say “stuff happens”.

Knowing something about constitutional law, I think this is nonsense.

The idea that it is OK for a senior council official to even criticise the way members vote, never mind try to influence their future voting behavior, is simply bizarre because it completely undermines the doctrine of the separation of powers that is the very basis of any democratic constitution.

And that’s without considering the “expletive-laden tirade”, which is bullying in anybody’s language.

It seems that this was the view of the majority of members at one time because it was the reporting of this meeting in the Pembrokeshire Herald that led directly to the 46-3 vote of no confidence in Mr Parry Jones at the meeting on 12 September.

Why the vote of no confidence, if they thought he had done nothing seriously wrong?

Also, it is worth noting that the disciplinary committee, which had an 8-5 IPPG majority, resolved that a DIP be appointed to further investigate the allegations against Mr Parry-Jones. Surely they weren’t “gambling with public money” by putting the council to the expense of of this 6-15 month process, when there was no worthwhile evidence to investigate.

Unfortunately, as this revised settlement will not be returning to full council for approval, I will not be able to point this out to the IPPG loyalists. And this failure to seek council approval for this revised deal is another bone of contention.

At its meeting on September 12 it was resolved:

“The Council authorises the Leader to take the necessary action to engage with the Chief Executive and his representative to explore a resolution of the present situation faced by the Council.”

The Leader came back with a proposed settlement which the council approved. That settlement was derailed when the auditor objected to the inclusion of the “unlawful” pension payments and the Leader then had to “explore” other ways to resolve the situation.

Note that the resolution of council didn’t give the Leader the authority to agree a settlement – but that’s exactly what he has done.

Cllr Jamie Adams told the Western Telegraph:

“Certain members of the council wanted the situation to run and run for their own personal political agendas.”

“I considered them gambling with public money.”

An alternative explanation is that the chief executive had become a political embarrassment to the Leader who decided to throw him overboard to save his own skin. The only problem was that, in order to persuade him to go quietly, the Leader had to provide him with a lifebelt stuffed with £330,000 (now £280,000) of taxpayers’ money.

For reference purposes, the responses of those who replied to the Western Telegraph’s questions are published below.


FOLLOWING the agreement to pay off Bryn Parry-Jones with around £330,000, council leader Cllr Jamie Adams said it was done in the “best interest of the council”.

Cllr Adams, who voted in favour of the settlement, said that in his view the “speedy, decisive action” taken will allow the council to “move on with confidence” and concentrate on delivering services to the people of Pembrokeshire.

He said that reorganisation of senior management would result in savings that would cover the cost of the pay out and the money would not be taken from reserves.

“It’s a little thing called employment law; we are the employers in this situation and were advised of our duties under that obligation. Negotiations had been undertaken extensively, the original expectations had reduced quite considerably and the outcome of that negotiation was the figures that were put to council.

“It was reflective of the strength of the council’s position and clearly the council has a policy which reflects the sort of compensation levels that all staff are party to, the figure is calculated and it’s no different to all staff.

“This was a very difficult decision for members but there was some strong legal advice in terms of strength of the disciplinary process, it was felt that disciplinary case was not that robust in terms of potentially delivering a result reducing the cost to the authority.

“The engagement of a designated independent person could cost considerably more, even double, and the most likely outcome would have provided for the same settlement in six to 18 months.

“Certain members of the council wanted the situation to run and run for their own personal political agendas.

“I considered them gambling with public money.”

Cllr Adams was asked if he understood the anger felt by many members of the public. He said: “I have had a number of conversations with people who have started to understand the decision and are now understanding of that reasoning.

“I point to the strength of the legal advice, which was clear and unequivocal in terms of likely outcome of disciplinary process and the view that this council must move forward.

“There’s no question that this matter was becoming a distraction to providing services. An important decision had to be made.

“I understand and appreciate that the chief executive and role of chief executive in Pembrokeshire, Carmarthenshire or where ever is a relatively high paid role no question about that, is a role of professional management, role that demands an approach, rationale and character that delivers in terms of ensuring a large organisation, with complicated requirements in terms of services demanded of it, functions.

“In terms of employment law you cannot simple remove people from any post without good reason and advice was very strong in this case that the council did not have good reason. So, we were charged with making this parting of company and that has been a difficult process asked to deliver that and we have delivered it.”

Here in full are all the responses from county councillors who were asked for their reasons for voting as they did with regards the financial pay off for Chief Executive Bryn Parry-Jones.

All 60 councillors were emailed and 41 replied before the specified deadline.

Those that did not reply were: John Allen-Mirehouse, Daphne Bush, John Davies, Lyndon Frayling, Huw George, Brian Hall, Simon Hancock, Paul Harries, Umelda Havard, Stanley Hudson, Owen James, Stephen Joseph, Pearl Llewellyn, Peter Morgan, David Neale, Sue Perkins, David Pugh, David Rees, and Arwyn Williams.

Not all councillors attended the meeting and councillors Tom Tudor and Wynne Evans had to leave before the vote was taken because of a medical emergency.

Cllr David Lloyd – voted for the settlement: “As a member of the disciplinary investigation committee I had already encountered the legal team and can say the 15 members of the committee were universal in their respect for the work of Eversheds.

“With regard to the debate, I can well understand the position in face of continued austerity was an impossible task for many people, probably without exception. With a pay review, holding salaries, cutting services and the prospects of future cuts, there wasn’t a single person there not aware of these problems.

“But if anybody has been involved in litigation, as is my job, you know you only go down the route of litigation if the evidence supports it. You don’t go down with hope or crossed fingers or you will have a rude awakening.

“Sometimes you must bite the bullet, it might leave a nasty taste behind but the alternative is even worse. The process of going down the disciplinary route might take 12 months, during which time the chief executive remains in post, drawing his salary, costs to our legal team would be great, paralysis in the work of the council, a drop in moral and the very serious prospect of Welsh Government concluding we are a basket case and urging the aspiration of a wider Pembrokeshire Ceredigion area. It was a nightmare.

“I was fully aware that my name would be associated with attempt to conclude an agreement.

“I woke up this morning feeling we can get on and do the work for the people of Pembrokeshire. It’s hard for people to understand it but the legal realties were there and thank goodness, in my view, common sense prevailed. It was only right with clear, strong and very sound advice from very professional advisors; we would have been foolish to ignore it.

“It’s hard and it leaves a nasty taste but that’s what we are paid for. We have got to make the hard choices and we did. Got to get out there and move on to better days.

“No secret that statutory officers have high protection from employment laws. We were stuck with that, those were the realities.”

Cllr Peter Stock – voted against settlement: “I believe that Bryn Parry-Jones showed gross misconduct and has shown that all the way through in various things he’s done, the way he’s spoken to councillors is appalling, the way he’s spoken to staff is appalling.

“The amount of money offered of £300,000 plus is far, far more than he deserves. The four weeks, I understand there are contracts and agreements, but I could have gone down that road had it been a reasonable settlement. He should have done the honourable thing and resigned from the position. “The amount we are talking about, I do not believe he’s worth it. We should have negotiated better terms, which Jamie Adams hasn’t done, but it shouldn’t have been done in the first place. Everything appears to have gone in favour of him and nothing in the favour of us. I’m trying to put Pembrokeshire first.”

Cllr Jonathan Nutting – voted against the settlement: “I voted not to pay off the chief officer for three overriding reasons. The primary one was actually the people of Pembrokeshire didn’t want it, I think that was my overriding reason.

“Other reasons were, I was on the disciplinary panel, I thought there was enough evidence from what I heard for putting in the designated independent person and as such I think that should have run its course. I think it was wrong not to let that run its course, I felt there was enough evidence against the chief officer.

“Thirdly, I think it was an obscene amount of money that he was getting. If it had been negotiated harder they would have got another £100,000 down. It was negotiated down a bit but there was a lot more negotiating to go. It was far too much of a knee jerk reaction and no doing a proper employers job. There was still a lot more mileage in our negotiation and our decision was made far too hastily.

“Even if it had cost more the people of Pembrokeshire wanted to see him not walk away. As most people, I believe in justice. He goes with an untarnished reputation, it doesn’t feel like justice to me and doesn’t feel like justice to a lot of people. Negotiations of this scale are not the forte of this council.

“It’s the people of Pembrokeshire’s money, because it’s their money they deserved a bigger say than just having 30 people vote for the easy option.

“There was not a massive amount of information that I would say was privileged coming from the solicitors. To say it is privileged is a cop out. The people of Pembrokeshire deserved to see what was being done and to listen to why.”

Cllr Mark Edwards – voted for the settlement: “I went into the meeting expecting for this to go back to the Designated Independent Person (DIP). I only wish it was held in public so the public could see the advice we were given by Eversheds and the other lawyer who advises local authorities. It was really strong advice that the evidence that was there if it was to go to the DIP, they didn’t think it was a dismissal. Not enough evidence for the chief executive to be dismissed, they thought maybe a final written warning and even if the DIP had said dismissal he could still appeal. He would still be on £4,000 a week, costs could be, they said, £150,000 plus and he could have come back to work and in a stronger position, he probably would have asked for more money.

“They were talking about £500,000, he wanted £500,000 in the beginning, because he’s so highly protected, all chief executives are.

“I know people are saying we’ve no back bone, I would have loved to have gone the other way and say no. What we should have done is voted for this to be held in public and as soon as someone asked the lawyers for advice gone in camera. David Lloyd, who’s a highly respected barrister in Pembrokeshire and an opposition member and critical of Bryn, asked, would we gamble your own money, would you take Bryn on? How could we gamble another £350,000-£400,000. I own two bookies; I know the odds weren’t good.

“The public don’t understand if we had gone for this to go back to the DIP it would have cost us more than what we have paid him now. With regards to the pay off, John Haswell said, with the reorganisation of the management structure the money from that will be paid back over two years. Ian Westley going to be a great temporary chief executive and he’s going to be on £145,000, a lot less than Bryn’s on. Everybody knows it’s a lot of money to pay out but you can’t sack someone because you don’t like them, imagine if we did that to any other employee.

“It’s in some opposition members interests to keep this going. The advice was there wasn’t enough to dismiss him so would it be worth risking all that money. This would have run and run and the costs would have gone up, council staff would have been stuck working on it, at least at the end of the month he is gone and then we can concentrate on what we should be doing. The last 12/18 months it all been about squabbling over the chief executive.

“We will make these savings in two years to pay for his departure and start running Pembrokeshire the way we should, we should be concentrating on that.

“There was strong advice that we didn’t have a case, we would have squandered money. It’s politics – it would have the easiest thing in the world to vote against his but it would have cost the county £200,000 more.”

Cllr Paul Miller – voted against the settlement: “I am pleased that for the first time the people of Pembrokeshire have forced the hand of this council’s ruling elite. They didn’t want to part company with the chief executive, the people forced them to and I’m delighted to see the signs of real democracy returning to Pembrokeshire. I would like to thank people for their support.

“That said, I am bitterly disappointed at the level of the settlement which is completely out of kilter with the lives of the people we represent (and which we are forbidden to report publicly). There was a disciplinary process underway and that process should have been allowed to reach a conclusion. In my view, if it had been allowed, the people of Pembrokeshire would not be so much poorer this afternoon.

“I will continue to fight for change here in Pembrokeshire but tonight, we must celebrate that Bryn Parry Jones will leave and that is solely down to the pressure put upon this administration by the people of Pembrokeshire.”

Cllr David Bryan – voted against the settlement: “I voted to have this matter discussed in public as it was of great interest and concern to the residents of Pembs.

“Unfortunately the block vote of the ruling group carried the day.

“In private session I voted to pursue disciplinary hearings against the Chief Exec and was completely opposed to giving him the payoff of over £330000. To my mind the Chif Exec is paid a huge annual salary (in excess by the way of that of the Primes Minister’s) and that salary is to accept responsibility for the way the Council is run.

“PCC has been run disgracefully and I stated to the Council that if this massive payoff was to be given to him it would be a reward for failure. That was something I could not, and would not, condone.

“Unfortunately the block vote of the ruling group again held sway. It was interesting how so very few members actually got on their feet to try and justify why the Chief Exec would get their vote for the huge sum of tax payer’s monies they intended to give him.”

Cllr Tony Wilcox – voted against the settlement: “I voted not to pay off ex Chief Executive as a member of disciplinary Committee that decided to appoint a DIP as I firmly believe he had a case to answer.

“However, it was sadly a foregone conclusion that IPPG. Would support such a scandalous amount of our Money as they have always been in awe of ex chief. However, it would appear that he dictated his own terms right to the end. The end being the only positive thing to come out of the whole debacle.”

Cllr Rhys Sinnett – voted against the settlement: “I voted against the severance package because I believed that the disciplinary process had to run its full course. The Disciplinary Investigation Committee which was set up following a decision by full council and made up of 15 of my fellow councillors had assessed the allegations against the Chief Executive and believed that that further investigation was required by an external Designated Independent Person.

“That outcome of their deliberations was good enough for me and therefore I believe that negotiations on any sort of severance package were premature and have now resulted in a situation where the people of this county will feel that justice has not been done.”

Cllr Tony Brinsden – voted against the settlement: “I voted against giving Bryn Parry-Jones such a huge settlement because I thought it was very wrong to deal with the public purse in this way. He was being investigated by a disciplinary panel and I was of the opinion that his behaviour was such, that at the conclusion of the investigations, he would have been found guilty of gross misconduct and his employment could have been terminated with a far lesser cost to the public purse. However there were contrary thoughts within the IPPG and their block vote carried the day.

“This is a huge amount of money to pay out when at this time the Council is faced with severe cuts from the Welsh Government and are seeking to save money in all areas, even possibly leading to service cuts along the way. Had I voted for this settlement I would not have been able to face my constituents when these cuts come along.”

Cllr David Simpson – voted against the settlement: “I voted against the agreement as I believed the Investigating Committee had work to complete.

“After hearing evidence from Peter Morgan and Mark Edwards I was certain that there was a case to answer. The Committee thought so too as they moved to engage a Dedicated Independent Person. This work would have investigated the meeting between Peter, Mark and the Chief Exec when the Chief Exec allegedly swore and lost his temper with the two Councillors.

“The agreement was premature; it was formulated weeks before the evidence was given by the Councillors. No renegotiation had taken place. I believe it was far too much for me or the people of Pembrokeshire to stomach.”

Cllr Bob Kilmister – voted against the settlement: “The size of the severance payment which has been agreed is outrageous. There can be no possible justification for a payment that is equivalent to 15 years worth of pay for the average worker in this County. It will add approximately 1% to every household’s Council Tax bill. The Council has put itself in the position where it’s being seen to reward failure. The cost of that failure is being paid by all of us. It’s an insult – there’s no other word for it.

“To add injury to insult, the decision was made in secret. The Pembrokeshire Alliance believes that public interest decisions should always be made transparently and openly at every stage, enabling people to see how decisions are made and the evidence on which they are based.

“There can be little doubt that the County Council is in crisis. We’re in desperate need of a clear plan and far-sighted leadership to put this Council back on its feet. We must now adopt a new way of working based on openness, transparency and genuine democracy.”

Cllr Gwilym Price – voted against the settlement: “The reason why voted against the proposed settlement at Thursday’s Council Meeting was that l felt that the disciplinary committee would be unable to finish the task that was set up to investigate all alleged facts about the CEO. I believe that it was important to the people of Pembrokeshire to get the best deal possible with regards to financial payoff.

“I now hope that the final result will now allow the Council to concentrate on the major issues facing us all.”

Cllr Pat Davies – voted against the settlement: “I voted against the meeting going into private session.

“I voted for the Notice of Motion to pursue disciplinary proceeds against Bryn Parry Jones and I absolutely voted against a “pay off” settlement to the Chief Executive.

“I am confident that the people I represent in Fishguard North West would have wished me to vote in this way. We are not a wealthy community and this excessive amount of settlement is totally unacceptable. It will have to be paid for by those people in my community and the other rate payers of Pembrokeshire. “It is ironic that meetings have been taking place throughout Pembrokeshire by Cabinet members over the past few weeks to look at how services can be “slimmed down” or facilities closed because of financial pressure.”

Cllr Alison Lee – voted for the settlement: “I voted for the severance pay because, following the legal advice received at the meeting, I felt that was the cheapest and safest option. Also, it will all be finished with by the end of the month and there will be no further claims made against the council at a later date.”

Cllr Tom Richards – voted for the settlement: “Before deciding which way to vote I considered the following:

“The strength of the disciplinary case; Legal opinion was very strong in recognising that the case was not robust in potentially delivering a result which would reduce cost to the Authority. The option of the DIP was likely to have cost considerably more only to provide the same necessity for a settlement in a period of between 6 and 15 months. The decision gives an immediate resolution to the situation, allowing the Authority to move forward with confidence

“The cost certainty provided by the decision avoids the open risk of far greater cost and opportunity of further distraction from the true focus for the Council which is delivering services to the people of Pembrokeshire. This was an extremely difficult decision to undertake but we are charged with that responsibility and we have acted in the best interests of the Council considering the professional advice detailed above. I shall be making no further comment.”

Cllr Philip Baker – voted against the settlement: “I can confirm that I voted as I did as I truly believed that the appointment of an Independent Person to investigate the recent concerns relating to the Chief Executive Officer was the correct way to proceed.

“The sums of figures discussed for a settlement were totally out of all proportion, bearing in mind the history of recent performance of the County Council. This is public money and is hard earned by the people of Pembrokeshire. The Leader recently carried out a series of Community consultations and highlighted the saving of £400,000 due to the fortnightly collection of black bins bags. I will leave it to the Western Telegraph readers to consider if this saving has been wisely spent in these current tough times with even tougher decisions ahead.”

Cllr Mike James – voted for the settlement: “The reason I voted as I did on Thursday was due to the legal opinion we received from both legal teams Eversheds and LGA. The decision allows the Authority to move forward to concentrate on other matters in confidence with no further restrictions.

“The option of the Designated Independent Person (Welsh Government Appointment) would have cost considerably more due to the settlement period of between 6 and 15 months and would provide the same settlement.

“My decision for private and confidential was taken to protect legal privilege as this would have weakened the Authority’s position and allowed others gaining knowledge of our legal position.

“This was a very extremely difficult decision but we have acted in the best interest of the Council considering the professional advice received.”

Cllr Michael John – voted for the settlement: “I was a member of the Disciplinary Panel set up to investigate allegations surrounding the Chief Executive, in accordance with the decision at the EGM of the 12th September.

“Having sat through several meetings of the panel, and with the strong legal advice we were given by our legal team, I was not confident that the evidence was strong enough to prove a case which would lead to outright dismissal.

“The alternative disciplinary route would incur additional high costs, and a process which could take some 6-12 months, after which we could be instructed to negotiate for a mutual parting, basically where we are now.

“To take this action would in effect be a gamble with public money which I was not prepared to take.

“Also, the information to be discussed contained legally privileged information which, had it gone into public domain, (which would include Chief Execs legal team), could have proved extremely damaging, and weaken the case of PCC in any future actions.

“These were extraordinarily difficult decisions to take and I can only say I acted in what I believe to be the best interests of the Council and Pembrokeshire as a whole, when considering all the facts and evidence available, and not for any other reasons which may be suggested.”

Cllr Viv Stoddart – voted against the settlement: “I voted no-no to a golden goodbye of £330,000 to the most highly paid chief executive in Wales.
“This settlement of an eye-watering farewell present, means the long list of allegations of misconduct levelled against him will never be tested.

“In the interests of justice, the accusations should have been pursued by an independent disciplinary investigation in to Mr Parry Jones’ behaviour.

“The majority IPPG voted down an investigation. Mr Parry Jones will step down from his highly-paid post at the end of the month, and a question mark will forever remain as to his conduct.”

Cllr David Howlett – voted against the settlement: “I voted to have the debate in public as we were debating the spending of a very substantial amount of public money, and the public should have been able to hear the views of members. I was not in favour of the settlement payment as the work of the Disciplinary Committee, which I was a member of, was still on-going, and I thought agreeing the settlement in the circumstances was premature.”

Cllr Ken Rowlands – voted for the settlement: “I am sure you will appreciate that it was a difficult decision to take and I voted in a way that I believe was in the best interests of the people of Pembrokeshire. When all the facts are available and understood I am sure any reasonably minded person would come to the same conclusion.

“Having listened to the professional Legal Advice, to have continued down the path of Disciplinary Measures could have resulted in further costs to the authority, having to appoint a Q.C. who would have had to have been acceptable to the CEO’s legal team. The time to set this up could have taken between 6 and 15 months escalating costs to the Public Purse.

“Certain members of the Council wanted the whole matter to run on and on for their own personal aggrandisement and political agenda and not for the benefit of the people we represent.”

Cllr Lyn Jenkins – voted for the settlement: “I voted having considered the report and advice given from Messrs Eversheds and the Local Government Association.
“It was clear to me that to continue with the disciplinary investigation would not only cost a considerable amount and could last for many months, but that the CEO would continue to be paid for the duration, with no guaranteed outcome. In other words we could still have had to negotiate a package, possibly from a much weaker position.”

Cllr Jacob Williams – voted against the settlement: “As usual at County Hall, this has been a total stitch-up. The disciplinary investigation committee was all a front, witnesses were put under pressure and the process was a sham from beginning to end. I suspect that the leader, Cllr Jamie Adams, supported the setting up of the disciplinary committee to facilitate behind-the-scenes negotiations enabling the highest pay-off possible to be pushed through the council chamber by his ruling party, the IPPG. This might be the end of Bryn Parry-Jones, but it is certainly not the end of this whole episode.

“IPPG councillors made sure Thursday’s debate was held behind closed doors, where it transpired that the offer we were being asked to approve had been carved out with the chief executive before the disciplinary committee had decided that the chief executive’s conduct should be referred for formal independent investigation.

“Following the decision to refer the chief executive’s conduct for an independent inquiry, his hand was seriously weakened, yet the deal remained unchanged, it wasn’t revised at all. This shows quite clearly to me that the negotiators – Cllr Adams included – were looking out for Mr. Parry-Jones and what was best for him, and not what was best for taxpayers who will be paying for it.

“The huge pay-off was not far shy of the best deal he could ever have been given, and there is no justification for it. The debate and advice given to councillors was extremely biased in favour of the chief executive’s position rather than the council’s, and the public are rightfully incensed. The councillors who supported this huge pay-off and whose actions stopped dead the possibility of getting any justice against Bryn Parry-Jones’s conduct should hang their heads in shame. It’s easy to play with other people’s money. If every councillor who voted to support of this diamond-encrusted gold-plated deal gave up their councillor salary for a year, it would more than cover the pay-off. I suggest they should give this consideration.”

Cllr Tessa Hodgson – voted against the settlement: “I voted against Mr Parry Jones receiving such a huge payoff.

“While I welcome closure on this matter, I felt it was important that the disciplinary committee should have been able to finish its work. Having found that there were issues around the Chief Executive’s conduct – including bullying councillors and interfering in a political matter in which he had a direct pecuniary interest ie his pension payments. Had a Designated Independent Person been appointed they could have fully investigated these serious allegations and there may well have been a case for Mr Parry-Jones to have been dismissed for gross misconduct. Unfortunately thanks to the block vote of the IPPG, we and the people of Pembrokeshire will never know.”

Cllr Mike Stoddart – voted against the settlement: “I voted against the decision because I thought the disciplinary process should have been allowed to run its course. What was surprising was the revelation that the terms of the settlement that the council was being asked to approve had been agreed before the disciplinary committee met and decided that there was sufficient evidence to warrant further investigation by a Designated Independent Person (DIP).

“That this decision played no part in the negotiation of the settlement, would seem to indicate that the disciplinary committee process was a complete sham.”

Cllr Rob Summons – voted for the settlement: “We received first class legal advice on all matters concerning these issues. This advice was for our benefit and ultimately for the residents of Pembrokeshire. Also, a very highly qualified and respected opposition councillor gave input and advice during the debate. The advice he gave was along the same lines as our independent advisors. Serious questions have to be asked of the councillors who voted against this proposal. I am, of the opinion that certain members voted against the proposal for purely personal, political and media related reasons. By this, I mean, they wished for the process to be dragged out, against all of the very strong advice we were given in order that they could use it for their own agendas. They did not have the best interests of Pembrokeshire in mind and wished to be seen as do-gooders in the eyes of their constituents. They did not have the foresight and backbone to make a sound and legally well founded decision. They were prepared to gamble big time against all of the odds to spend a huge amount of money only to very possibly arrive back at the same place in maybe, six to fifteen months’ time.

“The councillors who voted for this decision took a very sensible and common-sense route. It was the correct decision and allows Pembrokeshire to move on. Since being a County Councillor I have noticed that it very easy to be in opposition and to be negative against decision making. It may make you look good in front of your constituents but it gets you nowhere. I made my decision based on the strong, sound and clear independent legal advice that was given and not based on garnering votes in the next election!

“Finally, I received an email on Saturday morning last from one of my constituents. The email asked if I could respond to him about my decision. In the email he was very forthright and questioned why I had come to the conclusion I had. I took the opportunity to visit him at his home on Saturday afternoon. At the end of our meeting I asked him what he would have done in the same circumstances. The answer was, the same as you!”

Cllr Elwyn Morse – voted for the settlement: “My decision to vote in favour of a severance settlement was made after carefully considering the legal advice which we received. It was clear to me that the disciplinary case against the CE was not sufficiently robust enough to achieve a finding of gross misconduct.
“The investigation may have taken up to 15 months, during which time the CE would be suspended on full pay and enormous legal costs be incurred only to find that Council would once again be negotiating a severance settlement as the CE could be free to return to work.

“I share the responsibility with my fellow County Councillors of ensuring that the Authority is well prepared for the enormous financial challenges that lay ahead in the coming years. For that, we will need the certainty of an officer and staff structure that this settlement now brings.

“This was an extremely difficult decision to make, and having weighed up the legal advice received, I believe that I have acted in the best interests of the Council and the tax-payers of Pembrokeshire.”

Cllr Mike Evans – voted against the settlement: “Last Thursday’s decision by Jamie Adams and the rest of the IPG, to allow Bryn Parry-Jones to leave on such generous terms is an affront to the people of Pembrokeshire. The package included: £50,000 to stay at home until 31 October; £332,000 in a golden handshake; being allowed to keep the unlawful payment of £45,000 cash instead of pension contribution; a pension for life of £120,000 every year. It also included a clean reference and therefore an untarnished CV, allowing this former employee to walk straight into another highly paid job elsewhere.

“This package was gifted to him, without any recourse or natural justice in respect of the numerous allegations which were brought to light at the disciplinary hearings into Bryn Parry-Jones’ behaviour. Would any of the other 6000 employees of the council be treated in this lavish and lenient way? I leave your readers to decide.

“The whole episode has been nothing short of scandalous. I do hope that the Welsh Audit Office and/or our local AM’s see fit to call in this decision of PCC. What was particularly galling, at last Thursday’s meeting, was the look of near glee on the faces of those who carried the motion, as if they were achieving something of a victory on the part of the County Council.

“If I were a resident in any of the wards of Sue Perkins, Brian Hall or Alison Lee in Pembroke Dock for example, every time for the next 10 years that I duly paid the toll for the Cleddau Bridge, I would feel hugely aggrieved that my money was going straight into Bryn Parry-Jones’ pocket.
“As you will see from the strength of my comments, I feel it was a most shameful and regrettable decision.”

Cllr Myles Pepper – voted for the settlement: “We were advised of the outcome of the negotiations between representatives of both sides that led to the agreement outlined to Members and which required Member approval to make it binding. “Eversheds, the legal advisors to Members, put the pros and cons on to the scales and, in my opinion, to authorise settlement on the terms outlined to members was the best way forward for the people we represent and, not least, the employees of Pembrokeshire County Council.
“Pursuing the alternatives would have further extended the cloud of uncertainty which has been hanging over Pembrokeshire for already far too long.”

Cllr Keith Lewis – voted for the settlement: “I voted in support of the settlement agreement with regards to a binding and final severance payment to Mr Parry-Jones because I was convinced that it was the best deal available for the people of Pembrokeshire.
“As Chairman of the Disciplinary Committee I was fully aware of the strengths and weakness of the case against the Chief Exec as well as the detail of the privileged legal advice given with regard the due process necessary to be strictly followed if a Chief Exec is to be removed from office.”

Cllr Rob Lewis – voted for the settlement: “My decision to support the option of an agreed settlement was taken after listening to the expert legal advice given to all members by Eversheds who are experts in employment and labour law. Whilst the sum of the settlement is a large figure all the other options available to us could and most likely would of cost this authority and the people of Pembrokeshire more.”

Cllr Guy Woodham – voted against the settlement: “I voted for last Thursday’s debate on the proposed severance settlement to Bryn Parry-Jones to be held in public as I believe the people of Pembrokeshire have a right to know what was said by their Councillors on this matter. Unfortunately this vote was lost and the session moved into private and confidential.

“However, as is already known, I voted against the proposed severance settlement. I did so, as I believe the disciplinary investigation should have been allowed to continue and the serious matters raised as part of this process addressed before any consideration be given to a severance settlement. Unfortunately, once again the majority of Councillors present did not share this view and the proposed severance settlement was approved. Given the need for the Authority to find additional savings next year I also disagreed with the amount of the severance settlement.”

Cllr Jonathan Preston – voted against the settlement: “Again the block vote of the IPPG rubber stamped the approval to not only to reward poor performance by the CEO but also to ensure this debate was not open to the public. There is further detail that will become available to the wider public as this despicable chapter in our local authority comes to a close. It is quite evident and understandable that the people of the county feel totally fleeced by this turn of events.
“Over the coming weeks we will hear attempts to justify this decision emitting from county hall, however it is what it is, another example of a knee jerk solution to a problem which needed further scrutiny and a conclusion to the investigation which was already underway.”