Cllr David Pugh narrowly survived the no confidence motion at last week’s council meeting by 24 votes to 22. Two members of the ruling IPPG voted against him (Cllrs Peter Morgan and Stephen Joseph) but they were cancelled out by the support of two unaffiliated members, Cllrs Mike Evans and Phil Kidney.
There was also an outbreak of fence-sitting as Cllrs Phil Baker (unaffiliated), David Howlett and Stan Hudson (Tories) and Michael John, Pearl Llewellyn, Reg Owens, David Rees and David Simpson (IPPG) all abstained.
The full voting list can be found at that other website.
The no confidence motion was inspired by Cllr Pugh’s speech at the December meeting of council when he misled council by providing false information during a debate on the grants scheme in Pembroke Dock and then used this misinformation to launch an attack on my honesty and integrity.
A transcript of Pugh’s speech together with my comments can be found here.
Cllr Jamie Adams opened his defence of Cllr David Pugh’s performance with the words: “Cllr Pugh was the first to recognise that mistakes had been made and was the first to admonish himself. The emotion probably got away from him on that occasion. I think that was very clear to those who were colleagues.”
As weasel words go, they don’t come much more weaselly than this.
And they don’t even have the benefit of being true.
My information is that, as late as last week, Pugh was running around the Kremlin telling anyone that would listen that the irregularities that I had discovered in these grant payments amounted to no more than petty cash.
Also, the first person to “recognise that mistakes had been made” was me.
On 16 December (the Monday after the council meeting on Thursday 12 December) I put up a post containing photographs which showed conclusively that Cllr Pugh’s claims about a third side elevation at No 25 Dimond Street were a complete fabrication.
On the same day, I sent Cllr Pugh the following email:
At last Thursday’s meeting of full council you challenged my claim (see my website December 7) that the area of rendering etc in the tender for No 25 Dimond Street Pembroke Dock (125 sq m) was considerably more than that which was shown on the drawings (50 sq m).
You asserted that I had failed to take account of “a side elevation” to the rear of the building measuring 7 m x 8 m (56 sq m) and, when this was included, the quantity in the tender was correct.
You then relied on this supposed oversight on my part to conclude: “So whether this is a deliberate untruth, or incompetence on his behalf in not checking the facts, I’ll leave you all to decide.”
I have since visited the site and I can find no part of No 25 Dimond Street that fits the description you gave at full council.
I would be grateful if you could now provide me with the precise location of this “side elevation” on which you based your conclusion that I was either incompetent, or a liar.
Two days later I received this reply:
Sorry about delay in replying but I was attending to some urgent family business yesterday.
When we were rechecking all the allegations you had made about the grant schemes in P Dock we physically checked a lot of buildings and the work done by all the grant applicants. We tried to get as up to date picture as we could and decided to check your late (sic) allegation regarding the rendering of 25 Dimond street.
I freely admit that we made a mistake in looking at the rear of the properties in Dimond Street and confused nos 25 and 27. I take full responsibility for the genuine error and hereby offer an unreserved apology for the remarks I made in Council regarding the rendering of no 25 Dimond street
Having said that, I hope you will also take the opportunity to put on record that most of your allegations regarding these grant schemes have proved to be without foundation and incorrect.
That last sentence doesn’t sound to me like someone who had spent much time on self-admonishment.
What he was doing was conceding only what the facts forced him to concede, and when I tried to press him further on some of his other false statements he retreated behind the skirts of the audit committee.
Dear Cllr Stoddart
You have made your position and approach to these matters quite clear, so I see little value in continuing this dialogue with you. Council has referred the matter to the Audit Committee to address your concerns.
I will not be commenting further until the Committee has dealt fully with these issues.
And three months on, Cllr Pugh is so busy admonishing himself that he still hasn’t found time to issue an apology for all the other lies and insults that littered his pre-Christmas speech.
But what really takes the biscuit is Cllr Adams’ statement: “To segregate Cllr Pugh’s role in the grants segment and to judge him on his performance at one meeting is I think a little disingenuous”
According to my thesaurus, synonyms include: dishonest, deceitful, underhand and mendacious.
It is only in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of IPPG politics that someone trying to hold a Cabinet member to account for lying to council can be described as dishonest.
But let us cut through the Leader’s waffle and go straight to what happened here.
The Leader and Cllr Pugh went to Pembroke Dock accompanied by the project coordinator.
They visited three premises: Coronation School and Nos 25 and 29 Dimond Street.
At Coronation School they went up into the roof space to check whether the “whole of the roof” had been stripped off and reslated.
Cllr Pugh, no doubt with the Leader’s approval, told the December meeting that their expedition into the attic had shown that the work to the roof had been done to the specification.
That was a lie, and he knew it, because what we discovered on the audit committee’s visit to Pembroke Dock was that it wasn’t possible to inspect the “whole” of the roof, or even most of it, from the two available access points.
They then went on to Dimond Street where the project coordinator put them in the picture about the “third side elevation” at No 25 and “most of the retail space” at No 29.
This information also turned out to be completely false.
I accept that the Leader and Cllr Pugh were only repeating what they were told about these two properties, but, as they were accusing me of failing to check my facts, they might have thought to be a bit more careful themselves.
The reason why they weren’t more careful is that the project coordinator was telling them what they wanted to hear.
This was just what was needed to put Old Grumpy to the sword, so they swallowed it with relish.
You only have to watch Cllr Pugh’s ten-minute, bile-laden rant at the December meeting to see how much he was enjoying himself as he took on the role of executioner.
Or, as the Leader put it: “The emotion probably got away from him on that occasion”.
Which translates: He got a bit overexcited at the thought of all the brownie-points he would receive for destroying my credibility.
The project coordinator’s part in all this is interesting because his boss, Director of Development Dr Steven Jones informs me that his man stands by what he told our two heroes, but that its meaning may have been “lost in translation”.
I take this to mean that there was some misunderstanding, though it is not clear what it might be.
The information supplied by the project coordinator was designed to counter my claims about the area of rendering at No 25. Why the project coordinator, who we can assume is familiar with the site, would provide them with information about another property altogether is not immediately obvious.
Anyway, based on this mixture of lies and misunderstandings, Cllr Pugh stood up at the meeting on December 12 and accused me of “deliberate untruths”; making “spurious” allegations; conducting a campaign of “smear and innuendo”; and having an agenda that didn’t include the truth.
However, what he hadn’t reckoned with was that, after a long battle with the Monitoring Officer, I would eventually be able to exercise my legal right to see the all the information relating to these grants, or that once I had access to the files it wouldn’t take me long to torpedo their attempted cover-up.
The upshot is that I produced evidence to the director of finance which forced him to call in the police.
It shows just how far down the moral sewer the county council has travelled that the majority of your elected representatives can find no fault with the Cabinet member who was at the forefront of this attempted deception.
Or that the Leader of this corrupt enterprise feels able to describe my part in exposing this attempted cover-up as disingenuous.
Get this: The majority of the members of a taxpayer-funded, democratically-elected UK political institution think it is OK for a leading member of the ruling party to lie to council and, on the basis of those same lies, question the integrity of another member.
Can there ever have been a greater disconnect between the views of the electors and the elected over acceptable standards of conduct in public life?
A large part of the Leader’s defence of Cllr Pugh was taken up with an account of his good works in the field of tourism and town-centre regeneration.
Others, some of whom I would have expected to know better, joined in this line of argument.
Of course, this was all irrelevant because it had no bearing whatsoever on the fact that he had misled council in December.
Indeed, as I listened to this self-serving drivel, I was half-expecting someone to say: “Whatever you might say about David Pugh, at least he made the trains run on time.”
Or, seeing that the Leader was heavily involved in all this, that: “He was only obeying orders”.