Last week, I analysed the events surrounding the cover-up
of Cllr Brian Hall's fraudulent travel claim for 1 February 2001.
This week, I will relate the story of how his dodgy business
relationship with Dr Michael Ryan was swept under the carpet.
The two crucial dates are 1 August 2000 (the date of Ryan's appointment)
and 16 October 2000 (the day Ryan sent the now infamous fax to
The key to unlocking the puzzle is to work out what went on during
the 11 weeks in between.
I have documentary evidence of the following.
1 August 2000 - Letter of appointment from PCC head of marketing
David Thomas to ORA International (managing director Dr Michael
15-18 August 2000 - Ryan visits Pembs (Answers to my questions
council meeting 21 Oct 2004).
3 September 2000 - letter from Ryan on behalf of ORA to David
Thomas informing him of ORA's intention to set up a UK-based
This letter contained a promise that, in order to avoid any conflict
of interest, the new company would not trade in Pembrokeshire.
10 September 2000 - Mr Thomas replied saying that the arrangments
(not to trade in Pembrokeshire) outlined in ORA's letter would
avoid any conflict of interest. Mr Thomas asked to be kept abreast
of any developments with the new company.
20 September 2000 - Hall wrote a "private letter"
to Leader (Auditor's report paras 28, 33,47) informing him of
his business relationship with Ryan
4-7 October 2000 - Ryan visits Pembrokeshire (Answers to my
questions council meeting 21 Oct 2004). According to the auditor's
report, Ryan claimed that it was during this visit he first met
16 October 2000 - Ryan sent a fax to Hall which begins "I
have at last completed my first draft of the business plan".
There is other evidence in the fax to indicate that they had
extensive and well advanced plans to trade in Pembrokeshire (Hall-Ryan).
Clearly, if Hall's 20 September letter to Maurice Hughes is genuine,
Ryan's claim to have first met Hall during the period 4-7 October
simply can't be true.
And, if Hall did write to Hughes on 20 September, why did he
tell the auditor initially that he first met Ryan during September/October
(auditor's report para 27). It is not, I think, without significance
that, according to the auditor's report, Hall produced the 20
September letter "towards the end of our review [investigation]."
and that the review went on for seven months.
In answer to my questions to the Leader at the meeting of council
on 21 October 2004, I was told that Ryan had visited Pembrokeshire
twice between 1 August 2000 (appointment date) and 16 October
2000 (fax date).
The dates of these visits were 15-18 August and 4-7 October.
As the chief executive "recalls introducing Dr Ryan to Cllr
Hall in a meeting in his office after ORA Ltd had been awarded
the contract." (auditor's report para 27) and they were
clearly known to each other on October 16 when Ryan sent the
fax, the introduction must have made been during one or other
of these visits.
Even if we disregard Hall's September 20 letter to Hughes, the
contents of Ryan's fax to Hall rules out the second of these
visits as the occasion of their first encounter because there
was insufficient time between 4-7 October and 16 October for
them to have lined up all the projects discussed in the fax (Hall-Ryan).
And would Ryan have begun the fax "I have at last completed
my first draft of the business plan" if their first ever
meeting had been only 9-12 days earlier?
So, as Hall introduction to Ryan was in the chief executive's
office, they must have first met on the only other occasion that
Ryan was in Pembrokeshire i.e. between 15-18 August.
The auditor refers to these two differing versions of the timing
of their first meeting as an "apparent inconsistency",
though it looks real enough to me.
And, real or apparent, it is rather surprising, given the auditor's
blanket access to all documents in the council's possession,
that he didn't take any steps to resolve it.
After all, if I was able to discover the dates of his visits
to the county, so was the auditor.
It seems that the date of their first meeting was not the only
time they were singing from different hymn sheets.
The auditor reports: "This letter [Hall's September
20 letter to Hughes] is not entirely consistent with the details
of Dr Ryan's correspondence with us particularly around the date
the company name Euro-Ryall Ltd was first considered and the
proposed parts of the country the company was likely to trade
Note the "not entirely consistent".
Unfortunately, for whatever reason, the auditor's report doesn't
elaborate on these inconsistencies, nor, apparently, make any
attempt to resolve them.
Having recently been elected to the council, I put down questions
at the meeting on 15 July 2004 seeking clarification of para
46 of the auditor's report.
I was told: "The chief executive had been informed orally
in early-autumn 2000 by Cllr Hall of the latter's discussions
with Dr Ryan about the possibility of forming a company."
And, in answer to another question: "The Head of Marketing
and communications [Ryan's line manager, David Thomas]
had been informed orally by Dr Ryan during October/November 2000
about the intended formation of the company to be known as Euro-Ryall."
All beautifully vague! They don't seem to believe in writing
things down in county hall.
For instance: "The chief executive has informed us that
the decision to appoint a consultant was discussed and accepted
by the management board although this was not recorded at the
time" (para 11), and, "Before the contract
was awarded [to ORA], the head of marketing and communications
took one satisfactory verbal reference from a reliable source
known to senior officers. The information and comments received
were not formally [or informally?] documented . . ."(para
Regarding Hall's alleged 20 September letter to the Leader, Cllr
Michael Williams put down a Notice of Motion to the council meeting
on 16 December 2004 calling for its publication.
This request was refused on the grounds that: "The letter
referred to was made available to the District Auditor. It was
a private letter between Cllrs Hall and Hughes. It was not made
known to council officers and therefore formed no part of the
council's procedures relating to interests. It is not in the
council's possession and it's (sic) wider disclosure or
otherwise is, therefore, a matter for the writer and/or the recipient."
(see Dual purpose).
Two points about this:
Firstly if it was a private letter, why was it relied upon by
the auditor. It is noticeable that it was a letter to the Leader
for the purposes of the auditor's report - to Cllr Hughes when
arguing for non-disclosure.
Secondly, I would have thought the Leader had a duty to inform
the Monitoring Officer; the officer responsible for all questions
relating to members interests, of this development.
Cllr Williams' NoM also asked for the exact date of Hall's introduction
to Ryan by the chief executive.
The answer given was: "There is no record of an exact
date. Information about the meeting is, therefore, the subject
of recollection which is limited, particularly as it was more
than four years ago."
It seems that the one person kept completely in the dark
was the Monitoring Officer who informed me, in a letter dated
13 March 2003, that he had "no information about the
timescale of the developing business association between Cllr
Hall and Dr Ryan which led to the incorporation of Euro-Ryall
Ltd, at the end of December 2000."
But hardest to grasp is how an apparently casual introduction
in the chief executive's office in mid-August, grew into the
mature business relationship revealed by Dr Ryan's fax just over
eight weeks later.
What makes this particularly difficult to understand is that
for most of this time Ryan was in Limerick and Hall in Pembroke
Which brings us to the elephant in the sitting room - Ryan's
fax to Hall of 16 October.
This hardly gets a mention in the auditor's report and such mention
as it does get is subtly downplayed.
The words in square brackets are what I consider the auditor
might have said if he had been a little more robust.
"The communication between Dr Ryan and Cllr Hall dated
16 October 2000 identifies [shows clearly] that they were
examining [actively pursuing] business opportunities in
Pembrokeshire. This varies [is at complete variance] with
the intentions [firm promises] set out in Dr Ryan's September
letter to the council."
What is also interesting is that, in their various accounts
of what they were told about the Hall/Ryan relationship, nobody
mentions their well advanced plans to trade in Pembrokeshire.
So in his private letter to the Leader, Hall "informed
the leader that he was going into business with Dr Ryan",
while during the chief executive's meeting with Hall in "early
Autumn 2000" Hall had "outlined his recently
formed relationship with Dr Ryan and their emerging intention
to form a company" .
Similarly, Mr David Thomas "had been informed orally
by Dr Ryan during October/November 2000 about the intended formation
of the company to be known as Euro-Ryall."
This last piece of information came in answer to a question
I put down to the Leader and surprisingly, while David Thomas
is on the list of those interviewed by the auditor, there is
no mention anywhere in the report of his conversation with Dr
Ryan in "October/November 2000".
Even more interesting, given the dates, this conversation almost
certainly took place after Hall and Ryan had decided to
trade in Pembrokeshire contrary to Ryan's promise not to do so.
Of course, the task was difficult because it required a picture
to painted that showed Hall and Ryan being completely above board
about their relationship, while, at the same time, ignoring the
fact that Ryan's fax to Hall dated October 16 2000 proved conclusively
that they hadn't.
Between 13 -17 November 2000 Hall spent four days touring around
Pembroke Dock with Ryan and a Mr Pat O'Sullivan.
On the fourth day they were joined by Mr David Thomas.
Hall claimed travelling expenses and Dr Ryan was receiving £450
a day in fees plus travelling and accommodation expenses.
Of course, we can't be sure whether Mr Thomas was aware of the
Hall/Ryan relationship at this time because, as he was informed
in October/November (see above) it leaves open the possibility
that he was told some time after 17 November, though you might
have expected the chief executive to have informed Mr Thomas
- Ryan's line manager - of his "early autumn" conversation
I wrote to the district auditor on 1 May 2004 and 23 May 2004
querying whether this tour of Pembroke Dock was an approved duty
under the statutory regulations.
In a reply dated 1 June 2004, the auditor told me:
"Members are entitled to claim travel and subsistence
expenses incurred 'at the request of the Chief Executive .
. . the Leader of council or other group leaders (or their nominated
representative(s)) to attend at such meetings for the proper
discharge of the business of the authority' "
The Chief Executive informed us that he approved the duties in
question and that the Leader requested that Cllr Hall undertake
the duties although there is no formal record of this [again!].
One of objectives of our review was to confirm that any expenses
claimed by Cllr Hall when accompanying Dr Ryan were in relation
to an approved duty. We were able to satisfy ourselves on these
As set out in our report, we understand from the Council's Chief
Executive that Cllr Hall was requested to assist Dr Ryan given
his knowledge of the local area and business."
Of course, when the Leader made this request he had, allegedly,
through the September 20 letter been aware of the business relationship
between Hall and Ryan for almost two months.
Ditto the Chief Executive, presuming that "early autumn"
(para 46) is sometime prior to November 14.
That alone, in my opinion, should have persuaded them that Hall
was the last person to send on such a mission.
If they had also known that, according to the fax Dr Ryan sent
to Hall a month earlier, "To date Dr Ryan and Brian Hall
have been requested to participate in a number of projects, such
recreation & Conference Centre Project(Masterplanning and
Investment Project aligned to Pembroke Dock redevelopment
Commission Objective 1 Project Finance Design & Submission."
Or that they were lining up a deal with the Purcell bros
[then owners of the Cleddau Bridge Hotel] which would "set
us up", or that they had plans to take over small Pembrokeshire
businesses at knock-down prices thus "inflating our profit
margins" (Hall-Ryan) there was absolutely
no way they could have approved of Hall's participation.
It is also interesting that, not too long after this tour of
Pembroke Dock, Ryan and Mr Pat O'Sullivan also went into business
together (See Little by Little).
It is interesting to consider how successive Leaders of the Independent
Political Group have reacted to my revelations about this greedy,
After I first brought their relationship to the public's attention
in October 2002 (ORA story)
the, then, Leader Maurice Hughes rushed out a press release in
which he said: "The council is fully aware of the company
Euroryall [but not, apparently, how to spell its name]. Before
the company was registered, the principals [Ryan and Hall]
approached officers of the council. They (my emphasis)
gave firm undertakings that the company would not trade in Pembrokeshire
nor provide any conflict of interest."
It must be remembered that at this time the council
didn't know that I was aware of Ryan's fax to Hall, so Maurice
thought he could get away with saying anything.
However, it is now clear from auditor's report that the word
"They" is misleading because the only
promise not to trade in Pembrokeshire was that in Ryan's letter
of 3 September 2000 and, within six weeks of writing it, he was
despatching a fax to Hall outlining their well developed plans
to breach that undertaking.
That sounds like a serious betrayal of trust, but, for whatever
reason, not serious enough to have his contract terminated.
In the summer of 2003, the leader of the Plaid Cymru group Cllr
Michael Williams began to take a keen interest in the Hall-Ryan
relationship; culminating in a notice of motion to the October
meeting of full council calling for an auditor's investigation.
Maurice Hughes reaction was to write to Cllr Williams accusing
me of leading the police on a "ridiculous wild goose chase"
at the cost of "tens of thousands of pounds" over Hall's
expense claim for 1 February 2001(Smear-Leader).
You can judge for yourself whether my complaint to the police
was based on false evidence by reference to Time
Incidentally, being accused of lying to the police by Maurice
Hughes (Pot and kettle) only increased
my determination to root out the truth.
When Hughes fell at the 2004 elections, I honestly believed that
his replacement as Leader, Cllr John Davies, would be an entirely
After all, in his acceptance speach, he told us he was a good
ol' north county Baptist boy and that he would ensure that the
council was run to "the highest ethical standards".
So I e-mailed him asking if he could tell me if Dr Ryan's line
manager, David Thomas, had any knowledge of Ryan's fax to Hall
dated 16 October 2000.
This was important because in response to Ryan's letter of 3
September 2000 (see above) promising not to trade in Pembrokeshire,
Mr Thomas had asked to be kept informed of any developments with
the new company.
It seemed to me that taking on Hall as a partner; being asked
to participate in various projects including International
Investment Project aligned to Pembroke Dock redevelopment;
hatching plans to take over PBI; and negotiating with the owners
of the Cleddau Bridge Hotel (Hall-Ryan)
were developments that Mr Thomas should have been told about.
The Leader eventually replied: "Apologies for the oversight
regarding the question in relation Mr David Thomas' knowledge
of the alleged fax. My understanding is that Mr Thomas had no
knowledge of the fax allegedly sent to Cllr Hall from Dr Ryan
on 16 October 2000."
This slippery use of 'alleged' and 'allegedly' came despite the
fact that nowhere in the auditor's report, of which the Leader
had a copy, is there anything which casts even the slightest
doubt on the authenticity of Ryan's fax, or the fact that Hall
had received it.
No doubt, the Leader thought he was being clever but, if he thought
about it, he might realise it is this sort of dissembling that
gets politicians a bad name
Of course, the obvious question is why this consultant, who was
clearly out to double-cross the county council by telling it
one thing and doing another, is still employed at £450
And, if what I have written about this business is untrue, why
hasn't anybody taken me to court?
Back in December 2003, Ryan did threaten to sue Cllr Michael
Williams and myself.
The letters from MLM solicitors; posted on 19 December, demanded
that, to avoid "vigorous litigation", we must both
provide Ryan with an apology, a retraction and a written undertaking
not to repeat our libellous allegations.
On top of that we were each to "reimburse our client,
via us, his legal costs to date in the sum of £3295.57
(Vat excl), together with additional expenses to be confirmed
by our client shortly"
Should we fail to comply within 14 days, the solicitors threatened,
"we will be issuing the Claim Form immediately".
Of course, the 14 days covered the Christmas period when it was
difficult, if not impossible, to obtain legal advice.
Not that it mattered because I simply sent his solicitor a copy
of his "alleged" fax to Cllr Hall, and the guns fell
This despite the fact that, according to a letter Ryan sent to
the county council in December 2004, he had run up a legal bill
of £14,500 defending himself against my "false allegations"
With such a large hole in his pocket, you might think that, if
he had even half a leg to stand on, he might by now have carried
out his threats to sue.
(Web of intrigue) (Shifting sands) (Just
a matter of time)