The meeting ended with some conservative councillors casting doubt on my suitability to be a member of a business scrutiny committee, following EDDC chief executive, Mark Williams email to all councillors and officers, calling my role into question.
The reason for the lengthy meeting on Thursday evening was largely a very long presentation from Devon and Cornwall’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Hogg, who gave fulsome answers to councillors’ questions.
The evening started off with East Devon Alliance chair, Paul Arnott, launching a stinging attack on EDDC in relation to the now ceased police investigation into the activities of former Feniton councillor, Graham Brown, who was the subject of an undercover sting by the Daily Telegraph in March 2013.
Mr Arnott, compared EDDC’s reaction to the police investigation being wound up, to the current FIFA scandal. His words whizzed through the air like sharpened arrows.
Then it was time for Mr Hogg to talk about his time as our PCC. One of the more notable replies to a question was an astonishing answer to whether police officers have to declare being members of a masonic lodge. No replied Mr Hogg, the masons are regarded as a charity and there is no obligation to declare membership.
He handed over to local police commander for Exeter, East & Mid Devon, Keith Perkin, who explained about the investigation into Cllr Brown. He expressed regret over delays, caused by a referral to Action Fraud in the first instance. Officer Perkin said that the investigation didn’t effectively start for a number of months.
It was, however, passed to the serious and organised crime branch for investigation. It was complex he said and 40 witnesses were interviewed and statements taken.
His report came across as an open and honest appraisal of the situation.
Cllr Roger Giles asked a series of questions about how witnesses were treated by the police, which ended up in much tory heckling and later a demand from the chief executive that Cllr Giles should apologise.
See this account on the East Devon Alliance website here – http://eastdevonalliance.org/2014/11/14/councillor-slams-ceo-mark-williams-over-outing-of-witness-in-police-inquiry/
I asked whether they were confident that they had interviewed all the people who had wanted to be heard. I also asked whether any report with recommendations was passed to EDDC, which the chief executive seemed to imply from his statement, which said there were “no actions worth pursuing.”
Officer Perkin confirmed that he would get back to me about these questions, as he was not the investigating officer and would need to check.
Finally, it was quite clear from the reaction of some tory councillors that there is every intention to throw me off the business scrutiny task and finish forum. It won’t be discussed until the next overview and scrutiny meeting in January.
But I was nonetheless accused by Cllr John Humphries of making “false allegations” and Cllr Mike Allen made his own observations of my apparent unsuitability to be a member of the business scrutiny committee.
I suggested that removing me from the committee would send one message to people across East Devon. And this was that the council had something to hide.