5 September 2010

Shoot the messenger.....

Before Rod Briggs read out his public statement at a Town Council meeting on 13th July 2010, to the best of my knowledge I had never set eyes on the man, certainly never been introduced to him. Then, a few days ago I received a letter from Rod which I reproduce below (as ever, click or double click on the image and it will open in a larger version).As you can see, this letter is quasi-legal concoction of little significance but it caused me to look back at the statement which Rod read at the Town Council meeting and I now view Rod's public statement with somewhat less generosity than I did when I listened to it on the evening in question.

Looking at it now, Rod's statement is clearly deliberately intended to misrepresent (def:a misleading falsehood) the facts in an attempt to damage me and the credibility of those facts that I have presented. It would be very easy to accuse Rod of lying (def:the deliberate act of deviating from the truth) but I don't know if Rod is actually lying so I will limit myself to Rod's misrepresentation of the facts.

But first, I would draw attention to the darker aspect to Rod's activities and it is that Rod's approach is exactly the same tack taken by the Catholic hierarchy when it was faced with paedophile priests. The Catholic Church denied everything, blamed the victims and sought to brush everything under the carpet. In exactly the same manner, Rod is not interested in establishing the facts, nor is he interested to know if there was wrongdoing. Neither is Rod interested in the rights of the victim. Rod is only interested in maintaining the reputation of the establishment and to do that he quite deliberately misrepresents and misleads.

Returning to Rod's statement, I reproduce it here, verbatim, and would point out that Rod's statement is constructed, quite deliberately, in order to hold myself responsible for any and all of the costs that Rod lists. My own commentary is included contained within brackets and in bold italics:

"Thank you Mr Chairman and it is almost a year since I, Chris Macklin (One time vitriolic critic of the old Somerton Town Council before he saw the light, made some 'donations' to the Edgar Hall, got an acceptable planning consent for his property at the Half-Moon and became the old Council's biggest fan.) and some others whose names I can't recall spoke in support of some of the benefits that the old Council had brought to Somerton. For this we were berated in Muck & Brass with a rude word which I won't repeat here. (Was it 'numbskulls' or 'patsies'?) Lets see what he makes of this. Since then Mr Connolly has done a great deal of campaigning and complaining. The costs of these activities are now becoming apparent and are causing a lot of understandably disgruntled comment.(From self-interested people like you, Rod.) In order to obtain some more facts I have been making some Freedom of Information enquiries to this town Council (Rod ignores that his requests have been responded to appropriately, unlike the requests I made to his friends on the old Town Council, who squandered public money obstructing similar enquiries.) the District Council the County Council the Auditors and Standards for England about the nature of the complaints and the costs arising. The results are alarming. The first identifiable expense is that charged to the old Council by their solicitors for legal guidance in dealing with Mr Connolly's attacks upon them - £2,000. (Rod's first deliberate misrepresentation. The old Town Council spent the money trying to find ways of keeping public documents away from the public - documented fact. None of the documented legal opinions they sought offered them any comfort. The Office of the Information Commissioner ruled entirely against them in their efforts. The incompetent Town Clerk also failed to advise the Town Council of its responsibilities under the Law.) The second was for a Town Council Election of questionable necessity - £1,500 (Rod's second deliberate misrepresentation. It is unclear whether Rod is referring to the Election held on 15th October 2009 or the Election held on 7th January 2010. Either way, Elections are part of the Democratic process, and are caused either by schedule or by vacancy, not by individual whim.) The third is the estimate for the extraordinary audit of the Council's financial and other records at Mr Connolly's instigation - £30,000 and rising. And was even this expense necessary? Surely if there had been such blatant corruption as Mr Connolly has alleged (Rod's third deliberate misrepresentation. My objection focussed on the Etsome/Tin Dunny swap and the subsequent costs. Rod will, I am sure, have copies of my letters to the External Auditor and, from memory, I didn't use the term 'blatant corruption', even if the investigation finds such a term justified.) it would have come to light in the course of the Council's routine internal and external audit and the £30,000 expense might have been avoided.(I lodged a formal objection to the Etsome/Tin Dunny swap and the refurbishment costs - documented fact. As I understand the process, if the objection had been groundless then the external auditor would have dismissed it. The fact that the investigation has gone on so long, and that the costs are rising, is probably something to do with the possibility that my objection uncovered significant failings, failings that the old Town Council and Rod, as their supporter, would like to hide.) I am still awaiting the costs for the District Council and Standards for England into allegations concerning the acquisition of this hall but they are certain to be substantial.(Rod's 4th misrepresentation. To the best of my knowledge I have lodged no objections with either District or with the Standards Board relating to the acquisition of this hall.) And there is also the huge amount of time the Town Council's staff and councillors have had to spend in dealing with Mr Connolly's enquiries. In fact, in an email dated 3rd March 2010 Councillor Bennett wrote to the Chairman saying, "I have two observations regarding the request from Mr Connolly. First I think that before this next work is undertaken it may be useful to estimate how much time providing this information is going to take and make a formal record of that estimate" I think that Cllr Bennett deserves our thanks for highlighting the threats to our community of the rising costs of Mr Connolly's demands. (I'd echo Rod's comment and wish that the old Town Council, Rod's heros, had taken the same care to regulate their affairs as that taken by the new. Had that been the case, Somerton would not have been lumbered with the Tin Dunny and what I believe are the associated losses.) So, who is paying for all of this campaigning and complaining and the answer is you are Mr Chairman and so am I and so is everyone who pays Council Tax and Business Rates And the second question is "Are we getting good value for our money and the answer, based upon the one enquiry that has been concluded is 'No'. On the 11th December last year (2009) Mr Connolly made a complaint against former County Councillor Pauline Clarke, now giving us the benfit of her experience as a Town Councillor, when she's here. The complaint was heard on the 11th February 2010. I have the minutes here and concluded that there was no evidence to support the allegation. The allegation was about as factual as the spiteful drivel that he writes on his blog but the enquiry still cost £3,000 (The documentary evidence is a matter of fact. Ex-CCllr Clarke acted as promoter and go-between for then Local and current District Cllr Canvin's scheme at Badgers Cross and did so without making that activity public ie without informing those most likely to be affected by the proposal. Ex-CCllr Clarke has never denied this and I would be very pleased were she to so do. The fact that County's 'assessment committee' found there was no case to answer speaks more to the standards that they embrace rather than the standards that a member of the electorate might expect from their elected representatives.) It gets worse: somebody has been feeding incorrect information to the authorities investigating the old Council. A good example is the tractor for which a catalogue of false information (Chair "one more minute please" pause Chair again "one more minute" pause Vic Medley "I think that its worth a little longer than that don't you and you say that you give longer time if appropriate") a catalogue of false information was created including the implied cost of £35,000, £10,000 more than the actual cost. Mr Calderwood has now provided the correct figures and associated information to the auditors but whoever provided the original incorrect figure could easily have checked the original purchase invoice as I did last month or perhaps he just didn't want to. (I need to remind Rod that his enquiries into the tractor have been undertaken under rather different circumstances to my own. Rod is being, quite properly, provided with accurate information which he is then editing to suite his own needs. Might I request that, as Rod is such an accurate researcher, he publish the actual cost to the Town Council of purchasing the tractor, all its additional accessories and then include the maintenance and running costs from date of purchase until 27th October 2009. Possibly then Rod could set that figure against the income generated by the Council's ownership of the tractor, as the Town has been led to believe that it was purchased as a capital generating investment.) Correcting this false information has of course cost us money too So, how much longer Mr Chairman are we expected to go on paying for this campaigning at a time when Local Government expenditure is being cut by 7% and is this not ironic given that on the 30th December last Mr Connolly said on his blog and I quote that Rodger the dodger Calderwood the rump of the old Canvinite Council Messers Neale and Harrison, might still seek to blow more taxpayers money seeking more legal opinions on how to obstruct the law but that it wasn't their money but the good old taxpayers money so why should they worry.(As usual, Rod takes his quotes out of context and I'd advise anyone to read the brief M&B entry for 30th December 2009 to which Rod refers and which actually deals with the Office of the Information Commissioner having found against the old Somerton Town Council in its efforts to deny access to public documents, efforts that wasted public funds and efforts that were sanctioned by Messers Neale & Harrison and efforts which, again, the incompetent Town Clerk did not advise against.) All his concern for the taxpayer does seem to be rather selective. And finally, it is no good dismissing these expenses as a consequence of what went before as if we should all look big and pay up with a brave smile and put it behind us (Rod is clearly loosing his grip here. Had the old Council behaved properly, respected the Law, regulated its affairs appropriately, there would have been no FoI enquiries and no investigation. Rod is clearly quite deranged if he thinks anything else. Rod's message here is, 'Shoot the Messenger' and brush everything else under the carpet.) The campaigning and complaining goes on and the bills are still coming in. I believe that this Council under the able leadership of its Chairman Mr Michael Fraser-Hopewell should here and now make a public committment to the people of Somerton to seek to recover the wasted money from those who made and continue to make these spurious allegations. Thank you Mr Chairman. (If Rod had the courage of his convictions he might extend his proposal to suggest making the old Council responsible, via a surcharge, for any consequential losses arising out of the sale of Etsome, the purchase of the Tin Dunny and its refurbishment. But Rod is a chum of the old Council and his objective is clearly to to blame everyone else for the problems that they, the old Council, created.)

Next blog will deal with the statement made, immediately after Rod's raving, by the Chairperson of the Secretive Community Association.

Till next time, wear a tin helmet and keep your head down.