Monday, 9 June 2014

Thanet Council, KCC, & EKO Spend Your Money to Gag Me!




 
Today I have received an e-mail from Thanet Council's Legal Officer. It would appear that Thanet Council, Kent County Council and  publically funded property speculators, East Kent Opportunities (EKO),   are all considering taking legal action against me. Why? Because I have had the temerity to lodge a complaint with KCC and TDC that a clause in EKO's membership agreement  might have been broken, and that any such attempt to break that clause may have been ignored or possibly even aided.

As my previous posting on this subject suggested  KCC and TDC, appear  very reluctant to investigate my allegations   about an organisation which they jointly own and which we as council taxpayers fund. They look as though they intend to use the so-called confidentiality clauses related to the EKO membership agreement, released to me last week, to try to shut me up. This act of desperation is to stop you knowing that my allegations are related to clause 13.3 of the EKO membership agreement which says

""shall not be involved in considering planning applications at KCC or TDC (and if responsible for those involved in considering planning applications shall ensure that suitable arrangements are in place to ensure probity and that no challenge on that basis can successfully be made to any planning permission granted)".

I think everyone agrees that the  Council planning application processes must be  open, honest, free from improper influence and enjoy the trust of the private individuals and organisations who use these processes . To have a system which might be open to abuse, is a very serious matter and something which Councils should take decisive action to guard against.

Can it really be the case that TDC and KCC would not wish to take immediate action to investigate allegations of probity related planning problems?  Can it really be the case that they will use your money to pay for expenses lawyers to injunct, sue and possibly bankrupt me for telling my electors that I believe that this hitherto secret clause of the EKO membership agreement might have been breached, or assisted in its breaching?

Is this what openness,  transparency and honesty looks like in Kent local government? Or might this litigious response to my allegations mean that interest in EKOs New Haine Road planning application go much higher up Kent's political food chain than I originally imagined? I feel a Freedom of Information Request coming on.

Enjoy the e-mail exchanges. You couldn't make them up, unless of course Kent was North Korea


Dear Cllr Driver
EKO Agreement
I am following up on you e-mail to me from last evening concerning your intention to disclose some or all of the EKO agreement.
I am sure you will appreciate that to disclose any part of the agreement would amount to a clear and unequivocal breach of the confidentiality agreement you signed only a few hours earlier.
This is I understand not the first time you have placed information into the public domain in breach of your duties as a Councillor and these matters will need to be considered with a view to the resulting prejudice that your actions have caused to the Council.  I will be reflecting on what action may be appropriate in the circumstances.
Beyond this, however, it is my understanding that EKO are also considering their position and, if they choose to take legal action against you, I would not be able to assist you in respect of that action.
Your assertions as to wrongdoing by employees outside of the Council may also result in legal action being taken by them or their employers and this would also not be something which you could be supported over.
As to your “public interest” justification for taking this step, this would not amount to a defence to a breach, particularly where you are claiming to be the sole arbiter of what may or may not be in the public interest.
I would simply therefore wish to caution you against taking further steps without understanding the consequences to you in person and to confirm that any action you take will not be sanctioned or defended by this Council.

Yours sincerely
Steven Boyle

Interim Legal Services Manager and Monitoring Officer


Dear Mr Boyle

Thank you for e-mail.

I am very surprised that your  response to my extremely serious allegation of possible misconduct in relation to Thanet Council 's jointly owned property speculating LLP, EKO, has been to raise the possibility of legal action being taken against me. You make no mention whatsoever of my formal complaint and what action you will take as Monitoring Officer to investigate whether my allegations are true or not. I'm afraid that your response suggests to me that Thanet Council is more interested in threatening whistle-blowers and covering up serious allegations, rather than acting decisively to ensure that the probity and honesty of Thanet Council's planning system is protected.  

As you aware an agreement to keep information confidential does not remain  binding if this  confidential  information exposes possible misconduct.

Having had no reassurance from yourself as Monitoring Officer that you intend to take any action in connection with my compliant to you, I therefore  believe that I now have a right to air my concerns about EKO  in the public arena.
Yours sincerely

Councillor Ian Driver
 
See letter below - EKO  is an organisation owned entirely  by Kent  County Council  and Thanet District Council. Its absolutely astonishing that they require this level of secrecy in relation to a document which contains no commercially  sensitive information whatsoever.
 

Confidentiality Agreement

Re :East Kent Opportunities LLP  (EKO LLP) Members’ Agreement  22nd August 2008 - terms and conditions –

Private and Confidential 
We  refer to the request made for detailed information in regards to the EKO LLP Member’s Agreement, (“The Agreement”) and your request to view certain confidential information concerning the agreement.

 On the basis that you do not have any formal rights or hold an elected position on the EKO LLP Management Committee bestowed upon you by Thanet District Council and that such information has been agreed from the outset and formation of the LLP to be kept by both member organisations as confidential and commercially sensitive We have had to take wider legal advice regarding its availability. Release of this information is not likely to be in the public interest, but should this information become public it could significantly disadvantage the company in its commercial dealings.
 
It is therefore necessary to require a personal undertaking from you that any information provided to you is on restricted terms only (the ‘authorised purpose’).

Accordingly, you may wish to take your own legal advice before commencing with signing this agreement. The authorised purpose is for your own personal individual review and interrogation of the agreement only, so as to understand what business relationship has been entered into between the two Member parties and the objectives and requirements that are set out.

For the purposes of this letter ‘confidential information’ means any and all information relating to “The Agreement” which is disclosed by EKO LLP, either of its Members, or its advisors, other than information which is already in a disclosee’s unrestricted possession or in the public domain, or which comes into a disclosee’s unrestricted possession or the public domain except as a result of a disclosure in breach of the terms of this letter or any other obligation of confidentiality owed to us by any person.

 1.       Undertakings

In our agreeing to supply the aforementioned confidential information, you hereby unconditionally agree as follows:

(a)      to use the confidential information only for authorised reference purposes;
(b)      to treat the confidential information as private and confidential and safeguard it accordingly;
(c)      not to discuss or disclose or permit to be disclosed the confidential information other than to another disclosee and only with the express consent of EKO’s Executive Officer - a list of other discloses can be provided upon a written request;
(d)      not to make copies, reproductions or summaries of the confidential information including any form of, electronic, social or broadcast media;
(e)      not to announce or disclose the existence of any of the terms of, the agreement without EKO LLP Executive Officer’s prior written consent, unless such announcement or disclosure is required by any applicable law.
(f)      to notify us in writing as soon as reasonably practicable if any legal proceedings are commenced, or action taken which could result in a disclosee becoming compelled to disclose any of the confidential information, to take all available steps at your expense to resist or avoid such proceedings or action, including all steps that we may reasonably request and to keep us fully and promptly informed of all matters and developments relating to it.
(g)      if a disclosee is obliged to disclose confidential information to any third party, to disclose to that third party only the minimum amount of information consistent with the satisfaction of the obligation to make such disclosure and to give us prior written notice of the information proposed to be disclosed containing a confirmation that the disclosee’s legal advisers’ opinion is that such disclosure is required upon written demand from us, to:

(i)       return to us all confidential information (and any copies of it or of any part of it);
(ii)      expunge all confidential information from any computer, word processor or other similar device into which it was entered or programmed;
(iii)     destroy all notes, analyses or memoranda containing confidential information;
(iv)     furnish us with a certificate signed by you confirming your compliance with paragraphs (ii) and (iii) above;

(i)       to use reasonable endeavours to procure that each disclosee acts, or omits to act, as if he, she or it had agreed with us in the same terms as this letter; and

(j)      to bring to the attention of each disclosee the prohibition on dealings by insiders set out in the criminal justice act 1993)]

2.       General matters

You agree:
(a)      to indemnify us and hold us harmless from and against all actions, claims, costs, proceedings, expenses, loss or damage (including, without limitation, legal costs) which may arise directly or indirectly from the unauthorised disclosure or use of the confidential information by a disclosee or from any other breach of the terms of this letter;
(b)      that damages would not normally be an adequate remedy for a breach of the terms of this letter and to waive any rights you may have to oppose the granting of equitable or injunctive relief sought by us in relation to any breach or suspected breach of the undertakings contained in this letter;
(c)      that we may exclude from participating further in any discussions or communications with any disclosee who we believe has breached the terms of this letter in a material respect and you hereby undertake to comply forthwith with any such direction from us;
(d)      that the furnishing of confidential information will not constitute any agreement  by EKO LLP, nor the basis of any contract nor a representation of warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or otherwise of the confidential information;
(e)      that we have not made nor will make any representation or warranty as to the accuracy, completeness or otherwise of the confidential information;
(g)      no single or partial exercise of, or failure or delay by EKO LLP in exercising any right, power or privilege to which we are entitled shall operate as a waiver of, or impair or preclude any other or further exercise;
(h)      the terms of this letter and your obligations and acknowledgements under it may only be:
(i)       waived by us in writing and varied in writing signed by both parties;

(i)       your interest in the EKO LLP Member’s Agreement is as a principal,  on your own behalf and not on account of or with a view to relay to any other person.
(j)      if any provision of this letter is found by any court or competent authority to be invalid, unlawful or unenforceable in any jurisdiction in relation to us or you, it will not invalidate the remaining provisions or affect the validity, lawfulness or enforceability of the provision in relation to any party or in any other jurisdiction in relation to any party or in any other jurisdiction;
(k)      the terms of this letter, your obligations and undertakings under it shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English Law and the English courts shall have exclusive jurisdiction for all matters arising under it;

(l)       any requests for further  information are to be made to Matthew Hyland on 01622 223423 and to no other persons.
 
If you  accept the terms and conditions of this  letter, please indicate your agreement by signing and returning to us the enclosed copy of this letter.

Yours faithfully
 

 

21 comments:

  1. Well done Ian and we can do without Steven Boyle and threats to sue councillors. How are such idiots sacked?

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  2. Ian Driver, keep going. What we have here is a mirage of democracy. We can have openness, transparency and clarity about certain issues but not others.
    Clearly, what happens in situations where clarity and transparency becomes uncomfortable for those under scrutiny, a shutter comes down, as with Chilcott - the message being we'll give you a gist but accept that because the documentation you seek will not be made available.
    If KCC and TDC take the same approach, the consequences will not be felt by you, whom I know to be a fearless campaigner and representative of your ward constituents but on those who would dare to bring the shutter down on transparency and openness - and at the next election - which is not too far away.
    Ian Driver, you will always have my suppport.
    Kind regards,
    Julie Wassmer

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  3. Hi Ian,

    In your reply to Mr. Boyle, I think you omitted to ask one key question:

    "Who instructed you to write to me about this?"

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    1. I agree! Who's been pouring poison in Boyles ear! What's his background anyway. Who is he - who appointed him? etc etc! He seems to be being dutiful as he doesn't want to be pushed from his desk/salary. Was his legal training threatening people with repossession and the like - he has written a rather sloppy and emotive letter for a legal. Just can't get the staff!

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  4. The basis of their case against you seems to be that, at the outset, EKO and TDC agreed that this agreement should be kept confidential. The fact that two parties WANT to keep something secret is fine, but it is up to them to keep it so. If one or both are public bodies they can't realistically expect to keep it secret if wrongdoing is suspected. They state that release of the information COULD damage the company in its commercial dealings but do not explain how this damage could occur. So far, they have not produced any evidence of damage caused to their commercial dealings as a result of your activities. I imagine they will need to do so to be effective in court. It seems to me that the very act of asking you to sign a confidentiality agreement, when you are trying to uncover potential wrongdoing might be regarded by a judge as unreasonable. In your position as a councillor you are entitled to ask to see documents relating to public funds and it would only be reasonable to ask you to keep these secret if you didn't find anything wrong. There is a strong argument to be deployed around the fact that it is your job and your duty to ask questions and to expose what is going on. The strong-arm tactics being used against you suggest one of two things; either, you are barking up the wrong tree; nobody has done anything wrong and they are confident that you have broken the law; or, they know they've done something wrong and they are very, very rattled.

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  5. His letter is prejudicial and he cannot be judge in his own cause. Another pompous public sector parasite. Eff him off.

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  6. ian, again got them on the run.... :-) now my 1st question to you before you go any further is, have you made at least 4-5 back up copies of all your info on everything and anything and distributed them among safe people, the thing is they will wipe everything you ever had, to shut you up. do it asap if you havent already!

    xxx this is where its gonna get really nasty like it always does with the big cheeses! xxx
    they hook up with lil ole thanet, who have spent the past 3 decades rinsing the cash and pride out of townsfolk sooo much they practically laid down and let themselves be walked over. so this area is sooperb to make a whole new business out of our cash to do stuff that viably will not work, even if just coz of the aquafer ! and they cannot let it be actually known that they actually do this, especially as the whole political stance in thanet has woken up among the people! maybe all he chemicals in the aquafer we are using has thinned out so much people are more alert and intune with their emotions!
    either way GET COPIES DONE!! xx just saying xx

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  7. Another Anon! .... i would say the latter, the people running the show need pulling into the real world where they see that the people want to know of any more wrong doings! they should be very rattled!

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  8. ian what is it with all the Anon's??? it seems as more and more peoples view are not stood by, why is this?? maybe all these people are scared of speaking or having a real voice! ,...yes being sarcastic! sorry! just something that bugs me with people who have good points to share but not backed up by its human! :-(

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  9. Well said 18:52 and what is happening with Sue Macgonigal suddenly going off ill with the TDC investigation beginning into her role with EKO?

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  10. As Anonymous 19:13 suggests, I think they must be very rattled! However, they seem to be making a complete hash of it and making it worse for themselves. Keep digging, Ian...

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  11. If they have done no wrong they should stand before the people and prove it not wrap up all these threats in legal jargon they will in time be judged by the people for its the people who hold the power in their hands,
    Stargazer

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  12. The bloody cheek of these people! And the completely uninformed amateurishness of this Boyle chap is astounding, but then again we are dealing with TDC officers so perhaps I should not be so surprised.

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  13. There are clearly serious questions to be asked about the EKO LLP. I think there is a wider point too. Local people and their councillors were unaware that the council was subsidising the operation of Transeuropa ferries until it all went belly up. Then, we were confronted with a big hole in the finances. Since TDC seems unwilling (or unable) to properly investigate this state of affairs, I can see not other option than to ask for a public inquiry. The inquiry needs to be into the methods used by councils to involve themselves in commercial activities and the ways in which they then use the cloak of commercial confidentiality to obscure the risks they are taking with the public finances. By rights our MP's should be pushing for this to happen, but I suspect they won't because their own party is as guilty of lack of transparency as the Labour group. As usual, the public interest is sacrificed on the rack of party solidarity.

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  14. Ladies and Gents, take a breath. Ian signed a declaration before he read the documents and has now gone and breached it on his own interpretation of what it meant. He always had the option to discuss what it meant, when he did so with me I pointed out he was colouring his view of the document with his own interpretation. He is busy making any fair investigation of his own complaints very difficult to be completed fairly and without prejudice by these continual, partially truthful outbursts. Nothing here I have not said to him privately before. He needs to gag himself for a while and let the proper processes do their stuff.

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    Replies
    1. It will be interesting to see how well that piece of paper stands up in front of a jury of council tax payers, how do we know what is truthful or not if the council officers insist on secrecy! Chris, you seem to be forgetting that this is public business... you know, council tax?

      One might be forgiven for thinking there must be lavish personal incentives up for grabs, judged by the keenness of some of these PUBLIC SERVANTS to get this housing estate built .

      A word of warning to any PUBLIC SERVANTS who may be getting ideas above their station; there is a massive sea change underway in this country, choose your allegiances very carefully.

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    2. Rightly or wrongly that will not be the consideration this gets. If you sign something of your own free will agreeing to limit the use of the information you glean from the document, and either breach that agreement, or take action which proves you signed falsely, the responsibility is your own.

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    3. Furthermore, there may be good commercial reasons why the document is confidential

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    4. None of which means I may support the actions and decisions of EKO Board Members, but do accept if they are operating commercially they cannot be disadvantaged by the nature of their ownership; nor should they be advNtaged by it. Which is pretty much what the agreement says.

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