Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Liverpool Shenanigans: Preamble and Charge One

Dear Ms Farrand

Ref-SBE20494.07 – SBE20495.07

I refer to my recent complaint about breaches of the Code of Conduct by Councillor Warren Bradley, Leader of Liverpool city council and Councillor Mike Storey, Executive Member for Regeneration.

There are a number of issues which I would like to amplify in regard to the information which I have already provided. There is also some further information which I believe is important and relevant to your investigation, which Liverpool City Council have assured me they will provide to the Standards Board, on request. I set out details of this further below.

There are five specific areas where I believe Councillor Bradley has repeatedly breached the Code of Conduct.
1) Councillor Bradley’s email to Mr Colin Hilton, Chief Executive, and copied to every member of the controlling group, in which he demanded that Jason Harborow, Chief Executive of the Liverpool Culture Company and Executive Director for Culture, Media and Sport, should be immediately relieved of his duties.
This instruction, if followed, would have effectively suspended an employee who was at that stage not even subject to an allegation of improper conduct.

The instruction was clearly motivated, on Councillor Bradley’s own admission, by a desire for him to protect his reputation by being seen ‘to be strong’ in the media and to act decisively. It will be noted that Cllr Bradley was being heavily criticised in the media for the cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival. It appears that Councillor Bradley was attempting to divert some of the focus of the criticism to an employee.

Further, if the Chief Executive of the Council had acted upon this ‘instruction’, it would have been in breach of the implied duty of trust and confidence between an employer and Mr Harborow as an employee. It could have resulted in the Council acting unlawfully and being exposed to a legal claim from Mr Harborow.

It is to be noted that the subsequent internal enquiry conducted by the Internal Audit Team of the Council made no critiscism of Mr Harborow for the Festival’s cancellation.

The Chief Executive of the Council refused to follow Cllr Bradley’s instruction. No doubt you will wish to establish the reasons why.
In summary, this email communication provides clear evidence that Councillor Bradley was attempting, quite improperly, to interfere in internal staffing matters within the city council.
i) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Clause 5 of the Code of Conduct in that his actions in writing such an email, demanding the removal of a serving officer, and then circulating it widely to his own political group, could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office as Leader of the Council and/or his authority into disrepute.
ii) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Clause 6 of the Code, in that his email clearly reveals that he attempted to improperly use his position as Leader to confer a disadvantage on Mr Harborow, by publicly demanding his immediate suspension and by copying his email to every member of the controlling group. In short, Councillor Bradley sought to undermine Mr Harborow’s position.
You may also wish to investigate separately whether Councillor Bradley was improperly trying to confer an advantage on the three council employees named in the email who he demanded should fill the breach left by Mr Harborow’s enforced absence. No explanation is given for Councillor Bradley’s specific choice of certain officers.
iii) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Clause 6 of the Code in alleging to both Mr Hilton and all the members of his group, that Mr Forde was on ‘gardening leave’. There is no mention or provision whatsoever for ‘gardening leave’ within the city council’s rules, regulations or procedures. For further clarification, Mr Forde was never suspended from duty.
In using the clearly pejorative and wholly incorrect term of ‘gardening leave’ and copying his email to his political group, Councillor Bradley was deliberately attempting to confer a very specific disadvantage on Mr Forde as a serving council employee. Mr Forde was never put on ‘gardening leave’, or suspended. In short, in using this term, Councillor Bradley also sought to undermine Mr Forde’s position as a council employee.
iv) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Clause 8 b) of the Code in that, by his own admission, he had a personal interest in the subject being discussed in his email to Mr Hilton. Councillor Bradley’s email reveals that one of his prime motivations in demanding that Mr Harborow should be relieved of his duties, was his (Councillor Bradley’s) own well-being.
Councillor Bradley states in his email that: “I have a responsibility to be seen to be strong, whilst being fair and honest.
“I have taken, extremely unfairly, the brunt of the criticism, and am now requesting this decisive move prior to your leave.”
These are personal descriptions, directly connected to Councillor Bradley’s personal well-being. They are being used to justify his interference in the city council’s own internal personnel matters - the subject being discussed. These personal motivations form no part of the Leader of the Council’s statutory duties or responsibilities – the term Councillor Bradley himself mistakenly uses.
In short, Councillor Bradley was demanding that a serving council officer, Mr Harborow, be relieved of his duties, because Councillor Bradley had been ‘unfairly’ critiscised. His interest is entirely personal. The Investigating Officer may take the view that this also accounts for Councillor Bradley circulating his email..
He was attempting to portray himself to his own political group, no doubt, as ‘strong, fair and honest’ when all of his behaviour demonstrated quite the opposite.
v) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Paragraph 3 of the Code in that his email demands compromise the impartiality of those who work for the authority, specifically the Chief Executive.
The chief executive had already begun an ‘independent’ enquiry into the circumstances of the cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival 2007.
In demanding that Mr Harborow should be relieved of his duties and replaced, and in further alleging, wrongly, that Mr Forde was on ‘gardening leave’ – a condition which does not exist within the council’s own procedures, Councillor Bradley was attempting to influence and prejudice the outcome of the ‘independent’ investigation being conducted by the chief executive.
vi) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Clause 5 of the Code in bringing his authority into disrepute by circulating an email in such inflammatory and prejudicial terms to the controlling group. Councillor Bradley was attempting to prejudge the outcome of the ‘independent ‘investigation, which could have led to disciplinary hearings being conducted against council employees, including Mr Harborow, in particular, or Mr Forde.
Those disciplinary hearings would, of course, have involved members of Councillor Bradley’s own group, who had been circulated with the email.
vii) Councillor Bradley is in breach of paragraph 3 of the Code in that, in both the tone and content of his email, he attempts to bully and intimidate the chief executive into complying with his demands before he goes on leave the following day. Councillor Bradley’s email to Mr Hilton concludes threateningly: “In conclusion, nothing short of my request will be deemed acceptable.”
viii) Councillor Bradley is in breach of Paragraph 4 of the Code in that he disclosed confidential information which he had acquired.
He refers to “as agreed yesterday, Ben Dolan should be installed as the interim manager to oversee the full operation of Liverpool Culture Company.
“Whilst Chris Briggs should be appointed to lead on CMS (culture, media and sport), with Stuart Smith regaining the ED (executive director) responsibility.”
This series of highly specific and quite irregular managerial instructions would appear to refer to a private discussion concerning no less than five individual council employees which had apparently previously taken place with the chief executive. Councillor Bradley’s email discloses the specific terms of this confidential discussion to every member of his political group.

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