County Hall latest: Dyfed-Powys police confirm involvement
Updated 1:54pm Monday 3rd February 2014 in News
DYFED Powys Police have confirmed that they are liaising with both the Crown Prosecution Service and an external force in relation to the report issued by the Wales Audit Office in respect of two unlawful Carmarthenshire County Council transactions last week.
The move follows a request from MP Jonathan Edwards that officers investigate Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Mark James and Head of Administration and Law, Linda Rees-Jones, for possible misconduct in public office following public interest reports from the Wales Audit Office concluding the council had acted unlawfully in two key matters.
The Plaid Group at County Hall will meet at 5pm this afternoon to discuss possible motions of no confidence in the council's leadership.
The Guardian understands they will also consider the possibility of calling an extraordinary meeting to debate the growing crisis as soon as possible.
WAO reports published last week investigated the decision of the Council’s Executive Board to indemnify the chief executive’s legal costs to launch a libel counter-claim against blogger Jacqui Thompson, and the decision of the Executive Board to enable Mr James to avoid tax he would have been due to pay after a change in the law relating to pension contributions for high earners.
Instead of paying employer contributions to the Local Government Pension Scheme, “pay supplements” worth £28,750 were credited directly to Mr James on top of his salary.
On the libel indemnity, the Auditor concludes the local authority did not have the power to agree the indemnity – costs of which currently stand at £26,426 – and that the report given to members of the authority’s Executive Board to make a decision was not representative of the counsel received.
The report, written by Ms Rees-Jones, has been branded a “sexed-up dossier” by AM Rhodri Glyn Thomas.
Last week the Guardian was told by the Wales Audit Office that the local authority did not seek legal advice specifically on the indemnity as it was advised to by the auditor, but instead relied on general legal advice it had sought four years prior to taking the decision.
Outlining his reasons for contacting the police, Mr Edwards said: “The unlawful indemnity and unlawful pension arrangements have seen over £55,000 of public money spent for the benefit of the Chief Executive.
“The reports are extremely damaging. In my mind the findings justify dismissal of senior council officers and should make the council’s elected leadership stand down from their roles.
“But even more worrying is the disclosure of the appointed Auditor that the council did not seek specific legal advice on the lawfulness of granting the indemnity.
“This is a deeply regrettable situation to have been put in. When I entered politics I never thought I would have to report civil servants to the police – this is the darkest day of my career. However, where such serious activities have taken place, I believe it is my duty as a Member of Parliament to stand up for the taxpayers I represent.
"I have contacted both Dyfed Powys and South Wales Police forces to request an investigation into the whole affair in order for the police to satisfy itself that no such misconduct has taken place."
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