A councillor has revealed that a committee chairman felt forced to resign following a ‘hostile’ encounter with the under fire chief executive of Pembrokeshire County Council, which is said to have left him ‘shocked’.
Cllr Jacob Williams revealed a letter sent by the former chairman of the audit committee, John Evans MBE, to council leader Cllr Jamie Adams stating that Bryn Parry-Jones had threatened to employ private investigators to uncover who had leaked information to the press.
The audit committee had been examining irregularities - including the alteration of minutes, in a property grant scheme in Pembroke Dock uncovered by Hakin councillor Mike Stoddart - with Mr Evans at the helm.
In his letter to Cllr Adams, dated July 3, Mr Evans said he was called to a meeting with Mr Parry-Jones after the committee report and dossier of information relating to the grant scheme had been passed to police.
Also present were two county council members and a number of senior council officers.
Mr Evans letter states: “At the start of the meeting the chief executive held aloft a copy of the Pembrokeshire Herald and demanded to know who present had disclosed to the newspaper the name of the officer who had tampered with the CPGS Grant minutes.
“The chief executive then requested that those responsible to immediately own up then and there.
“The chief executive then threatened to engage a private investigator to investigate everyone present if no one would admit to the disclose of the officer’s name.
“This threat caused great anguish and concern, as I was uncertain of the extent of the activities that a private investigator would resort, could be surveillance, could be phone hacking?
“The meeting ended in stunned silence and I was shocked at the tone, attitude and hostility of the chief executive.
“The hostile nature of the encounter left me feeling that my independence had been both violated, by such intimidation, and compromised by the threat of a private investigator intruding into my private life outside my commitments to the post of lay member.”
Mr Evans added he was also informed by Jonathan Haswell and Kerry MacDermott that the agreed process in response to the grants issue would become an internal audit and a human resource report would not be released to the audit committee.
He told Cllr Adams that it had become clear that his independence as lay chairman had been ‘totally compromised’ and he had ‘no alternative but to resign as there appeared no possible avenues open to provide the openness and transparency that was required to remedy the short comings of the directorate responsible for administering’ the grants.
“The alterations that are publicly known to have been made by the officer include both the addition and removal of information, much of which was designed to coat a more favourable gloss over the amount of scrutiny that had taken place by the CPGS grants panel – which consists entirely of unelected officers – who recommended awards of public cash should be made to restoration projects including those now under suspicion of irregularities,” said Cllr Williams.
This, and then later the name of the officer involved and his punishment of a written warning, was published in the Herald.
Cllr Williams added: “Mr Evans' letter shows just how domineering the chief executive is in his management of the council, and how out of touch he can be when conducting himself among others."
"The leak of the information appears on the face of it to have been relatively benign, yet for some unknown reason it really rattled Mr Parry-Jones. Whatever the real reason for his strong feelings, it's hard to see how anyone could conclude it was appropriate to convene a hostile early morning grilling and make threats like he did. You just can't do that sort of thing, and we should be grateful to Mr Evans for refusing to accept such conduct."
In response to the publication of Mr Evans’ letter Cllr Adams said: “It is unfortunate that Mr Evans did not take up my offer for the two of us to meet together to discuss the letter which I assumed he had sent to me privately.
“The meeting with the Chief Executive to which he refers was also attended by several others, including the Chairman of Council and a Cabinet Member.
“They have a rather different interpretation of events to Mr Evans.”