A MOVE to suspend Pembrokeshire County Council chief executive Bryn Parry-Jones over thousands of pounds of ‘unlawful’ pension payments turned into absolute farce at County Hall today (Friday).

Discussing the controversial pay supplement arrangements which have sparked a police investigation for the very first time, several members had signed a notice of motion to suspend the chief executive while investigations continue.

But in astonishing scenes, counsel employed by the council, Timothy Kerr QC, read out a list of councillors who he believed may be in breach of the councillors’ code of conduct if they decided to participate in the debate, having made what he perceived to be prejudicial comments on the subject when approached by the local press prior to the meeting.

The Western Telegraph, and other local press, had previously surveyed members’ opinions as to whether Mr Parry-Jones should step down.

Some replied saying yes, some no, others declined to give a comment.

Mr Kerr said he had been passed an envelope of press cuttings by council monitoring officer Laurence Harding and asked to give an opinion whether members had predetermined the issue.

Mr Kerr read a list that included councillors Mike and Viv Stoddart, Guy Woodham, Paul Miller, Jacob Williams and Rhys Sinnett among others.

Mr Kerr had been given a photocopy of a press article and he then prepared the list of ten names.

However, some councillors argued that Mr Kerr appeared to have only highlighted members who agreed that the chief executive should step down, not those who had supported his position.

But some councillors who did support the chief executive, also left.

Councillors then had to decide whether to continue to the vote on the suspension of the chief executive – and put themselves at risk of breaking the code of conduct - or leave the chamber.

Reluctantly, members began to leave.

Cllr Sinnett, who had told the Western Telegraph that the chief exec should resign, said: “I stand by my comments in the press 100% and will now leave the chamber.”

Labour leader Cllr Paul Miller had originally said his group would remain for the vote but as more and more members left, he and his group also walked out, followed by other independent and non-affiliated members.

Cllr Miller labelled the meeting “a disgrace.”

Cllr Bob Kilmister, one of the few who remained in the chamber, said: "This is not democracy. The people of Pembrokeshire will judge you on your actions. They will not be satisfied".

Cllr Jonathan Nutting said it was a debacle.

But cabinet member Sue Perkins – a member of the Senior Staff Committee that originally took the decision over the pension arrangements, said: “This is not a shock, everyone knows that you cannot predetermine an issue.”

Following the meeting, Cllr Miller told the Western Telegraph: “This was completely embarrassing. The ruling group tried to stop democratically elected members of the opposition voting about whether the chief executive should be suspended. They did everything in their power to stop it coming up. But they won’t stop us - we will find a way to ensure that this is tabled."

He added: "Unmarked envelopes with selective press cuttings left anonymously in cars in an attempt to subvert the democratic process is something you’d expect in a Hollywood film not a 21st century council chamber.

"The council leadership has acted disgracefully to stop any discussion on the possible suspension of the chief executive, flying in the face of the will of the people of Pembrokeshire.

“The reassurance rightly sought by the public that this serious issue be dealt with properly, fairly and in a timely manner has been outrageously rubbished by a small cabal of councillors. I will continue to lead the fight for justice and refuse to let this puppet administration undermine democracy in Pembrokeshire.”

Earlier, members had voted to agree to the Wales Audit Office recommendations to remove the option of senior officers to opt out of the local government pension scheme and receive the equivalent of the employers’ contributions as part of salary.

The Wales Audit Office declared the scheme unlawful.

See much more on this story in Wednesday's Western Telegraph.