The Chair of the EDDC Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Littleham Councillor Tim Wood, told his Committee on Thursday 11th September that he shares the widespread frustration and dismay at the failure of the Council to pursue an enquiry into the Business Forum.
He vowed to raise the issue with the Police Commissioner Tony Hogg at the earliest opportunity.
In answer to a public question, Councillor Wood said that he had been given “very firm legal advice” that the enquiry could not be permitted to reconvene until after the Devon and Cornwall Police had completed their investigations into alleged malpractice by ex-Councillor Graham Brown.
Sidmouth citizen Robert Crick advised Councillor Wood that 18 months after the Chief Executive Mark Williams had referred the case to the police, Mr Brown has still not been charged or even questioned, despite volunteering to meet the police.
Mr Crick claimed that Mr Brown was being used as a scapegoat to prevent inquiries into deep systemic problems in the way the Cabinet and Senior Officers had been operating. It seemed that Mr Brown had done nothing illegal and the case should now be closed.
Mr Crick suggested that the legal advice given to the chair might not be impartial or independent and that a second opinion might be needed to enable the formal enquiry into the Business Forum’s dealings to proceed.
“In the interest of fairness and justice, Graham Brown should be brought in from the wilderness, and given a chance to clear his name” asserted Mr Crick.
The fourth meeting of the Business “Task and Finish Forum” was postponed at short notice in early September 2013. This formal enquiry had been launched a year before to investigate public concerns about the possible abuse of power by the East Devon Business Forum and allegations of influence behind closed doors in the production of the now discredited Local Development Plan.
It had made little progress before it was suspended a year later.