Observers may have noticed that East Devon District Council predominantly answers Freedom of Information (FOI) requests with references to minutes of meetings.
But minutes may not always be reliable, as illustrated by the following e-mail just sent to EDDC by EDA Chair, Paul Arnott. The benefits of video and audio recording of council meetings are clearly demonstrated in this case.
Referring to the audio recording of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 13th November 2014 (link given below), Paul Arnott stated,
‘Many people wrote to me yesterday as they were preparing for this Thursday’s meeting to point out that the minute of what I said from the public seats that night is misrepresented in the draft minutes.
Given the potential implications of this particular misrepresentation I have now quickly transcribed what I actually said here:
Transcription of OSC131114Item8
Chairman welcomes Tony Hogg and invites Paul Arnott to speak from the floor
In at 0 m 36 sec
PA: Thank you, Chairman. Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and indeed can I perhaps on behalf of the public sitting behind me welcome Tony Hogg here tonight? The timing is interesting.
I think many people here tonight will share my sense of depression at the grim inevitability of a finding by the authorities announced yesterday. A half-hearted report, not allegation, was made by a compromised authority to another body with whom it shares many formal and informal connections. A robust and extensive investigation is then claimed to have been followed, although to most reasonable minded observers it looks in fact weak and perplexingly delayed.
We will, of course, never really be allowed to know who was spoken to in this enquiry, or what investigative lines were followed. Yet an announcement was made yesterday by the putative investigators and the compromised authority that it was all over, nothing to see here.
And almost immediately, the chief executive of the compromised authority did what he could to meddle with the internal investigations which in a normal, healthy establishment must now follow, and instead turned his fire back against his very best members, who have done nothing but fight in the open to protect the public interest.
Yes, chairman, I think we all know what I’m referring to here. Yesterday’s boast by FIFA’s Sepp Blatter that Qatar’s astonishingly successful bid for the World Cup in 2018 was in fact the model of probity (Laughter) And moreover that after an extensive and robust investigation the unpleasant English Football Association is itself at fault for complaining in the first place. Thank heavens, Chairman, under your watchful gaze there is no danger of anything like that happening around here.
However, in the form of a question for Tony. I wonder if you find it coincidental, Tony, that something like six hundred days after a report was made from this authority to the police about the conduct of a former councillor, five hundred and ninety-nine days later, and one day before you appear before us, the police finally announce that there will be no further action?
Mr Hogg did not answer the question
However, this is how the above is represented in the minutes:
“Paul Arnott spoke about the conclusion of the police investigation into former councillor,
Graham Brown, of the district council and questioned if the investigation had indeed been
robust and extensive as stated; he accused the Chief Executive of “meddling” with the
investigation and targeting the council’s best councillors. Following a reference to the
current president of FIFA, he commented on whether the announcement of the police
investigation one day prior to the Police and Crime Commissioner attending the committee
that evening was co-incidental.”
As you can see above, Mr Brown’s name was not mentioned by me, and the Chief Executive was not “accused” of “meddling” with the investigation.
Therefore it is essential that the minutes record was actually said. I would suggest they be amended as follows:
Mr Paul Arnott spoke from the floor, asking Mr Hogg if he found it coincidental that something like six hundred days after a report was made from this authority to the police about the conduct of a former councillor, five hundred and ninety-nine days later, and one day before he appeared before the committee, the police finally announce that there will be no further action. Mr Hogg did not address the question.
It would be much happier for the conduct of tomorrow’s meeting if this amendment could be made in consultation with the Chairman.
With many thanks,
To listen to the audio recording follow the link to the section of the minutes relating to the Police and Crime Commissioner (click on a link under the words Minute 47)