I read last night, courtesy of Cllr Mark Nottingham's Blog, almost 300 pages of 'evidence' and letters collected by Standards into the incident in The Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Margate last June. (See earlier 'posts' for general background.) .
The full details can be accessed from TDC at:
I would urge ALL Conservative Councillors, Roger Gale MP and PPC Laura Sandys to read very carefully what has been written or said by all those involved on that June morning and make up their own minds as to the suitability of Cllr Ezekiel and Cllr Latchford continuing to lead the Conservative Group at TDC.
I have come to my own conclusions and whatever happens on Monday in The Council Chamber will not remove the fact that TDC has been brought into disrepute and its standing in the eyes of the public damaged.
I will only quote any extracts, from what I have read, to illustrate points and to put them in context, you will need to read the whole report.
Statements seem to have been taken from only 5 people, one of whom (Council Officer, Mr Bunnet) was not even present in the Woollen Mill. They were Cllr Johnston, Cllr Ezekiel, Cllr Latchford and two local press reporters, Thom Morris and Nick Evans. You might well wonder, as I did, why no Statement has been made by a 'key' witness to the whole business, Miss Cheryl Hussey, manager of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill. She, like the press members could have given a clear account of what she saw and heard. Why was no statement taken or did she decline to make one?
What was interesting to read was that Cllr Ezekiel stated he invited Cheryl Hussey for lunch that very same day; presumably within an hour or so of the incident. I could not find anywhere in the paperwork that Cheryl Hussey had been invited to make a statement or had declined to; she is the 'missing witness'.
One must assume that our press work to a code of conduct and are professionally trained to report what they see and hear. I find the 'evidence' from Thom Morris and Nick Evans particularly interesting and would assume it to be as accurate an account from 'neutral' parties as one is likely to get. Let me quote some extracts:
"Their general behaviour was ungentlemanly and unpleasant".
"Councillor Latchford leapt like a salmon ..I wish I had taken a picture."
"Councillor Latchford said four times, 'Sandy, let's go'.
"To see the Council Leader just being ridiculous and the Deputy Leader leaping at another Councillor; God knows what it has done for their reputation!"
What I find interesting is that both reporters confirm that within a short time of the incident, they received phone calls from Cllr Ezekiel as did their superiors or colleagues. Why was this done and what was said?
You will need to read a written submission by Cllr Ezekiel very carefully to spot what appears to be a suggestion that the two press reporters were not acting professionally. Here is an extract:
"Both journalists have reasons to feel personally aggrieved with myself as the Leader of TDC. With regard to Thom Morris , I have made robust complaints about untrue statements he made, appearing in the Gazzette. Nick Evans has twice been turned down for an appointment at TDC. I would refer at this stage to the e-mail I presented to you in an earlier statement, from Michaels Childs(sic), warning me about Nick Evans motives."
I was staggered at the implication contained in these words and find it extraordinary when much criticism about our local press has been aired on blogs about the very pro-TDC line taken in all our papers with little critical comment about TDC!
I read John Bunnet's statement with surprise. As he was not at the scene, how could his statement be considered of any value or pertinent to consideration by The Standard's Committtee? Cllr Johnston went to see him shortly after the incident in his capacity as Acting Chief Executive of TDC. Mr Bunnet's statement raises serious questions about the role of Officers in TDC. If you read it, you will note the many references to Cllr Johnston being 'emotionally upset' not on just this occasion and Mr Bunnet repeats this phrase over and over again. He then promptly contradicts himself by stating 'She is a strong and experienced politician'. What seriously should concern us all and all TDC Councillors, is Mr Bunnet's words when describing 'his opinion' of The Edinburgh Woollen Mill incident:
" It feels like one of a series of attempts by the opposition to weaken the Leader."
Now forgive me if I am a tad naive, but how does The Leader and Deputy Leader bursting in on a petition hand-over uninvited by Cllr Johnston or anyone present, constitute 'an attempt to undermine the Leader' and Mr Bunnet reveals an extraordinary stance as (at the time) he was initially acting as Acting Chief Executive who would have to advise ALL involved, neutrally and dispassionately as an Officer of Thanet District Council, acting for the WHOLE Council.
I will end my take on this 'scandalous' incident for TDC as a whole and leave you with the words of a former 'Officer and Gentleman' and 'leaper' in explaining 'whose fault it was':
" The whole thing is the responsibility of Cllr Johnston".
Is that really the case Lt Col (Retd) R Latchford OBE, Deputy Leader of TDC?
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