On 27 April a group of 12 councillors attended a meeting of TDCs General Purposes Committee. The business of meeting was to discuss the top-secret Independent Monitoring Officer (IMO) report
The highly sensitive report was commissioned by councillors last year following the damning criticism of TDC’s senior managers by external auditors Grant Thornton. Its remit, to examine the running of the council and suggest improvements.
Many expect the report to be highly critical of TDC’s Chief Executive, Madeleine Homer. Some believe that its content might be sufficient to force the alleged workplace bully Homer, and others, out of their well paid jobs at TDC. But speculation aside, it will be up to TDCs 56 councillors, once they have all seen the report, to decide what will happen next.
But one councillor, who was at the General Purposes Committee on 27 April should, in my opinion, have been prohibited by TDC from participating in any further discussion or decision making about the secret report and the impact it may have on CEO Homer and others . This is Labour Councillor Steve Albon.
Albon used to work for TDC as its planning enforcement officer. He left his job about 4 years ago and, for unexplained reasons, is reported to have left with a £15,000 to £20,000 non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This agreement is said to have been approved by TDCs CEO and Head of Paid Service, Madeline Homer who has delegated authority to sign off NDAs up to the value of £100,000.
I have contacted Albon on 4 separate occasions asking him to clarify whether or not he has an NDA. He have never replied to my requests.
I have asked the council if it can clarify the situation. But to no avail. All that TDC will say is that it will not confirm or deny whether Albon and the council are parties to an NDA. The matter is now subject to an appeal with the Information Commissioner.
If Albon does have an NDA , which I believe he does, then there is clearly a serious conflict of interest in relation to his participation in any council discussions and decisions relating to the IMO report and the future of CEO Homer.
That conflict revolves around the hypothetical question of where Albon’s loyalties might lie? To his public duties as a councillor, which are always supposed to come first , or to someone who was involved in setting up NDA with him, almost certainly to cover something up, and who agreed to pay him £15,000 to £20,000.
If this hypothetical conflict of interest actually exists then TDCs code of conduct and the Localism Act 2011 would almost certainly prohibit Albon from any further participation in discussions or decision making in relation to the IMO report or thee future of Madeline Homer.
The simple way to resolve this problem is for Albon to tell the truth. Do you have a NDA with TDC yes or no?
As someone who is supposed to adhere to the Seven Principles of Public which includes acting with honesty and integrity, answering a straghtforward question such as this, is something I and most others would expect Albon to do. But like Boris Johnson perhaps he belives that the rules don't apply to him.
More likley if Albon refuses to answer the question, as he has on 4 separate occasions, then it is up to TDC ‘s Monitoring Officer Estelle Culligan and the Chair of the General Purposes Committee, council leader Ash Ashbee to ascertain the existence/ nonexistence of the alleged NDA and to offer Albon advice about his options if necessary.
Such advice should, in the public interest, be published by TDC. However, in this day and age when public authorities and politicians appear to believe that they can do what like, I won’t be holding my breath until Albon and TDC do the right thing.