I have uncovered emails which, I believe, show that councillor Rick Everitt, when leader of Thanet Council (October 2019-June 2021), deliberately manipulated a media statement to cover up his, and councillor Corina Huxley’s financial interests in Thanet Parkway station.
The emails also show that TDC Chief Executive , Madeline Homer, approved without challenge Everitt’s manipulated media statement, and that by doing so she was, in my view, helping to facilitate what appears to be serious criminality by councillors Everitt and Huxley.
These are extremely serious allegations and I do not make them lightly. However, I am convinced the evidence I reveal in this article substantiates my beliefs.
The story begins on 6th April 2020 when councillor Everitt received a request from a local journalist seeking a statement from him about Thanet Parkway station.
Councillor Everitt puts together a response which he shares with the council media manager and Chief Executive Homer seeking their comments. The statement starts with the sentence “I have always supported Thanet Parkway, both as a councillor and a local resident”.
In the email exchange with the media manager and Chief Executive councillor Everitt elaborates on this sentence, saying that:-
“I think I need to include the local resident bit for transparency, but there is a risk the story becomes about me living in Cliffsend”.
So whilst his statement says he is a local resident, which could mean he resides anywhere in Thanet, his exact location is deliberately and purposefully withheld. Why? What did Everitt have to have hide?
Simple! My previous articles about this matter reveal that councillor Everitt lives with councillor Corina Huxley at 20 Chapman Fields Cliffsend which, according to Everitt, is five to ten minutes’ walk from the Parkway station site.
I have estimated that being so close to the Parkway station site, Everitt’s property would be likely to increase in value by an extraordinary £115,000. This would create for him, and councillor Huxley, a significant disclosable pecuniary interest in the station.
The Localism Act 2011, and TDCs councillor code of conduct , prohibits a councillor with a disclosable pecuniary interest from attending any council meeting at which matters related to that interest, such as Parkway station, are discussed and voted on.
The Act also prevents councillors who are cabinet members, as Everitt was at the time of the email exchange, from having any personal responsibility for matters related to that councillor’s disclosable pecuniary interests.
It is clear to me that Everitt’s desperation to keep his location secret from the media and the public was to avoid his, and councillor Huxley’s, disclosable pecuniary interests becoming known about.
More importantly the suppression from the media of his actual location was designed to cover up the fact that that he and councillor Huxley had discussed and voted on matters concerning Parkway station on multiple occasions before and after the email exchange, contrary to the Localism Act 2011 and TDC’s councillors code of conduct.
Make no mistake this is a serious matter. If proven in court to have breached the Localism Act, councillor Everitt and an Huxley could face fines of up to £5,000 each and disqualification from being councillors for 5 years. It is also likely that they could also face charges of misconduct in public office which can lead to custodial sentences.
I find it hard to believe that TDC Chief Executive Homer didn’t know about councillor Everitt and Huxley’s disclosable pecuniary interest in Parkway station. Nor am I convinced that she was ignorant of the legal and constitutional requirements relating to the management such interests.
Furthermore, Chief Executive Homer worked closely with councillor Everitt, when he was TDC Leader, on matters relating to the management of the Parkway project, when many would say that it was unlawful for him to have done so.
A possiblity emerges in my mind of Homer being fully conversant with facts of this very sensitive matter, but rather than trying to persuade councillors Everitt and Huxley to follow the rules and obey the law, she appears instead to have sanctioned a cover up by failing to challenge Everitt’s misleading and deceptive media statement.
Let’s look at what is said about the standards of behaviour expected of councillors and council officers to see just how serious this Parkway scandal might actually turn out to be.
In its 2019 report about ethical standards in local government the highly respected Committee on Standards in Public Life said that “Leadership is essential in embedding an ethical culture” in local councils.
The report added that council leaders and Chief Executives play a critical role in the development and embedding of an strong ethical culture within local authorities by leading from the front and “modelling the highest standards of conduct”.
The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives’ (SOLACE), of which I believe Madeline Homer to be a member of, has a Code of Ethics which requires its members to:-
“never ignore unethical or unprofessional behaviour by a colleague or elected member, irrespective of the person’s role. Proactively question the conduct of colleagues or elected members that’s you believe falls below the expected standards and, if necessary, challenge, report or take action against such conduct”
Councillor Everitt and Huxley are both members of the Labour Party. Its rule book is requires its elected councillors “uphold the highest standards of probity and integrity” and “at all times avoid not only wrong-doing but also the perception of wrong-doing”.
TDC has a councillor code of conduct and an officer code of conduct, both of which insist that staff and politicians adhere to the highest ethical standards of honesty, integrity, transparency and accountability at all times.
Yet here at TDC it seems to me that two of its most senior figures, former council leader Rick Everitt, and Chief Executive Homer appear to have ignored all the rules about ethical behaviour and worked together to conceal what might eventually emerge, to be criminal acts.
This is not some storm in teacup at a small insignificant seaside district council, but a matter which strikes at the heart of local democracy and our expectations that those who govern use do so selflessly and honestly.
I get a feeling this disgraceful story has only just begun.
Here are the emails