Standards Complaint June, 2018 re Cllrs Eling, Hackett, Horton (Linda) and Moore.
General principles of conduct relevant to this Complaint:
1 Cllrs must not bring their office into disrepute;
2 When carrying out their public duties such as awarding contracts of recommending individuals for rewards or benefits, Councillors must act and take decisions impartially, fairly and on merit, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias;
3 Cllrs must promote and support high standards of conduct when serving in their office;
4 Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest;
5 Holders of public office should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from the public unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
6 Holders of public office should be truthful.
Background to the Complaint: Period to 19th December, 2012.
In 2012 certain Councillors, including Cllr Eling, decided to make the disposal of publicly-owned land “easier” by forming the Asset Management and Land Disposal Committee (AMLDC) at the urging of ex-Councillor Mahboob Hussain who was then appointed as the Committee’s Chair.
On a date unknown, ex-Councillor Hussain introduced a property developer to Sandwell Council with a view to him purchasing various plots of Council land. A series of secret meetings took place between Sandwell Council and Jeremy Knight Adams. At one such secret meeting Sandwell Council officials agreed to grant an option to Jeremy Knight Adams to develop a colossal 19ha of green space in Oldbury known as Lion Farm Fields subject to member approval. The said Fields had not been marketed to the public at large nor otherwise offered to other developers or individuals.
(It is not known whether any of the Councillors complained of in this complaint were party to these secret meetings and subsequent “deal”. If they were then I make the complaint that they failed to comply with all 6 principles of conduct set out above and also failed to register their interest in this matter when subsequently voting for it.)
The matter was listed on the agenda for the meeting of the AMLDC on 19th December, 2012 under the misleading and untrue title of “Junction 2 Regeneration.” The Report to the Committee nor any other information about this agenda item were made available to the public prior to the Committee meeting. At the meeting only Cllrs Hussain and Hackett were in attendance and promptly excluded the public from the meeting. The Report was not disclosed by SMBC until 15th February, 2018 - over SIX YEARS after the event! The two Councillors held the entire meeting with a lengthy agenda in just 7 minutes.
Part One of the Complaint:
No complaint can now be brought against Cllr Hussain as he has left the Council. Thus all complaints in this section relate to the failures of Cllr Hackett in that he:
Failed to question Cllr Hussain’s involvement in introducing Jeremy Knight Adams to the Council to do this deal and his connections to him; failed to question why this land had not been marketed to others; failed to question why all meetings with Jeremy Knight Adams were held in secret and were unminuted; failed to secure the best evidence when recommending an individual - ie Jeremy Knight Adams - for reward or benefit; failed to allow the disclosure to the public of the report to the committee and excluded the public from the meeting.
These failures constitute breaches of principles 1 to 5 inclusive above.
Further, the fact that Cllrs Hussain and Hackett dealt with the whole agenda (including another land disposal which eventually benefitted the Hussain family) was contempt for the public, the constitution of the Council and the proper and efficient conduct of its business. Cllr Hackett breached principles 1 and 3 above in this regard.
Background to the Complaint: Period: 20th December, 2012 to 9th January, 2013:
On 9th January, 2013 the crucial disposal of this huge piece of land to someone introduced to SMBC by Cllr Hussain came before the Cabinet when the report of the AMLDC of 19th December, 2012 was received. No Councillor present raised any objection to the unusual circumstances of this proposed transaction but then those present got through a lengthy agenda in just 2 (two) minutes!
Part Two of the Complaint:
The following Councillors (excluding members who are no longer on the Council) were present at the important two-minute long meeting:
Eling; Hackett; Horton (Linda); Jones (Ian) and Moore.
Please note that although he was present at the meeting I am specifically excluding Cllr Ian Jones from this complaint as I am aware that he has been (and still is) subject to unwarranted persecution by certain members and officials within SMBC and it is, therefore, highly unlikely that SMBC would give him the opportunity of a fair hearing in respect of this issue.
Obviously Cllr Hackett is again guilty of the failures set out in Part One above and those are repeated against him here in respect of this Cabinet meeting and the breaches of conduct principles that arise therefrom.
Cllrs Eling, Horton (Linda) and Moore did not apply their minds to the unusual circumstances of such a significant transaction either adequately or at all during the two minute meeting (assuming that their poor conduct was not deliberate.) In the premises and noting the size of the land concerned and that it was public open space (part of which was - and is - held by Fields in Trust) they failed to consider the matters Cllr Hackett should have considered as set out in Part One above and are guilty of breaching the principles 1 to 5 set out above. The fact that the entire meeting with a full agenda lasted just two minutes is evidence thereof.
Further, the fact that the Cllrs complained of got through a full agenda in just two minutes is, in itself, breach of the code of conduct as well as showing utter contempt for the people of Sandwell, the Constitution of the Council and the proper and efficient conduct of the Council’s business. Thus Cllrs Eling, Hackett, Horton (Linda) and Moore are further guilty of breaching principles 1 and 3 above.
Background to the Complaint: Report to Cabinet 15th November, 2017:
This section relates to the failures of Cllr Paul Moore. He approved and then presented a Report to Cabinet on the above date riddled with inaccuracy and falsehoods. Whilst Cllr Moore was not the author of the Report he failed either adequately or at all to assess its truthfulness and accuracy. Once again the Report and the agenda item was deliberately intended to mislead the public as it was again spuriously headed as “Junction 2 Regeneration”. In particular the report:
Failed to refer to the highly unusual (and possibly unlawful) circumstances in which the option was initially granted to Jeremy Knight Adams; referred to this proposed development as a regional attraction whilst failing to refer at all to the planning permission given for a similar major development at Cannock since the original option was granted; stated that Jeremy Knight Adams had, as at 15th November, 2017 made “significant progress” in respect of preparatory steps in respect of the (still) secret option agreement whilst failing to state what those steps were or to make them public; alleged that Jeremy Knight Adams had incurred “significant expenditure in securing adjoining land to develop the scheme” without specifying what land had then been secured or making the details public; stated that Jeremy Knight Adams had - as at 15th November, 2017 - “undertaken numerous feasibility studies” but failed to state or make public what these were; relied of spurious unverified figures that the development would create “more than 2,000 jobs” and bring circa £200m extra investment in to the area when these were the figures mentioned in 2012 in a very different environment; failed completely to mention that since 2012/13 SMBC itself had granted planning permission in 2016 to Hammerson Plc for an alternative high-end shopping development ALSO IN OLDBURY at The Junction site to be known as Fountain Retail Park.
The Report was so blatantly flawed that Cllr Moore either knew that the contents were likely to deceive fellow Cabinet members or was reckless in that regard. Ditto with regard to members of the public. In the premises Cllr Moore was in breach of the principles 1 to 6 set out above. The fact that he was an attendee at the 2013 Cabinet Meeting (see above) makes his egregious conduct in withholding facts from fellow Councillors and the public all the more culpable.
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