The circumstances surrounding the sacking of Cllr Richard Priest from the Isle of Wight council (IWC) Executive last month continues on.
A series of emails leaked to OnTheWight appear to raise further questions.
On 12th June, the council’s legal officer advised Cllr Priest and Cllr Jon Gilbey via email “not to involve yourself at all in this matter”.
An email from Cllr Priest on 26th August appears to show the two Shanklin councillors did involve themselves – they said they’d “sought to ensure a more complete draft” of the Capital Contingency Fund (CCF) paper.
This a full two and a half months after the original advice to avoid it was given.
Have they breached the code of conduct?
On Friday last week, the chair of Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Geoff Lumley wrote to Cllrs Priest and Gilbey (who resigned from the group of Island Independents when Cllr Priest was removed from the Executive), expressing his concern about information that’d come to light in relation to their involvement with the CCF paper. He told them,
“I am astonished that you have only now revealed – one week later – the extent of your ‘acquaintanceships’ in Rush Close”
Cllr Lumley went on to say,
“In addition I am now struggling to understand why you now wish to assert your involvement in the Capital Contingency Budget report drafting during August, after the Monitoring Officer has advised you both “not to involve yourself at all in this matter” (on 12.06.14)?
“As Rush Close was a key element in that report, why had you both involved yourself ? If you did involve yourself, surely you have potentially breached the code of conduct?”
What’s the Capital Contingency Fund paper?
For those not up-to-date with what’s been happening, the CCF paper sought approval from the IWC Executive for funding on several projects including Undercliff Drive and Totland seawall.
At an informal meeting that Cllrs Priest and Gilbey chose not to attend, it was agreed by other members of the Executive that from the list of current liabilities, funding would not be allocated to two projects in Shanklin or Cowes Enterprise College, as it was felt more detail on costs and the legal position were needed.
The paper went on to be approved at the September Executive meeting (without the funding approval for the Shanklin items), but then became the subject of a Scrutiny Committee Call-in.
The sequence of events
On 10th June in an email to a senior council officer, Cllr Priest says,
Declaration of Interest – both Jon and I know most/many of the residents of Rush Close (Jon lives nearby), in particular Mr XXXXX (and his brother), and have known them for many years as friends, and recognise that this friendship could be prejudicial;
[OnTheWight redacted the name]
The officer replied on 12th June, stating,
To protect yourselves from any allegations that you have breached the Code of Conduct in this respect, I would advise you not to involve yourselves at all in this matter.
Question marks over Cllr Priest and Gilbey’s involvement arise on 26 August, after Cllr Priest wrote his Executive colleagues stating,
Jon Gilbey and I, in order to protect the group from potential call-ins and FOI requests, have sought to ensure a more complete draft [of the CCF paper – which included the two Shanklin items] is available for consideration at a future meeting of the executive.
OnTheWight put a question to Richard Priest and Jon Gilbey earlier, asking: Why, when you had been advised by the council’s own legal officer to not involve yourselves at all in this matter, did you seek to have the paper amended to include the Shanklin items?
(At the time of publishing, neither had responded)