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Badger and the pay-off

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brynWELL, readers, what do you think of that? The Investigatory Committee into Bryn has met to no great effect and now it emerges that all along Jamie Adams has been beavering away in the background to settle up with Bryn. We can safely assume that Cllr Peter Morgan’s brief engagement with the truth is not likely to be repeated; after all, it wasn’t before the Investigatory Committee. Peter didn’t even have the good grace to knife David Simpson in the back: He did so in the front, knowing that the terms of his betrayal could not be fully reported. David Simpson laid down his cabinet position for Peter Morgan.

When it came down to the test of friendship, Peter Morgan laid down his honor. That is not to say that the line of questioning that led to that point was at all relevant to the committee’s terms of reference. The Committee had to determine whether allegations particularised were worthy of investigation by a designated independent person (a Q.C., in this case). They did not have to express an opinion, only assess whether the information they had was sufficient to shuffle it off to a third party to decide. The question the committee had to resolve was not whether pressure was applied to Peter Morgan – we already have enough evidence to suggest it was – but whether the tirade directed against him and Mark Edwards reported exclusively in this newspaper were sufficient to be investigated by a third party.

Any lawyer knows that it is not only enough to ask only questions to which you know the answer, but to ask them only when you have a very good idea about the answer you will get. Unless you are certain that a witness will approximately respond as you expect, asking questions is a very risky business. But even then, Peter Morgan’s macho words to the committee about ‘not doing pressure’ amount to nothing. They neither add nor subtract from the strength of his testimony in relation to Bryn Parry-Jones. Let’s boil it down to the essential elements, readers. It was confi rmed that Bryn had sworn at two councillors because of the way they voted. It is implicit in Bryn’s action that he expected ‘loyalty’ to him from them and that they should do and vote in accordance with his wishes.

Arguments within the committee that the above was not enough – ON ITS OWN – to refer the matter are self evidently cods wallop. Too many cooks spoil the broth. Equally too many people who have more than one agenda spouting irrelevancies and asking too many of the wrong questions produces a mess. Keep it simple, stupid, is a good method to adopt when approaching a diffi cult decision. Then the committee were faced with Bryn’s refusal to attend for questioning. He claimed he had not had enough time to consider the allegations. The amount of irrefutable material in the public domain – largely placed there by this newspaper, Jacob Williams and Old Grumpy – has apparently escaped Bryn’s attention since his long vacation began.

The key allegation was in this paper on the day he ‘took a period of absence’ in mid-August. It is now October. Either Mr Parry-Jones is a very slow reader indeed, or he was counting on the committee backing down. To Badger, the committee seems to have taken a pragmatic course of action. It is better to reach a position in which the effect of suspension can be achieved without confrontation than to engage in grandstanding for other purposes. Just because he is unpopular, divisive, overpaid, over-powerful, overbearing and the worst manifestation of the culture of secrecy and self-interest that has consumed Pembrokeshire’s local government, does not mean that Bryn Parry-Jones has no contractual rights and a complex statutory regime underpinning his appointment.

In light of that, readers, anyone with any ounce of common sense must know that it is far more likely than not that this matter will be resolved by some form of agreement between the parties. That is not to say that Badger agrees that an agreement is the best route, but it is simply the most likely to be cost-effective in the short and medium term. With the cameras probably off when any settlement is discussed at next week’s full council, Badger suspects that, denied an audience, those inclined to spout most effusively when the public is present and the camera is on will restrain themselves and keep it brief.

You can have all the principles you want, as long as you are prepared to pay the price of pursuing them, readers. Q.C.’s ain’t cheap: Look at the bill from the barrister engaged to defend the council’s unlawful payments to Bryn Parry-Jones. One Kerr by name, he was, and his bill was a very tasty five figure sum. Is it worth spending the same again, readers, in order to drag on the uncertainty and back-biting about the Chief Executive’s role? The only other ground that occurs to Badger upon which the chief could be removed is following a finding that an irredeemable breakdown in mutual trust and confidence had taken place between Bryn Parry-Jones and his employer, or vice versa. In those circumstances, he could be dismissed on notice.

If the designated person is appointed, conducts an investigation, and concludes that the necessary relationship between employer and employee has irretrievably broken down, then poor Bryn will have to wait for his pension pay out and be paid off with three months’ salary in lieu of notice. Having opted out of the Local Government Pension Scheme, Bryn would not be able to draw down his pension straight away. He would need the council’s permission. Oh the irony, readers! Let’s hope that the council’s negotiators have that card in mind, when it comes to working out the risks of simply proceeding with the investigatory process. T h e calculation of risk is what is important h e r e , readers. There are risks on both sides, and for the soon to be former Chief Executive, whatever happens, the economic and reputational risks for him should cause the council to drive a hard bargain. Otherwise, it is time for Bryn to take his chances.

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Primary school teacher would ‘moan’ as he touched female pupils, court hears

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A HAVERFORDWEST primary school teacher would “moan” while he touched his female pupils in a sexual way, a witness said in Swansea Crown Court.

In total, 11 former pupils, who were all under 13, have come forward and accused James Oulton, 34, of sexually assaulting them.

Oulton denies all the charges – saying the case was a “witch-hunt” and that he had behaved appropriately all times.

One of the pupils, who was in year four at the time, opened day four of the trial by giving evidence via a video link.

The girl told the court: “He would put his arm around by back and backside.”

Under cross examination Chris Clee QC, for the defence, asked the witness: “Did you tell the police that you were touched in an inappropriate way?”

The witness answered: “Yes, teachers should not be touching in that way.”

James Oulton

Asked if what he was doing wrong, the witness replied:

“Yes, very wrong”

In cross examination letters and cards were produced, made the witness whilst in school, where she had said Mr. James Oulton was “the best teacher in the whole world.”

One of the cards said: “You’ve made my life complete”.

Another card said: “Thank you for being so nice, and thanks for everything that you’ve done for me.”

The witness added: “Despite what he did do, he was a good teacher.  

“He used to buy us treats.

“He was nice caring and a sweet and fun teacher – but not what he was doing.

Referring to the cards, she said: “I would definitely not be saying that stuff now.”

Explaining how she told her parents the witness said: “Once I realised that [x] was in his class, I asked her ‘did he do this stuff to you?’

“She said yes.

“I realised more and more it was wrong and it was time to grow up now, and to speak.

“As soon as I found out that this was happening to [x] I stood up and told my parents.

Asked if she had seen inappropriate behaviour happening to anybody else the witness answered: “He did it to most of the girls in the class, but he had his favourites.

Asked if she had spoken to other girls about the touching, the witness said: “Yes, I was just curious was it just me, or was it normal?”

“Teachers should most definitely not be doing that to students.

“Doing what?”, the witness was asked, “You said in your police interview that he would pull you off your chair and make you sit on his lap, is that true?”

“Yes,” was the reply.

“Did you try and stop him?” she was asked.

“Yes, I tried to push him off sometimes and said, ‘get off its weird’, but I didn’t want to make a scene.

“He would make me sit on his lap whilst he was marking my work.”

When asked by the defence barrister how she was sat on her teacher’s lap, and if it was under a desk, the witness answered: “No, not under the desk, as both of our legs wouldn’t fit under.”

The witness also said that when she was sat on the defendant’s knee he would make “a low grunting noise.”

Asked if she had spoken others about this case, the girl said: “Police told my mum and dad that there were very many people involved in the case.

“I thought it was just me and [x] that was going to be at court, I only recently discovered that others had come out.”

A second female pupil was also giving evidence via video link. She was 9-years-old at the time of the alleged offending.

Firstly, a pre-recorded interview was played in court in which the witness said: “My teacher, Mr. Oulton always put his hand up my leg like that and up my t-shirt.”

She added: “If he calls you over and he pulls you onto his lap, if you don’t, he pulls your chair over and makes you.”

“How would he make you?” the QC asked.

“He would grab your arm, push you, and then pull you in”, she replied.

When asked if this was a one off, the witness said that the defendant “did it every day.”

“How would you be sat on his lap?”, she was asked.

“He would have one arm on my stomach, then the other arm would be rubbing my leg.”

“He would swap arms and then put one arm up my t-shirt.”

When asked to clarify if it was under her t-shirt the girl explained: “Yes it was under my t-shirt rubbing his hands up and down.”

The witness added: “If I tried to get up for work, he would just grab my arm.”

“He would make a funny sound like a hissing airplane.”

“We had a helper in the class, and when he came in, he would stop, and then I could go and sit down.”

The trial continues.

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New trees planted to help town

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SEVERAL new trees have been planted on Riverside Avenue in Neyland.

They were planted by Grandiflora, courtesy of the Town Council which recently pledged to plant more trees in the town in an attempt to help the environment.

As well as helping the environment, the trees will prevent vehicles from being parked on the grass verges on Riverside Avenue, which had been severely churned up over the winter and looked unsightly.

The Town Council will be working with Pembrokeshire County Council regarding parking issues in Neyland.

The trees will be tended and watered over the summer period to ensure they reach their maximum potential and enhance the area for residents and visitors alike.

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Golden goodbye report likely to be critical

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A REPORT by Audit Wales into the departure of former CEO Ian Westley is very likely to contain criticism of senior council officers.

In November 2020, Mr Westley left Pembrokeshire County Council with a £95,000 pay-out, something which has been criticised by a number of councillors.

In a document before the Audit and Governance Committee on Tuesday (April 13), it says that termination payments to Chief Officers are routinely examined by Audit Wales but in the case of Mr Westley, the audit team was unable to locate a recorded decision to enter into the settlement agreement which led to a termination payment being made to the Chief Executive.

An Audit Office spokesperson said: “This appeared unusual and therefore the audit team decided to undertake an early examination of the process that resulted in the payment being made.”

No complaints were raised, by councillors or any other body, with Audit Wales but the number of concerns and questions being raised at following council meetings prompted them to commence an audit.

Audit Wales state: “Our audit fieldwork is substantially complete. However due to the complex nature of some of the issues involved we considered it necessary to take some external legal
advice. We are currently considering that advice. 

“In the near future we will draft a document setting out our provisional findings and conclusions. 

“Once this document is ready we will commence a clearance process to confirm factual accuracy. 

“If the document contains criticism of identifiable individuals, in the first instance we will provide those individuals with any extracts of the document that pertain to them. Once
we have confirmed the factual accuracy with individuals, we will send the full draft document to the Council’s Chief Executive to identify any remaining factual inaccuracies. 

“We will only issue the finalised document once the clearance process has been completed. #

“We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process.”

Only a handful of senior officers were involved in the procedure surrounding Ian Westley’s departure.

The inference which can be safely drawn from Audit Wales’ report to the Audit Committee is that some of its content will be critical either of councillors, senior officers, or both.

The process of asking those named to respond is known as Maxwellisation, a legal practice that allows persons who are to be criticised in an official report to respond prior to publication.

The report highlights the exceptional nature of the case at Pembrokeshire County Council and demonstrates the sensitivity of the issues raised.

If senior officers are sharply criticised or found to have failed in their duty to their employer, they will almost certainly have to go.

The council’s interim Chief Executive will read the document after maxwellisation.

It is also likely that the council’s newly appointed Chief Executive, Will Bramble, will have a chance to see it.

The Audit Wales spokesperson added: “We are unable to provide a definitive timetable for reporting because it will depend on the responses we receive within the clearance process. We are unable to respond to queries about our emerging findings whilst the audit is progressing, and until we have finalised our conclusions.”

In January, Cllr Jamie Adams had called for the council to commence an internal investigation into Mr Westley’s departure but that was deferred to allow for the Audit Wales review to be completed.

Cllr Adams said that the decision of payment should have been a ‘democratic decision’ and has asked why that wasn’t the case.

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