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Councillors condemn embattled chief

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embattled chiefCHIEF EXECUTIVE PENSION PAYMENTS SCANDAL

FOLLOWING the publication of the WAO report last week, The Pembrokeshire Herald can confirm that Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces are seeking legal advice from the Crown Prosecution Service about whether there is any evidence to support criminal charges in relation to unlawful pay supplements given to Pembrokeshire County Council Chief Executive Bryn Parry Jones and Carmarthenshire County Council Chief Executive, Mark James.

The Pembrokeshire Herald now understands that the referral to the police was made by Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards, who wrote to the chief constables of Dyfed Powys and South Wales police forces.

Meeting due to be held

WITH THE County Council due to hold a special meeting to consider the report within the next three weeks, it is unclear whether the intervention of the authorities will have any effect on the timing of such a meeting.

In light of dithering at the head of the Council and no sign of a date being set for the crucial meeting, a motion has been submitted for an emergency meeting to discuss the report’s content.

One question that any meeting must address is whether Bryn Parry Jones will be compelled to repay the unlawful pay supplement he has received over the last two years. While the County Council has the power to request repayment of any and all sums paid under the tax dodging scheme, it is not clear whether it will – in fact – do so. In addition, it is not clear whether any personal tax penalties will have accrued to the tax dodge’s beneficiaries.

Councillors tell Herald “Bryn should go”

COUNTY councillors across the political spectrum have already been in touch with The Pembrokeshire Herald giving their views as to the future of controversial chief executive, Bryn Parry Jones. The majority of those who have provided their opinion is in favour of the Council setting up its own investigation into the affair and suspending their CEO while the investigation takes place.

Some Pembrokeshire councillors have also called for the suspension of those who sat on the Senior Staff Committee that approved the unlawful payments to Bryn Parry Jones in September 2011.

Second officer shielded

PEMBROKESHIRE County Council continues to refuse to reveal the identity of the second officer who has benefited from the unlawful payments agreed by the Senior Staff Committee. A Council spokesman told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

‘We are not prepared to identify the second staff member who took up the new pension arrangements agreed on September 28, 2011.’

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that the Council’s refusal to disclose the identity of the second staff members is simply delaying the inevitable revelation of their identity when it publishes its annual accounts. It was the appearance of the Chief Executive’s name in the authority’s accounts that gave rise to the current and ongoing scandal.

Leader’s email row

AS THE storm over the unlawful payments made to Bryn Parry Jones continues to rage around County Hall, a communication sent to IPPG members using the Council’s own IT infrastructure has caused further controversy.

IPPG leader Jamie Adams sent the email below from his County Council email address.

email row

 The email, which seeks to reassure members of Cllr Adams’s IPPG party, is a response to the scandal that has engulfed the Council over an unlawful pay supplement implemented to help senior officers avoid tax on their publicly-funded pensions.

The Pembrokeshire Herald understands that, in using his Council email address, Cllr Adams has potentially broken rules about the use of Council emails for party political purposes.

We were notified of the email’s existence by Hakin Cllr Mike Stoddart, who has also published the story on his website.

The use of the Pembrokeshire County Council facilities for party political purposes has been a past cause of significant controversy for the supposedly “independent” IPPG. Former Councillor and IPPG Cabinet member David Wildman was heavily criticised by the Ombudsman for using Council IT facilities for party ends: “During the investigation the Ombudsman considered the twenty three files containing election literature for former colleagues … Councillor Wildman accepted at interview that he was recorded as being the author or the last person to have saved the files, and that he used Council computer systems to create the election material. He said that he had been given election material because some candidates had difficulty working computers and that he had prepared their manifestos.”

Having resigned before the publication of the Ombudsman’s report, Cllr Wildman escaped further censure. The Pembrokeshire Herald understands, however, that the Ombudsman is to consider the activities of a separate and current Cabinet member in relation to the same conduct.

The use by Cllr Adams of the Council’s own infrastructure to transact party business appears to be a similar breach of the rules as that in which Cllr Wildman became embroiled.

A spokesperson for Pembrokeshire County Council told The Pembrokeshire Herald:

“The Monitoring Officer has confirmed that elected Members are allowed to manage group business using Council resources to facilitate Council business. This applies to all political groups.”

Carmarthenshire set the date

ACROSS the border in Carmarthenshire, the Council have adopted an aggressive and assertive approach to the Auditor’s findings of unlawfulness.

The date has been set for an extraordinary meeting for Carmarthenshire County Council to debate the Wales Audit Office reports.

The Leader and Executive Board have called for the meeting which has now been agreed by the Chair of Council Cllr Terry Davies. It will take place on Thursday, February 27, and the only items on the agenda will be reports regarding the two WAO issues.Council Leader Cllr Kevin Madge said: “It has been difficult being unable to speak out, particularly knowing the full facts and having seen all the evidence, it will be a great relief to be able to share that with all county councillors and with the public.”

Evidence relating to the two issues is being shared with all county councillors in advance of the matter going before council. This includes advice from QCs and previous communication with the Wales Audit Office.

Carmarthenshire Council has also published the advice of Tim Kerr QC relating to the costs indemnity it gave to its own Chief Executive, Mark James to bring a counterclaim for libel against Carmarthenshire blogger Jacqueline Thompson.

Carmarthenshire County Council instructed Mr Kerr, a specialist in local government law, jointly with Pembrokeshire County Council in relation to the pensions tax dodge that bother authorities passed entirely coincidentally in 2011. It is not clear why the tax dodging advice has not been published, although the nature of the joint advice means that both Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire would have to agree to its publication.

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Cllr Beynon suspended as school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL said that they are unable to comment on the suspension of a Pembroke Dock councillor as a school governor.

Cllr Beynon confirmed that he has been suspended as a school governor at Pembroke’s Ysgol Harri Tudur.

“I’m looking forward until when the ombudsman throws out the complaints,” Cllr Beynon said.

Paul Dowson, a fellow Pembroke Dock councillor, recently resigned from the board of school governors of Ysgol Harri Tudur.

Cllr Dowson said after he resigned: “I feel a recent smear campaign reflects badly on the school even though its untrue.”

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Pembrokeshire man admits catalogue of sexual offences against children

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A HAVERFORDWEST man has pleaded guilty to a huge catalogue of sexual offences against children, including possession of more than 9,000 indecent images.

Kevin David John has admitted 20 offences in total – including the rape of a girl under 16 – following a three-month investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.

The 49-year-old, who appeared at Swansea Crown Court on June 23, came to police attention in April when he was arrested and a search carried out at his Prendergast home.

In total 111 different storage devices were seized – including tablets, laptops and mobile phones – along with almost 1,000 disks.

Specialist officers spent hours combing through huge amounts of data, uncovering substantial evidence of further offending, and John was charged and remanded into custody.

John initially appeared at Swansea Magistrates Court on April 24 where he pleaded guilty to five counts: recording a person doing a private act, sexual assault, causing a girl under 16 to engage in sexual activity, and two of taking an indecent photograph of a child.

He later admitted a further 15, which comprised sexual assault, sexual assault by touching, four sexual assaults of a child, rape, possession of Category A, B and C indecent photographs, making Category A, B and C pseudo-photographs of a child, possession of a prohibited image of a child, and possession of extreme pornographic images.

Detective Inspector Richard Lewis said: “This has been a detailed and harrowing investigation from the outset, involving a number of vulnerable victims and witnesses.

“Their courage in speaking out has been humbling, and the information they shared with us was invaluable in getting John to court,” he said.

Darren Mutter, Head of Children’s Services at Pembrokeshire County Council, said the council’s social services department had also worked closely with police to support the victims and their families, and ensure all safeguarding was addressed.

Added DI Lewis: “Police officers throughout Pembrokeshire played a role in this enquiry, and I would like to convey my sincere thanks to all staff involved for their professionalism and dedication in what has been a challenging and sensitive enquiry.

“Thanks also to Dyfed-Powys Police’s digital cybercrime unit, whose rigorous interrogation of a mammoth amount of potential evidence enabled us to build a robust case that demonstrated the severity of John’s offending.”

John will appear for sentencing at Swansea Crown Court on July 17.

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Jail for sleight of hand fraudster

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A MAN has been jailed for four fraud offences after purposely confusing post office and bank staff with sleight of hand techniques.

Costel Ventel visited four post offices and a bank in Pembrokeshire in one day, tricking staff into handing over a total of £930.

Just hours later, the 20-year-old from Birmingham was reported to Dyfed-Powys Police for trying to use the same technique in Llanelli.

PC Olivia Jones said: “We were called to post offices in Tenby, Saundersfoot and Kilgetty, as well as HSBC in Tenby, on May 17, 2019, where Ventel had committed or attempted to commit fraud.

“He’d asked staff to exchange bank notes, then purposely confused them by using sleight of hand techniques. Ventel passed notes back and fore, managing to pocket £450 from one and £480 from another without the member of staff noticing.

“We believed he had travelled from Birmingham for the purpose of carrying out these acts of fraud, and enquiries immediately started to locate him.”

Later that day, Ventel travelled to Llanelli, where he tried to commit further offences at HSBC.

PC Jones said: “Thankfully, staff at the bank were alerted to their unusual behaviour and recognised them from descriptions circulated following the incident at the Tenby branch, and called police.

“Both men were arrested on suspicion of fraud offences.”

Initially Ventel was released under investigation, but following extensive enquiries over a number of months, four charges of fraud by false representations were secured against him.

He was summonsed to appear at court June 30, where he was sentenced to 24 weeks in prison.

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