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MINUTES MEDDLER UNMASKED

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gwynnevans

Another Pembrokeshire Herald Exclusive

THE WEEK before last the Herald exclusively revealed that an unnamed senior officer at Pembrokeshire County Council tampered with the minutes of panel meetings where applications for European cash grants for notorious building restoration projects in Pembroke and Pembroke Dock were considered.

The grant schemes are mired in controversy and in February the council had no option but to self-refer allegations of fraud to the police after clear evidence came to light in one project of favourable treatment in the tendering process to the successful building contractor.

The county council is protecting the identity of the officer who tampered with the grant panel minutes, however the Herald can now exclusively reveal it was GWYN EVANS, the authority’s key manager overseeing European funding

In A scarcely believable twist of events, the Herald also understands after higher up council personnel became aware of the scale and nature of Mr Evans’ alterations to numerous grant panel meeting minutes, he underwent disciplinary proceedings resulting in just a WRITTEN WARNING.

Mr Evans has worked as ‘European Manager’ at Pembrokeshire County Council since August 1996 according to a publically accessible professional profile he created online.

His page on the popular vocational social networking site LinkedIn – the business sector equivalent of Facebook – outlines a comprehensive career in high profile European funding roles.

Previously working as a ‘Principal Admin Officer (EU Funds)’ at Bridgend College between 1994-1996, Mr Evans says on LinkedIn that his role there “involved overseeing the projects to ensure they complied with regulatory requirements and project closure,” and during the prior twelve year period he held ‘various accountancy positions’ at Mid Glamorgan County Council.

Under the ‘Skills & Expertise’ section of his LinkedIn profile, Mr Evans boasts dozens of talents including ‘Governance, Compliance, Project Management,’ ‘Contract Management,’ and ‘Report Writing.’ He also states he is a “Past chairman of Welsh European Officers Group.”

Fiddling with documents relating so closely to the grant scheme which is now under police investigation as well as internal review by the authority’s Audit Committee is something the council’s Plaid Cymru group leader, Cllr Michael Williams, told the Herald is “a shocking revelation.”

Cllr Williams, who’s served Tenby as a councillor for over 45 years and doesn’t know the identity of the officer, told the Herald: “Quite frankly I’m becoming lost for words. What on earth will be next? If elected members are no longer able to trust senior officers to properly record decisions and maintain council documents, then we are lost.”

Adding: “The entire basis of democratic accountability is seriously threatened by what has been going on in Pembrokeshire for too long now. I was elected first in 1968, and at that time I had complete faith in officers and fellow members. Under the present regime that trust has been seriously eroded, and it’s not hard to see why.”

The fact that Mr Evans tampered with the council’s records of grant panel meetings only recently came to light after he was brought to task by an internal disciplinary process. It is not known who discovered the alterations Mr Evans made, or how, but he made them directly following a Freedom of Information request submitted to the council by Milford Haven (Hakin) Councillor Mike Stoddart on 29 May 2013.

Cllr Stoddart’s FoI request sought copies of the minutes of all grant panel meetings of the Commercial Property Grant Scheme (CPGS). Following receipt of Cllr Stoddart’s request, Gwyn Evans made several alterations to the minutes of multiple panel meetings that have all been seen by the Herald, many of which make it appear as though more scrutiny of grant applications took place than was recorded in the unaltered minutes.

Following Mr Evans’s written warning, Cllr Mike Stoddart was sent a letter by the authority’s Head of IT and Central Support Services, John Roberts, outlining the alarming discovery and apologising that the documents disclosed to him under the FoI act in 2013 were not accurate as they had been fiddled with in-between his submission of the request, and the documents being provided to him.

All of the alterations were made to the minutes of grant panel meetings which recommended grant funding be awarded to properties owned by controversial developer Cathal McCosker, or companies of his. The panel, made up entirely of unelected officers, recommended that the council’s elected cabinet should formally award public cash for 10 Meyrick Street at a meeting held on 15 December 2011, 29 Dimond Street at a meeting on 13 February 2012, and 31 Dimond Street on 4 May 2012.

Many of the changes concerned the addition of detail and tidying up of sentences, but some also introduced completely new elements which were not included in the untampered minutes. Added to the minutes concerning 29 Dimond Street (occupied then, as now, by Paul Sartori charity shop) was a completely new sentence: “The Panel agreed that the existing photos showed the building to be in a poor state of repair and in clear need of renovation.”

Changes were not only written to conceal they were added in after the fact, but a further alteration to the 29 Dimond Street panel meeting minutes was cunningly crafted to imply panel members showed an element of foresight, by the addition of the text: “…whilst jobs created/accommodated and enterprises accommodated outputs are not expected in the short term (as the Sartori Charity Shop is expected to remain here in the immediate future), there is a possibility that a new enterprise may move into the premises before the end of the Programme.”

As well as pointing out all of the alterations that had been made, Mr Roberts sent Cllr Stoddart full copies of the original unedited documents, and referred in his letter to the relevant statute which relates to the “Offence of altering etc. records with intent to prevent disclosure.”

Section 77 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 was quoted, which states that any person is guilty of a criminal offence “if he alters, defaces, blocks, erases, destroys or conceals any record held by the public authority, with the intention of preventing the disclosure by that authority of all, or any part, of the information to the communication of which the applicant would have been entitled”.

Concluding his letter, Mr Roberts told Cllr Stoddart he would be making a formal referral of the matter to the relevant authorities: “I will be making the Information Commissioner’s Office aware of this matter in order that the Information Commissioner may give it consideration.”

The maximum fine that can be imposed following conviction of the crime of altering documents intended to prevent disclosure of information to which a person is entitled, is £5000, though where multiple documents are concerned, it is unclear if each would be treated as a separate charge under the legislation.

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Monkton man with ‘no regard for the law’ jailed for two attempted robberies

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A MAN who threatened to stab a vulnerable victim just a day after trying to commit a robbery against a stranger has been jailed.

Dyfed-Powys Police officers arrested 29-year-old Jamie Rawlinson 20 minutes after receiving a report that he’d threatened to stab a stranger on June 26.

The victim reported that Rawlinson, of Colley Court, in Monkton, had approached him outside his home and held a sharp object to his chest.

The victim managed to get inside his house safely, and called the police.

Rawlinson was arrested 20 minutes later and taken to police custody, where he was interviewed the following day, and released on bail with conditions while officers carried out enquiries.

But just hours later, he was under arrest for a second time.

Detective Sergeant Tanya Rendell said: “The suspect was released on bail with stringent conditions to comply to while we carried out an investigation into the offence. There were a number of enquiries we needed to progress, which would take longer than we would have been able to keep him in custody. Despite the conditions imposed the suspect clearly had no regard for the law or the conditions imposed, and with less than three hours after being released, went on to commit another attempted robbery, this time against a vulnerable man who was known to him.

“The pair had met at a friend’s house and had gone for a walk, when they ended up in an alleyway.

“The victim was physically assaulted – punched and kicked – and was threatened that he would be stabbed if he didn’t give Rawlinson £40 and tobacco.”

PCSOs on patrol saw the victim and took him to a place of safety. Rawlinson, who was still in the area was arrested following this.

He was charged with two counts of attempt robbery and appeared at Swansea Crown Court, where he was sentenced to six years in prison.

DS Rendell said: “This was a swift an comprehensive investigation, involving officers from a number of teams. Evidence was captured by Neighbourhood Policing Teams at the scene, which was followed up with house-to-house and CCTV enquiries, as well as work from the dog unit, CID and firearms officers.

“This excellent teamwork secured the evidence needed to get a charge, conviction and a prison sentence for a man who is clearly a danger to the community.”

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Surge in reports of personal watercraft incidents on the South Pembrokeshire Coast

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THE NATIONAL PARK is appealing for riders of personal watercraft to consider the impact of their activities on other visitors and wildlife following a recent rise in reported incidents.

Launching the small jet-powered boats has already been banned in a number of locations around the Pembrokeshire Coast due to the actions of irresponsible riders and the noise nuisance generated by the crafts.

Recent reports include a personal watercraft weaving at high speed through the moorings close to the shore in Dale and a near miss with a kayaker in Freshwater East.

Park Authority Chief Executive, Tegryn Jones said: “Noisy, intrusive activities such as personal watercraft riding are not generally welcome on the Pembrokeshire Coast due to their impact on the special qualities of the National Park.

“Peace and tranquillity are some of key things that our residents and visitors value and perhaps more importantly our rare and protected wildlife depends on it. One inconsiderate jet-powered craft user has the potential to ruin the day of hundreds of other people.

“High visitor numbers mean many people are taking to the water in various vessels and kayaks and stand up paddleboards are particularly vulnerable to being overturned by the heavy wakes generated by personal watercraft.

“We are urging people to stick to the dedicated aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway and follow the ‘dead slow’ and minimum wake guidelines that are in place around beaches, harbours and other people.”

Anyone heading out into the water around the Pembrokeshire Coast is reminded to read and follow the Pembrokeshire Marine Code to minimise any disturbance to wildlife and to enable you to have the best experience possible.

Further information and maps highlighting the dedicated personal watercraft and aquabatics zones on the Milford Haven Waterway is available from the Port of Milford Haven website: https://www.mhpa.co.uk/powered-craft/.

To find out how you can minimise disturbance to wildlife while enjoying the waters around the Pembrokeshire Coast visit the Pembrokeshire Marine Code website: https://www.pembrokeshiremarinecode.org.uk/.

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Johnston: Police appeal after boy on scooter injured in collision

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POLICE are appealing for witnesses after a collision in Johnston, near Haverfordwest, on Wednesday (Aug 5).

A boy on a scooter sustained minor injuries during the collision, which took place at around 4.20pm.

A red 4×4 is also believed to have been involved.

Anyone who was in the area of the St Peters Road pelican crossing, or nearby Langford road, and either witnessed the collision or who has CCTV that covers this area is asked to get in touch with Dyfed-Powys Police

As spokesman said: “You can telephone 101 or email contactcentre@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired you can text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Please quote Dyfed-Powys Police Ref DP-20200805-249.”

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