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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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Police warn motorists after thefts from cars in Haverfordwest

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‘LOCK your car’ drivers are warned, following a two-day spate of thefts in Haverfordwest.

Eight thefts were reported between January 13 and 14, from unlocked cars parked across the town.

Officers are advising people to double check they have locked their cars, and to remove valuables from vehicles overnight.

Among the stolen items was over £1,000 in cash, a laptop, a number of bank cards, a Stihl chainsaw, worth £700, and beauty products worth around £650. Many items have since been recovered.

Two men, aged 20, have been arrested on suspicion of theft from a motor vehicle, and a third man, aged 19, on suspicion of handling stolen goods, in connection to the thefts. All three have been released under investigation while enquiries continue.

Anyone with information is asked to contact Dyfed-Powys Police either by calling 101. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Quote reference: DPP/0030/14/01/2020/01/C

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Milford Haven: Police appeal after hair salon burgled

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POLICE in Milford Haven are investigating a burglary at Cut-Away Hair Salon, Priory Street, which occurred at approx. 3am on Thursday (Jan 16).

Around £200 in cash has been stolen, some of which was donations intended for a local charity.

Officers are keen to speak to anyone with information which could help the investigation, and in particular, anyone in the Priory Street area who has CCTV.

T/Sergeant for Milford Haven, Haydon Mathias, said: “Burglaries to small, local businesses like this cause distress and disrupt both the owner and the wider community. Rest assured we are doing all we can to identify the suspect and bring swift justice for the victim.”

Business owners are being advised to take appropriate steps to secure their properties:

“Don’t leave large sums of money in the premises overnight, and install CCTV– affordable cameras are readily available online.

“Specialist officers are able to provide crime prevention advice to any business with concerns about the security of their property, whether you have been a victim of crime or not.” Sgt. Mathias continued.

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Milford Haven: Appeal for information after museum windows smashed

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MILFORD HAVEN MUSEUM is asking for help after vandals struck around midnight, January 15.

The museum, based on The Docks, posted on Facebook saying: “Last night at around midnight three youths thought it would be funny to throw a traffic cone at one of the windows at the museum, breaking two panes of glass.
“If anyone saw anything please let PC Baxter 856 know by calling 101.”

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