Monday, 2 August 2010
How did we get into this mess?
This next instalment of briefing notes from Graham Power QPM sent to all “accredited” media sets out a few more “facts” that have been missed by our “accredited” media. Indeed one could be forgiven for believing the “accredited” media didn’t receive them at all!!
Once more Team Voice are pleased to be able to fill the massive void left by our “accredited” media and have our reader(s) that much more informed.
Will Senator Ben Shenton as Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee be instigating a review or enquiry into how Ian Le Marquand was willing and able to spend probably close to two million pounds on something he apparently knew was never going to come to anything?
Just what were/are Ian Le Marquand’s motives?
This briefing note alone should be enough to trigger a vote of no confidence in the Home Affairs Minster.
Briefing note 4.
This note has been issued to assist editors in reporting issues relating to the decision by the Minister for Home Affairs, Senator Ian Le Marquand, to abandon all disciplinary proceedings.
How did we get into this mess?
Among the many comments that have been made over the 21 months of my suspension some have stood out and have been repeated by a number of independent sources. Among these is the statement that no private sector organisation would get itself into such a costly mess. A suspension which carries on for 21 months, a bill of over one million pounds, and the abandonment of the case without a single disciplinary charge being brought, is hardly the kind of thing which would be looked upon as best practice in HR management..So how was this mess created and how could we have got out of it?
It might be best go back briefly to the situation in November 2008. There had been an election. A new government was about to take office. During the changeover period the outgoing Home Affairs Minister takes the only significant decision of his political career by suspending the Chief Officer of Police on the strength of a disputed letter from the Deputy Chief Officer (who is then given a pay rise and made Acting Chief Officer.) We will soon receive an independent report on this sequence of events. So far nobody has expressed confidence that it will be positive news for the Government.
In November 2008 I was already well past my official retirement date. After some discussion I had earlier agreed to stay on and provide continuity during a challenging period. But this decision conflicted with a number of family priorities and was becoming a source of difficulty. I had by that time privately decided that once the new Council of Ministers had been appointed it would be appropriate for me to have discussions with the new Ministers regarding my future. After a difficult period I could see the argument for a “fresh start” and would have been content to retire in 2009. This was not widely known at the time but it has become widely known since. My initial plan to discuss retirement in early 2009 is set out in my statement to “Operation Haven” and other correspondence with the Minister. Since the middle of 2009 he has been aware that the suspension was being sustained against an officer who otherwise might already have retired.
Opportunities to bring this expensive matter to an end, and for all parties to move on to other things, have occurred at regular intervals. In early 2009 a number of concerned States Members urged the Minister to take a fresh look at the situation and to seek a way out before more expenditure was incurred. The Constable of St Helier, Simon Crowcroft, brought a proposition to the States seeking a quick informal review. This was narrowly defeated after the Minister gave assurances about progress and timescales. The Minister then pressed ahead with the process under the disciplinary code.
Further opportunities for reflection arose in the summer of 2009 during my application for a judicial review of the suspension. During that case the extent to which I was being subjected to “dismissal by stealth” was subject to a number of exchanges. During that hearing there appeared to be a general acceptance from all parties, including myself, that a point had been reached at which a return to work was improbable. It is unlikely that any private sector organisation would have pressed ahead with a long and expensive disciplinary process at that point. The Minister did press ahead. While we all have different styles of doing things, it has appeared to many observers that the Ministers approach to this matter has been excessively bureaucratic, slow, legalistic, and obsessed with following process at the expense of seeking an actual solution to the situation he was managing. Pragmatism, imagination, and a desire to bring the issue to an end have not been notable characteristics.
Towards the end of 2009 I became increasingly frustrated with lack of progress and made it clear that when it got to 2010 I would “name the day” on which I would retire. In January 2010 I confirmed that I would retire on 20th July 2010. I gave a number of reasons for this decision which included my view that the disciplinary process had at least another 12 months to run and that under my contract I had to retire before the end of the year come what may. From the documents I have seen it appears to be clear that not only did I know, but the Minister also knew in early 2010 that there was no longer enough time left to finish the disciplinary procedure. Yet he pressed ahead regardless.
Editors may wish to enquire whether those with a responsibility for the oversight of public finances are taking an interest in this aspect. There may well be questions about the appropriateness, or even the legality, of the significant expenditure incurred in relation to the disciplinary process which was incurred after it became clear that the process would never be finished.
At this point it might be worth recording some reflections on the mystery of what the Minister and those supporting him actually hoped to achieve through the disciplinary procedure. It is true that after a detailed and lengthy procedure a Chief Officer can be dismissed. But what does “dismissal” actually mean for someone who is already past retirement age? So far as I can work out it just means that he or she has to retire when dismissed. But I wanted to retire anyway. The process to dismiss the Chief Officer of Police involves an investigation (achieved) followed by a formal meeting with the Minister (this was not achieved at the time of my retirement nor was any subsequent part of the process.) After the meeting there then has to be a formal hearing. After the hearing the Chief Officer has a right of appeal to an independent tribunal. If it is still considered that he should be dismissed then the Minister must bring a proposition for debate in the States. It is estimated that the time needed from the first meeting to the debate in the States is about one year. So if the Minister had managed to take the case all of the way through the process and achieve my dismissal my “punishment” would be to retire much later than I intended. There would however have been the compensation of the additional salary which would have been paid meanwhile.
So what did he hope to achieve at the end of it all? What was the point of all this expense and effort?