Jacob Williams
Monday 29th April, 2019

Cosy complainers

Cosy complainers

You’ll recall at Pembrokeshire County Council’s last meeting in late February, Johnston councillor Ken Rowlands tabled the following question to the authority’s leader, David Simpson:

A dictionary definition confirms that, “a Cosy Relationship in Business or Politics involves people who seem to be using their relationship in a dishonest way to get benefits for each other.”

In a recent meeting of the Corporate Governance [sic.] Overview & Scrutiny Committee, Councillor Jacob Williams alleged that the Chief Executive had such a relationship with Dyfed Powys Police.

Does the Leader agree with Councillor Jacob Williams?

In response Cllr. Simpson simply said “no, I do not,” following which Ken read out his pre-scripted follow-up question, asking Cllr. Simpson if he was:

“…happy for a senior officer of this authority to be insulted in this way, which must be a breach of the members’ code of conduct, the member having bullied an officer in the workplace, and at least a public apology is in order?”

Simpson replied that policing members’ conduct was “not the leader’s role.”

He also made the direct challenge to Cllr. Rowlands: “If you think that the conduct rules have been broken, then you have an obligation to go to the monitoring officer and sort it out with her, that is her role, that’s not the leader’s role.”

I had discovered long beforehand that Cllr. Rowlands had already run his complaint past the MO (who was present throughout the ‘cosy’ meeting) who told Ken she didn’t think a complaint to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales was likely to get him anywhere.

I said as much to the chamber, after I forced the chairman to allow me a point of personal explanation.

Following the meeting I can reveal that Ken rolled the dice and took his concerns to the ombudsman – who comprehensively threw out his complaint at the very first hurdle.

The basis of Ken’s complaint was his “disgust, that Councillor Williams is allowed to make such slanderous remarks with impunity.”

But he also complained about a second matter, to which he devoted the vast majority of his submission and which JW thinks was his dominant motivation.

Ken complained bitterly about the blogpost I wrote about him on February 18th, titled ‘Ken’s big book of words.’

In this post I responded to the questions lay-preacher Ken had raised over my own conduct by recounting some classic examples of Ken’s questionable morals over the years.

Among those was the time he craftily timed his abandonment of the Labour party at the 2008 election in order to join the authority’s notorious ‘independent’ party for what appeared to be financial motives – or as his former group leader Sue Perkins put it, his “thirty pieces of silver.”

I now find myself in the unique position of being able to reveal exactly how much that blogpost got up Ken’s nose.

He tells the ombudsman that it’s an “insulting, vindictive, maligning article” in which he says JW “gives his maligning version of events, when I decided to ‘cross the floor’ and join the Independent Group in 2008.”

The word malign or variants thereof feature in Ken’s ombudsman complaint no fewer than four times!

He says it is a “venomous malignant description,” a “personal attack” to “discredit” him, which he claims is “further proof of [JW] breaching the Members’ Code of Conduct.”

Pious Ken ends by pleading with the ombudsman:

“I should be grateful, therefore if you would at least reprimand Councillor Williams and ensure that in future he shows more respect in his dealings with Officers of the Council and fellow County councillors.”

Of course by “fellow County councillors” Ken means “Ken.”

As an appendix to his complaint Ken included a printout of the offending blogpost, made more humorous because people like him usually like to pretend that they don’t read council blogs, it doesn’t bother them, and that nobody else reads or believes them either.

But it was a second appendix Ken sent to the ombudsman that was most enlightening – but not for the purposes of assisting his complaint.

It was an A4 memo giving what he calls his version of ‘actual events’ over his decision to abandon the Labour party just before the 2008 PCC election.

One of JW’s working theories is that Ken had been confronted to explain his questionable floor-crossing antics so often that to save repetition he drafted this document, a copy of which he had on standby to slip into his ombudsman-bound envelope.

And his excuses for leaving Labour high and dry are richly ironic, because Ken’s explanation reveals something perhaps even more ignoble than the facts I’ve previously reported.

By his own admission, he got the hump with Welsh Labour when he realised he couldn’t manage to wangle some hyper-local pork-barrelling from his party-political chums in Cardiff Bay!

Read about Ken’s beef in his own words, here:

Ken’s version of ‘actual events’

As it turns out, this very important “infrastructural improvement” Ken rails about did eventually come to fruition – it’s the notorious Bulford Road project.

One of the largest wastes of public money in recent Pembrokeshire history – now dubbed the road to nowhere – it was laid primarily to serve the large road tanker movements associated with the Milford Haven oil refinery.

But shortly after the ribbon was cut on Ken’s carriageway, the cracker plant ceased refining. The main heavy traffic you’ll see on it these days is the haulage of dismantled industrial machinery leaving the site for reinstallation in Pakistan.

From the photograph accompanying this post you may have worked out that ‘independent’ party councillor Ken wasn’t alone in making a cosy complaint to the ombudsman.

Conservative councillors David Bryan, Mark Carter and Rob Summons, the Tory group’s leader, made them too.

Councillors Ken Rowlands, David Bryan, Mark Carter and Rob Summons all made cosy complaints to the ombudsman

JW contends that these complaints of concocted outrage was a concerted campaign.

I pointed out to the ombudsman that he already had sterling evidence in front of him that this was a carefully-coordinated effort.

Very credible evidence, too, as it was provided – perhaps inadvertently – by one of the conspiring foursome.

This came in the very opening line of lead complainant Ken Rowlands’ letter, who gives the game away by saying:

“A number of my fellow County Councillors and I are of the opinion that the above mentioned Councillor has breached the Code of Conduct, and will each in turn make you aware of the circumstances. Having discussed matters with them we feel we have a responsibility to draw this to your attention in order to ensure a proper civil response both at council meetings and within our public statements and writings.”

Ken’s complaint was dated 29th February.

Cllr. David Bryan then submitted his own complaint, dated 2nd March.

Cllrs. Rowlands and Bryan are two people who have very obvious axes to grind against JW.

Rowlands was frothing over the “malignant” blogpost I had written about him as well as a prior unflattering revelation in 2017 (see: The Ken is mightier than the lord), and David Bryan was similarly motivated to get one over on me.

Less than a fortnight beforehand I had repeated (see: Nothing to declare) the now legendary PCC story about Cllr. Bryan – which I had originally exclusively revealed on this blog in November 2018.

And now, shucks David, I’m going to have to regale readers a third time!

This was my publication of the highly embarrassing fact that Cllr. Bryan – who trousers an £8k+ bonus to chair the authority’s services overview and scrutiny committee – missed his September 2017 and September 2018 meetings because on both occasions he was off sunning it, enjoying foreign holidays.

Not only that, but because he couldn’t be bothered to turn up to his September 2018 meeting and other councillors were absent, the meeting had to be abandoned in a spectacularly embarrassing council first.

As Dai was relaxing poolside sipping piña coladas, back at County Hall his committee meeting ground to a halt as it wasn’t legally quorate – and many people who had travelled great distances to be there, including representatives from partner organisations, had to be sent home following a wasted journey.

It must have dawned on Ken Rowlands and David Bryan that their personal motives for making their ridiculous complaints against me to the ombudsman – revenge for revealing the unflattering truth about them – shone through.

So patently obvious in fact, that they realised they had to smooth over this appearance of ‘tit for tat.’

This is where Bryan’s fellow Tory councillors Mark Carter and Rob Summons enter the scene.

Carter’s complaint was dated 3rd March, whilst Summons didn’t submit his until 11th March – some six weeks after the ‘cosy’ meeting he purported to complain of.

Of note was that all complaints were similarly worded to a matching format.

Bryan’s complaint is the briefest, with his best faux outrage saying that he has been a councillor “for the past 15 years and I never thought I would witness such accusations and behaviour from a fellow member” which “can only bring the Chief Executive and Pembrokeshire County Council into disrepute.”

Summons says it “negatively affects the council’s reputation and indeed the reputation of CEO Ian Westley.”

Meanwhile Carter claims that what JW said at that ‘cosy’ committee meeting is a “clear demonstration of Cllr Williams behaving in a way that negatively affects Pembrokeshire County Council’s reputation.”

Now I don’t doubt any of these four councillors in their view that the meeting in question heard evidence that brings the local authority or indeed its chief executive Ian Westley into disrepute.

But that wasn’t because of what I said or did, but the unprecedented facts the committee scrutinised.

Among them was that Mr. Westley had washed his hands of his duty to action full council’s resolution to formally complain against the local police force’s handling of grant fraud allegations – plod’s ‘investigation’ now of a staggering five-year vintage.

In the letters he sent rejecting all complaints over the ‘cosy’ meeting, the ombudsman stated to each of the four complainants:

“I have listened to the part of the debate to which you refer. I noted that the Chief Executive, as the Authority’s most senior officer, engaged in a debate with Councillor Williams. The Chief Executive explained that he has a good working relationship with the Police and dealt with Councillor Williams’s comments in an appropriate manner. In the circumstances, I am not persuaded that an investigation into this matter would be a proportionate use of the Ombudsman’s resources.”

But Mark Carter couldn’t help embellishing his complaint, leaping to Ken Rowlands’ defence over my ‘maligning’ blogpost.

Indeed it seems to have bothered the member for Solva almost as much as it did the self-styled ‘Voice of Johnston.’

As part of his complaint Carter said that my description of Ken as a “brown-nosing sermoniser” was “…designed to cause [Ken] distress and amounted to bullying behaviour…”

But Carter – obviously another keen reader of this blog – expanded his complaint even further.

He takes issue with my holding anybody at the council to account, because his complaint letter states: “On his blog, Cllr Williams has repeatedly attacked other officers for their mistakes…”

He does nonetheless admit that “there have been mistakes made” by council officers, but that in his opinion JW’s coverage of such topics – usually exclusive – amounts to “workplace bullying” which is “likely to cause unnecessary distress to that employee,” but gives no examples or evidence to that effect.

Whilst Mark Carter might give every appearance of a man in full possession of a thick skin, his complaint raises a few questions to my mind.

Not only over his judgement, but his fitness to serve as an elected representative if he thinks that what I have written about Ken Rowlands or anybody else using my rights to freedom of expression amounts to ‘bullying.’

As it’s something we’re unlikely to agree on, it’s all the better that he doesn’t have to take my word for it alone.

Because in soundly rejecting his complaint, the ombudsman teaches Mark that “it is not uncommon for elected members to say things which others may consider to be rude, offensive or inappropriate, particularly to political opponents.”

Continuing: “I cannot say that you have provided evidence to suggest that, on this occasion, Councillor Williams’ comments go beyond a robust expression of political differences and amount to bullying behaviour or disrespect of a fellow member.”

The same wording was also sent to Ken, who won’t have enjoyed reading his rejection letter because the ombudsman teaches him another elementary lesson.

Not only was Ken’s complaint, like all the others, soundly thrown out at the first opportunity, but I’m pleased to say that the ombudsman felt it necessary to specifically address Ken’s total ignorance of the system.

This was over Ken’s request that the ombudsman “…would at least reprimand Councillor Williams…”

The ombudsman tells our brown-nosing sermoniser:

“I have noted your request that the Ombudsman issues a “reprimand” to Councillor Williams for his behaviour. The Ombudsman has no powers to take such action – any action against an elected member must either be taken by the Standards Committee or the Adjudication Panel for Wales following the conclusion of an Ombudsman investigation.”

As a councillor of some fifteen years’ service we might have expected Ken to have a better grasp of expected standards and due process.

Then again…

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  • Marc Thomas

    These men seem to be bullying you if anything.

    They are determined to see you get 1,000 lashes for trying to make it appear they do nothing at all and go on holidays abroad.

    I hate meetings to be fair.

  • Weasel Magoo

    Those poor dabs and their ever-so-thin skins.

    You can’t help wondering whether Ken ‘The Voice of Ken’ Rowlands hasn’t anything better to spend his time doing.

    As for the faux outrage of Messrs Carter and Summons, it beggars belief that a very cosy series of chats of one form or another didn’t take place before their co-ordinated complaints.

    The high regard in which the Conservative Group hold The Pope of Church Road speaks volumes for the close relationship between the Tories and the IPPG.

    As for David Bryan – he really ought to know better. Upsetting as the facts might be, it’s hard to argue with it – early booking discounts notwithstanding!

  • Given that it was your website that brought us “Partygate” it’s rather surprising that David Bryan was one of those trying to put the boot in.

    Readers may recall that among your revelations was that, during the 2012 election campaign, one of Cllr Bryan’s IPPG colleagues – deputy leader Rob Lewis – had used council computers (illegally) to publish election leaflets for Cllr Bryan’ s sole rival, Byron Frayling.

    Cllr Bryan complained to the Ombudsman and Cllr Lewis was found guilty of misuse of council assets and handed a derisory two-week suspension, though, fortunately at the next election the voters of Martletwy were rather less forgiving.

    I don’t recall the Voice of Johnston getting on his high horse about that – probably because during the 2008 campaign he had a cosy arrangement with Lewis to provide exactly the same illicit service for him and his fellow Labour defectors, Umelda Havard and Lyndon Frayling.

  • Cllr Paul Dowson

    People like these men are embarrassing to those of us who wish to get on with the job. Spitting their dummies out like spoilt children.

    Typically all noise in committee meetings or the council chamber, simply to come across as a busy and active councillor.

    Googling their names suggests that, for all the noise they make, they don’t appear to have done much for their wards and county.

    They don’t appear to be recognised anywhere for fighting a cause or campaigning for the wishes of their constituents. Nothing of note achieved in the community!

  • William Wordsmith

    David, Rob and Mark and Ken,
    Thought “cosy” was their chance to strike.
    They won’t make that mistake again,
    ‘Cos the Ombudsman told them: “On yer bike!”

    Ken labelled Jacob’s blog malign.
    Indeed, he said it was a libel,
    But preacher Ken can now confine,
    His sermonising to the Bible.

    O’ mighty wroth did Ken command,
    Should fall upon poor Jacob’s head:
    “Please give to him a reprimand”
    Or send a plague of frogs instead.

    This bid to bring young Jacob down,
    When history books come to be written,
    Will show our Ken to be a clown;
    A sad case of the biter bitten.

  • Keanjo


  • Galf

    The photograph of Mark Carter looks like he is constipated and having trouble squeezing one out.

  • Malcolm Calver

    Now, now Jacob be very careful you are treading on some very self-important toes and they do not like it.

    By the look of the photo I first thought that Warren Gatland had made a guest appearance as I am reliably informed he is moving on.

    On a serious note I see the Ombudsman, or at least the present one, has realised that politicians should have thicker skins than the “average member of the public” and they should stop complaining about robust debate.

    There is a suggestion by some that Pembrokeshire County Council should be placed in “special measures” by the Welsh Assembly but others suggest that the Welsh Assembly itself should be placed in “special measures”. As long as we arrive at Brexit does it really matter?

  • Welshman 23

    Was this photograph taken from the auditions for the role of villains for the upcoming James Bond movie?

  • Dai Trump

    Much as I like Welshman 23’s comment about the photograph being taken from the auditions for the villains for the new Bond film, I couldn’t help but think it was a photo of the lineup for a new ‘Oldboys’ band, ‘Ken and the Supines’.

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