Is this a democracy or a council cover up?

PUBLISHED: 03:19 07 December 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 24 May 2010

A LEADING councillor says 'taxpayers have a right to know' about misconduct charges against a highly paid council director and is amazed it was not going to be made public

A LEADING councillor says 'taxpayers have a right to know' about misconduct charges against a highly paid council director and is amazed it was not going to be made public.The Weston & Somerset Mercury revealed that North Somerset Council's director for children and young people's services Colin Diamond was disciplined over matters that involved taxpayers' money and Cllr Elfan Ap Rees says it should never have been kept confidential.Mr Diamond was brought before a five councillor panel to face charges including that salaries he awarded to two colleagues were too high, that he made an unlawful payment of £10,000, ignored instructions from the chief executive and failed to inform Executive councillors of key decisions.Cllr Ap Rees said: "What are we about? I was a member of the first investigative panel, which considered whether there was a case to answer and was one of the majority who felt there was."Having done that I kept it confidential as requested and waited to discover the outcome. I was astonished to find that whatever the final result it wasn't going to be divulged publicly. Indeed I wouldn't know now had it not been leaked."I feel very strongly taxpayers had a right to know when their money was involved and while it might be embarrassing for the officer concerned perhaps he shouldn't have put himself in that position in the first place."But it gets worse. I was one of the councillors who took up with the Standards Board the role of the Executive member Cllr Peter Kehoe in this matter. "To support the case we asked for copies of emails and correspondence under the Freedom of Information Act in September. Initially officers refused but we did appeal but are still waiting."People out there might ask themselves as I do if this is democracy or a cover up."A North Somerset Council spokesman said: "It is important to be transparent and provide as much information to the public as possible. In disciplinary matters involving individual members of staff however, the law clearly states we must protect their personal information and right of privacy. "It is for these reasons members and officers are instructed personal information must be kept confidential. "The council sought legal advice on this issue and received clear advice it would not be lawful to disclose information about an individual member of staff and to do so could expose the council to financial liability. There may be very exceptional cases when a breach of discipline is so severe public interest overrides the rights of the individual, but this is not the case in this instance.

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