Misconduct warning for director

A SENIOR council director has been given a formal warning after a three day disciplinary hearing. North Somerset Council's director of children and young people's

A SENIOR council director has been given a formal warning after a three day disciplinary hearing.North Somerset Council's director of children and young people's services, Colin Diamond, was brought before a five councillor panel on charges of misconduct.He faced seven allegations 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 members of the Executive of his decisions.Mr Diamond was found guilty of six of the charges by the all party panel made up of councillors Colin Golland, Michael Nobes, Michael Johnson, Peter Bryant and Nigel Ashton. The panel took 10 hours to come to the unanimous decision to give Mr Diamond an official written warning.Mr Diamond, who earns over £110,000, told the Weston & Somerset Mercury he was not allowed to comment on the case.Conservative leader Mike Roe said: "During the early summer of 2005, when I was the Executive Member for Finance, I became concerned over payments that were being made by a senior director during the setting up of a new service. I was also disturbed that information that should have been readily available to all executive members was difficult to obtain and kept changing."I attempted to have this investigated by the relevant scrutiny panel but was blocked by an obviously political vote. In August 2005 I therefore asked the solicitor to North Somerset Council to initiate an internal audit investigation."After several months of investigation, evidence was found that the director had breached a number of the council's regulations. It was decided by the chief executive (based upon legal and personnel advice) to instigate disciplinary proceedings against this director."After many months an employment panel consisting of elected members eventually met and, after hearing the case presented, unanimously ruled that the director should be disciplined. My understanding is that of seven matters put before this panel, they ruled the director guilty on six of these.""These ranged from making dubious payments to staff and failing to implement an Executive decision. A number of other issues were collectively seen as conduct inappropriate for a senior officer. In other councils similar payments have been ruled by external auditors as being unlawful."North Somerset Council should now seek to recover this money and also ask the external auditors to produce a Public Interest Report so everyone can be made aware of these breaches of regulations. I also understand yet more suspect payments have been made within this directorate. The sums we are talking about run into tens of thousands of pounds."It has also emerged during the disciplinary proceedings that the executive member for this service was fully aware of the director's actions and not only condoned this but appeared as a witness for the director at the hearing and sought to persuade members that action should not be taken. How can this individual remain within the Executive when they condone public money being misused and council regulations being breached in this way?"This has been a long and difficult process for me but I have now been totally vindicated for pursuing this. I hope in future other councillors within North Somerset Council demonstrate to the public that they are not prepared to see their taxes misused and ensure that the democratic process is adhered to."Executive member for children and young people's services Cllr Peter Kehoe has also been referred to the Standards Board for England by fellow councillors. Cllr Kehoe said: "As far as I'm aware the standards board has not found anything to investigate and my only comment is that I had the pleasure of reading a letter this morning congratulating Colin Diamond on his excellent leadership and management."A North Somerset Council spokesman said last Thursday (Nov 16): "It is extremely regrettable that confidential information about a member of council staff appears to have been leaked to the media. We take this issue very seriously and will be launching a formal investigation to establish the source of the leak."We are not able for legal reasons and our duty of care for individual members of staff to make comments about internal disciplinary matters. We are not aware of any Public Interest Report being prepared by our external auditors into the issue of honorarium payments to members of council staff. We can confirm however that as part of our normal assurance processes we are conducting an internal audit into honorarium payments made across all areas of the council to make sure that the system is fair, robust and transparent.