Mr Ian FLOYD – Director of Customer & Business Support Services – City of York Council Replies to Nigel Ward on Defamation Allegations

Well, rather than exercising his right to silence as expected, Dear Ian instead exercised his right to waffle. Into doing so, he confirms below Andrew Docherty’s decision to issue a Refusal Notice rather than produce the evidence of libel, defamation, or whatever the offence being alleged is, assuming one still is.

Grandma B, the owner of this blog, has not received any such unfounded threats of legal action, despite having taken over the hosting of the disputed blog. I wonder why.

Anyway,  let’s think this one through:

Senior officers of the City of York Council (CYC), acting on the instructions of its Chief Executive Kersten England (she is cc’ed on the material) do not take up several offers made to publish a rebuttal of the “allegations” made against them. They side-step a perfectly legitimate request to produce the evidence behind their threats of litigation by using their favourite word “vexatious”. That is government officialese for “I’ve got something to hide”.

Interestingly, Dear Ian makes great play of the “negative effect” having their unlawful behaviour brought to light has had on the “health and well-being of the [unnamed] employees of the public authority”. CYC are so concerned about the health and well-being of these unnamed employees that they are refusing to produce any evidence to support the claims of libel (or whatever), nor actually carry out their threat to take legal action against any of the bloggers publishing the supposedly “defamatory” comments. It appears that CYC does not take the “health and well-being” of its employees particularly seriously.

Anyway, I’ve discussed this now with Grandma B, an 82 year old, wheelchair-bound great-grandmother, and she tells me she is really, really sorry that her complaints about being a victim of sustained abuse by York social workers for four years now has upset them. All she wants to do is go back home and spend the remainder of her years living there in peace and safety. Remember, Dear Ian? That is the home from which your friends and colleagues unlawfully evicted her TWO YEARS ago, before trying to fraudulently sell it. I don’t recall hearing you complain about that, Dear Ian, eh? I wonder why. Well, £200,000 tax-free is a nice, little earner for all those involved, eh? Not something to sniff at, nor to complain about. Unless, of course, you are the victim…. And if you do, you are of course being “vexatious”.

It is also interesting to note that Dear Ian mentions nothing whatsoever about the health and well-being of Grandma B in his reply. He seems to have forgotten that CYC has a statutory duty of care to the vulnerable residents of York. He takes money from the taxpayer on the understanding he will do the job for which he is receiving this money. Is he not defrauding the good taxpayers of York by taking this money, not doing his job and instead acting unlawfully in an attempt to cover up criminal behaviour by his colleagues (and possibly himself) at taxpayers expense?

Here is the latest batch of correspondence.

—– Original Message —–
From: Floyd, Ian
To: Nigel
Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 3:21 PM
Subject: RE: Refusal Notice – FOIA request [3] 23rd August 2011.

Dear Nigel,

I have reviewed the council’s decision to refuse your information request, of 31 August 2011, on the grounds that it is vexatious. My conclusion is that the decision was correct. I have considered the following points.

There is no duty on the council, or its officers who have been defamed, to demonstrate the untruth of the remarks you have repeated. The remarks must either be shown to be true or withdrawn. Your claims to the contrary, apparently lending credence to them, and the terms in which you express yourself, create a context in which the details of your request become vexatious.

The Tribunal (EA/2009/0093) has ruled that enquiries forming part of an extended campaign to expose alleged improper or illegal behaviour, where the evidence does not support the campaign, may be vexatious. It appears that your request lends support to what purports to be such a campaign, and which indeed lacks any evidence.

The same decision observes that a “tendentious or haranguing tone which demonstrates an intention to argue and not really to obtain information” is a factor. Addressing yourself personally to a council officer, rather than to the council itself, and in the terms you do, fulfils this criterion.

Further, your correspondence could indeed “reasonably be expected to have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the employees of the public authority”. By lending credence to the defamatory, and thus personally harmful, remarks you quote, you could reasonably foresee such a negative effect.

Lastly the Freedom of Information Act provides a right of access to information held in recorded form by a public authority. A demand for information that would demonstrate that supposed incidents, or alleged actions, did not occur or were not carried out, is quite unreasonable. Your suggestion of a nil response falls into the tendentious category.

I would advise you to have due regard to the risk of repeating the defamation if you engage in further correspondence with others on this subject. Any evidence of this may lead to enforcement action against you.

You will be aware that you may take up the matter of this refusal with the Information Commissioner, in writing at Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF or by email at mail@ico.gsi.gov.uk . The council however regards this correspondence as closed.

Ian

——– Original Message ——–
Subject:
Re: Refusal Notice – FOIA request [4] 23rd August 2011- CYC Constitution
Date:
Mon, 12 Sep 2011 10:24:59 +0100
From: Nigel
To: Floyd, Ian <ian.floyd@york.gov.uk>
CC: <Kersten.england@york.gov.uk>

Mr Ian FLOYD – Director of Customer & Business Support Services – City of York Council

Ian,

Thank you for your email. Forgive me for troubling you further, but there are a number of points on which your remarks fall short of complete clarity; I would like to establish just exactly what it was that you intended to convey.

It is clear to me that you have re-affirmed Andy Docherty’s Refusal, on grounds of my request being ‘vexatious’. However, your decision process is less than lucid.

1) You seem to suggest that Council officers have been defamed. I have seen no evidence that such is the case. I have seen bountiful evidence to support the view that what you have characterized as so-called ‘allegations’ are, from the point-of-view of their respective authors, statements of fact. If you wish to contest that view, you will need to produce evidence to support your contention. If such evidence is in your possession, I am entitled to see it under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

You also seem to infer that I have repeated remarks of a defamatory nature; I can assure you that I have not – neither in writing nor in the more fugitive form of the spoken word, repeated any remarks that could be alleged to be defamatory. I have no personal knowledge of the matters raised in the so-called ‘allegations’; I trust that is clear. I am trying to establish, in the public interest, whether or not the so-called ‘allegations’ are grounded in fact.

As I have indicated elsewhere, it is my interpretation of the defamation law that to recover in a libel or slander suit, the plaintiff must show evidence of four elements: that the defendant conveyed a defamatory message; that the material was published, meaning that it was conveyed to someone other than the plaintiff; that the plaintiff could be identified as the person referred to in the defamatory material; and that the plaintiff suffered some injury to his or her reputation as a result of the communication. In the event that the remarks alleged by the plaintiff to be defamatory are, in fact, predicated upon a statement of truth, the action must fail.

Are you suggesting otherwise? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

For the avoidance of doubt, my concern is this; it would appear (and you yourself support this view) that certain so-called ‘allegations’ have been made against certain named individuals. Some of these so-called ‘allegations’ are of a very grave nature. Indeed, some of these so-called ‘allegations’ appear to have been supported by the quotation of copious amounts of documentary evidence, which, if authentic (and neither you nor, to my knowledge, any other parties, have contended that the supporting documentation is fictional, forged or otherwise fabricated), suggest that there may indeed be some substance to the so-called ‘allegations’.

One such document appears to be a Decision Notice from the Local Government Ombudsman. The Local Government Ombudsman presumably may be regarded as a reliable source.

What action has CYC taken in response to the Local Government Ombudsman’s Decision Notice? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

Is it not so that CYC has a Duty of Care to the public to ensure that the abuses itemised in the so-called ‘allegations’ of which we speak do not recur? In the event that, however unlikely you may wish it to be so, there are indeed elements of truth in the so-called ‘allegations’, would it not be the case that the Council would stand in dereliction of its Duty of Care, were the so-called ‘allegations’ to remain un-investigated? I rather think so.

I find it difficult to conceive of the notion that City of York Council is apparently unwilling to countenance an investigation into whether or not the so-called ‘allegations’ contain any substantive information. CYC Officers and/or elected Councillors who feel that their reputations have been impugned by the so-called ‘allegations’, are, of course, free to go to law in defence of their reputations. It is my interpretation of the terms of The Local Authorities (indemnities for members and officers) Order 2004 that they are not free to do so at the expense of the public purse.

For clarity, are you suggesting otherwise? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

2) It may or may not be the case that, as you suggest, enquiries forming part of an extended campaign to expose alleged improper or illegal behaviour, where the evidence does not support the campaign, may be deemed ‘vexatious’. In the present case, however, there is at least a credible appearance that the evidence does support the credibility of the so-called ‘allegations’ of improper or illegal behaviour. However, you are surely not suggesting that the onus is upon me to demonstrate whether or not that evidence is compelling – surely, that falls within the ambit of a thoroughgoing investigation, ideally by an impartial external body.

For clarity, would you disagree with that view? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

3) You appear to take issue with my style. I try to be clear, polite, amicable and willing to address my correspondents on equal terms. I wish I could say the same for Mr Docherty, whose tone is as manifestly high-handed as his actions (by his own admission) are draconian. I am not aware that paid public servants stand in a position of superiority over members of the public. I believe that they would be mistaken in thinking that they do. I have approached CYC with very real concerns that Mr Docherty has exceeded the Council’s authority, and, further, that the nature and gravity of the so-called ‘allegations’ is such that, in the public interest, an impartial investigation is in order as a matter of urgency. I do not concede that my correspondence could “reasonably be expected to have a negative effect on the health and well-being of the employees of the public authority” – unless it is the case that those employees have reason to be fearful of a thoroughgoing and impartial investigation – as, indeed, the so-called ‘allegations’ seem to suggest.

4) You state, in your penultimate paragraph, that “Your suggestion of a nil response falls into the tendentious category.” My dictionary defines ‘tendentious’ thus:

ten·den·tious/ten’denSHes/

Adjective: Expressing or intending to promote a particular cause or point of view, esp. a controversial one

For clarity, the cause or point of view to which my correspondence is directed is simply stated, thus:

I seek, in the public interest, to uphold transparency and accountability and  to expose the truth in respect of grave and, on the face of it, well-substantiated so-called ‘allegations’ that have come to my notice and to that of a large number of members of the public. I believe you will find that those objectives are entirely consonant with Council’s aspirations as laid out in Part One of the City of York Council Constitution, copied immediately below this email for your convenience of reference. (I have highlighted, in bold, the relevant passage).

If you take issue with that stated purpose, then it would seem to that you take issue with the Council’s own Constitution, and if such is the case I would like you to make that clear for me, in writing, please, by return.

I might add that, being mindful of the wide circulation achieved by your pronunciamenti, the hostile and aggressive/defensive posture evinced by you and Mr Docherty is highly likely to provoke a perception that the Council has indeed something very unwholesome to hide – which is precisely why a thoroughgoing and impartial investigation is surely the proper course of action to take.

For clarity, would you disagree with that view? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

I have not sought your advice on the merits of repeating any so-called ‘allegations’; thank you, anyway.

Your concluding remark “Any evidence of this may lead to enforcement action against you” I take as a tacit threat of legal action. I regard it as an empty one. It is not your place to threaten me. I do not accept that you are so authorised. Nor do I believe for one moment that you have any intention of presenting an opportunity for the entirety of the so-called ‘allegations’ to be exposed to public and press scrutiny in open court; Mr Docherty’s declared intention is to suppress that information.

As stated above, I have not repeated any so-called ‘allegations’.  It is not my intention to do so. It is, however, my intention to pursue, in the public interest, the instigation of a thoroughgoing and impartial investigation into the so-called ‘allegations’. I hope that, on carefully reconsideration, you will join me in that pursuit. Should you decide against that course of action, right-thinking members of the public (and of the Council) will certainly wonder why.

As a matter of public concern, I would be interested to know CYC’s intentions in respect of other so-called ‘allegations’ presently accessible to internet users all over the world via a considerable number of web-sites, blogs, newspaper comments sections, etc. Is it the Council’s intention to adopt a scatter-gun approach to litigation, or will the so-called ‘allegations’ remain unchallenged, in the public purview.

I do specifically require an answer on this last point? (Please answer this question. Thank you).

Finally, you state that the Council regards this correspondence as closed. It is my information that there are, amongst the elected members, those who profoundly disagree. There exists no prohibition against a member of the public seeking information in the public interest and Council officers are not authorised to conceal, or collude to conceal, wrong-doing on the part of fellow officers. By floundering amongst the exemption clauses of the FOIA, officers risk bringing themselves and their Council into disrepute. I would close by urging you to ponder the fact that, for every council officer who feels that correspondence such as mine is ‘vexatious’, there are thousands of ordinary electors who look to me, and people like me, to articulate the penetrating inquiries that will, if transparently fulfilled, provide us all (as Mr Pickles has so eloquently stated) with the means to hold officers to account;  paid public servants are not. lest we forget, paid to obstruct public scrutiny.

Please uphold your Council’s Constitution – and fulfil my FOIA request. Thank you.

Yours, with very kind regards,

Nigel

Cc: Kersten England – CEO – CYC
Bc: Undisclosed recipients

PART 1A – THE COUNCIL’S CONSTITUTION (VERSION 3.0)

1 Summary

1.1 City of York Council has agreed a Constitution which sets out how the Council operates, how decisions are made and the procedures which are followed. These procedures will ensure that decisions are taken at the right time, by the right body, considering the right issues and options and will be non-bureaucratic, transparent, accountable to local people and deliver Council priorities. Some of these processes are required by law, while others are a matter for the Council to choose. The Constitution is divided into 17 articles which set out the basic rules governing the Council’s business. More detailed procedures and codes of practice are provided in separate rules and protocols later in the document.

***

UPDATE

It is now 17 September 2011. After having exercised his right to waffle, it now seems that Dear Ian is exercising his right to silence. After all, his attempt to cover up for his colleagues’ participation in the financial abuse of Grandma B amounts to being involved in a conspiracy to defraud, a serious crime for which Dear Ian could get up to TEN YEARS in JAIL. That is the sort of habitual criminal running the City of York Council, with the full support and blessing of his chief executive, lord mayor and local councillors….

Leave a comment

2 Comments

  1. M Nevis

     /  17/09/2011

    This is difficult to follow. Has this vulnerable elderly lady been evicted from a house that she owns? If so, who owns the house now? What would the grounds for eviction be? Where is this lady now? Have Freedom of Information requests been made?

    Reply
  2. Thank you for your comments. I would refer you first to the front page of this blog, which outlines the story: https://grandmabarbara.wordpress.com/

    Grandma B purchased the house with her late husband on retirement 25 years ago. They made the mistake of transferring the house to their older son and his children in return for care services. These care services were never supplied, so Robert Hofschröer (the older son) and his two adult children Diane and Martin committed fraud under sections 2 and 4 of the Fraud Act, 2006.

    Grandma B and her husband had a license to live in their house for life, but Robert and his family could not wait for them to die. Paul, Grandma B’s husband, died partly as a result of neglect, while Grandma B was hounded from her house and shortly after she left for a holiday to Austria to help her cope with the harassment she was suffering, Inspector Moreton of North Yorkshire Police tipped off Robert and his family she was away. They they forced entry, changed the locks and cleared her house in preparation for sale. Grandma B’s solicitor prevented them from doing so and is now in the process of obtaining an injunction stopping the harassment.

    Grandma B intends returning home from her place of refuge in Austria the instant it is safe for her to do so.

    Several Freedom of Information Act requests have been made to York Council. but most have been rejected as “vexatious”. Some of the rejected requests have been taken to the ICO, and Decision Notices have been issued requiring York Council to release the information requested. York council has nevertheless refused to do so.

    Hope these answers help.

    Reply

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