Article updated: See below
Don’t Call Me Dave stopped writing blogs about Barnet Council some time ago because (a) it was taking too much time to research stories thoroughly and (b) there were plenty of other bloggers out there doing a far better job. See the panel on the right hand side of this page for a selection. Not blogging about Barnet does not prevent DCMD from posting comments on other blogs when the mood takes him.
All the bloggers welcome DCMD’s contributions, even if they disagree with him, with the exception of Mrs Angry who regularly refuses to publish his comments. The irony will not be lost on readers that in a blog posted today under the title Freedom of Expression: another victory for the Barnet bloggers, Mrs Angry refused to publish one comment from DCMD, published a second and then removed it shortly thereafter.
Mrs Angry’s blog was a commentary on the excellent investigative work by Rog T who had forced Barnet Council to admit that it had lobbied the Information Commissioner in an attempt to silence opposition from local bloggers. The importance of Rog’s exposé cannot be underestimated. It is the first act of a tyrant to try and silence those with whom you disagree. And so it has proven to be the case, yet again, with Barnet’s leading Trotskyite, Mrs Angry.
At this point, dear Readers, you may be wondering what seditious commentary had DCMD tried to post to the Broken Barnet blog? The answer is that he merely pointed out to Mrs Angry that every time he tried to report that Barnet’s chief legal officer Jeff Lustig had signed off the contract to the Underhill sale - a transaction that was subsequently ruled illegal by the High Court - the dear lady refused to publish the comment.
DCMD refuses to believe that Mrs Angry was simply too lazy to read the many public documents relating to this matter which have been published in local and national newspapers (to say nothing of the esteemed Not The Barnet Times blog) for verification of the facts. The simple truth is that the transaction in question took place when Mrs Angry’s beloved Labour Party were
You cannot claim to support freedom of expression but then remove a comment that is lawful and relevant to the debate. You either believe in freedom of expression or you don’t. Now we know in which camp the fragrant Mrs Angry sits.
Update: 7th November, 2011
DCMD temporarily took down this blogpost yesterday as a gesture of goodwill to Mrs Angry so that he could consider her complaint that it was an unwarranted personal attack. Mrs Angry contends, and DCMD accepts, that she has no knowledge of the facts surrounding the Underhill sale. Without being availed of the facts, Mrs Angry’s argument is that she does not want to open herself up to legal liability in the event that someone posts a defamatory or libellous message. That is fair enough, but only to the extent of dealing with unknown persons. Perhaps unintentionally, by removing his comments, Mrs Angry was effectively saying to DCMD “I do not trust what you have written”.
The facts of the matter are publicly available, and have been for several years. That Mrs Angry exercises her right not to read these documents does not make them any less valid.
Mrs Angry believes that DCMD’s comments about Jeff Lustig are an attempt to re-open the debate about the Underhill sale. They are not, and despite him telling her so several times, she still persists in this belief. The issue is one of corporate governance.
Mr Lustig was the council’s senior legal officer in charge of the Underhill sale. It is his signature which made the contract legally binding. In the private sector, if an employee carried out a transaction which caused his employer to incur losses of hundreds of thousands of pounds - if not millions - and then suffered the ignominy of that transaction being declared unlawful, he would be summarily dismissed. Not so in Barnet. Mr Lustig was not removed from his post, as he should have been, but promoted to Head of Corporate Governance and given a salary rise.
The majority of the scandals recently exposed by Barnet’s Bloggers can be attributed to a failure of corporate governance. The Metpro scandal, for example, came about because nobody bothered to check the council’s own rules and regulations for the awarding of external contracts. When council employees see that the rules can be ignored with impunity and that the people responsible for major cock ups are never held to account, it is no wonder that standards fall.
But it is the job of the Head of Corporate Governance to ensure that standards don’t fall and that the letter of the law is applied to everything done in the Council’s name. In this regard, Mr Lustig has failed spectacularly in his statutory duties.
Rog T’s revelation of the attempt by Barnet to legally gag its opponents also has Mr Lustig’s fingerprints on, although Mrs Angry does not seem to accept this. The Council’s complaint to the Information Commissioner was based on a legal argument regarding the Data Protection Act. It is inconceivable that Mr Lustig would not have been aware of the action being taken in the Council’s name.
Mrs Angry doubts whether Mr Lustig came up with the idea of the complaint to the Information Commissioner. That may very well be so, but as the Council’s senior legal officer, he should have stopped the application in his tracks. It is his job to give advice on legal matters. Did he advise the council to drop the action? If so, why was he ignored?
Mr Lustig’s position is untenable as his credibility has been irreparably undermined. He is not employed to allow public funds to be used to pursue a vendetta against Bloggers. His job is to serve the people of Barnet and ensure that the council complies with the law. Until such time as he is removed from his position and replaced by someone who will carry out his duties without fear or favour, these scandals will continue to occur.
Mrs Angry is seemingly so determined to portray every council cock up as the work of the evil Tories that she sometimes loses sight of the bigger picture. It is to Mr Lustig’s good fortune that Mrs Angry will not countenance this debate on her blog.