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EXCLUSIVE: Tory refuses to be quizzed in 'waste of time' council leak inquiry

Friday 21st June 2019

A BOROUGH councillor is to refuse to be interviewed as part of an internal investigation into media leaks to Downs Mail, we have learnt this afternoon.

Liberal Democrat-led Maidstone Borough Council management is furious after details of a 2,500-5,000 house development plan in Lenham were published following a secret committee discussed it on May 22.

Now the authority’s legal bosses are arranging interviews with staff and elected members present at the closed session in order to find the “mole”.

Cllr Jonathan Purle (Bridge ward), pictured, said: “To be honest, I don’t see this is the most appropriate way for tax-payers’ money to be spent or a good use of the council’s time.

“In my view, the whole business about local planning could and should be heard in public not skulking around in closed sessions.”

A letter dated June 3 from MBC’s head of legal Patricia Narebor said an investigation will be undertaken “regarding the release of exempt information to the Downs Mail that was provided to members and discussed at the committee. 

“The article in the Downs Mail on May 24 makes reference to housing in Lenham that was discussed at the committee. The investigation will involve members of P&R, visiting members and officers.

“As such, it was in the public interest not to release the information at that stage. Confirmation was provided that the information would be released to the public at the formal consultation stage.

“My colleague …will arrange to meet you shortly to obtain a statement from you.   An investigation report will be prepared once statements have been taken from members and officers.”

Partricia Narebor told Daily Downs Mail this afternoon: “It’s an internal operational issue so I would not like to discuss it with the Downs Mail at the moment.”

A letter sent by Liberal Democrat MBC leader Cllr Martin Cox to Tory group leader John Perry today addresses the leak inquiry.

It states: "Turning now to the issue of disclosure of exempt and confidential information to the press. This has occurred several times over the last 12 months.

"Whether disclosure is by members or officers it is a breach of the Codes of Conduct, is not consistent with the seven principles of public life and is therefore clearly unacceptable.

"The impact is to erode trust and undermine confidence in the integrity of the council. Given the seriousness of disclosure of exempt information I have not sat back.

"I have made it clear that this behaviour is not acceptable and that steps need to be taken to establish the facts of what has occurred before deciding whether there is a complaint to be made or action to be taken."

When Daily Downs Mail posted the Lenham plan details online, an MBC staffer requested it be taken down. We declined on public interest grounds.




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