Guest blog by Philip Grant. Christine Gilbert is the current Chief Executive of Brent Council who is due to leave after the summer.
Dear Ms Gilbert,
Further to our recent email correspondence, to which I have still to receive a satisfactory reply, either from you or on your behalf, I regret that I have had to resort to sending a letter to the editor of the “Brent & Kilburn Times”, which was published today, and to writing this open letter to you, which I will be copying to all elected members of Brent Council, and making available to anyone who wishes to publish it.
In case you have not seen the letter in our local newspaper, here is a copy of it:-
This is a matter of genuine public concern. You may feel that it is “none of my business”, but it is my business if money which I have contributed to through my Council Tax, and which should be used for providing local services, is being secretly paid to a former senior officer. Cara Davani left the Council at the end of June 2015, but should have resigned in September 2014 when the findings of fact in the Rosemarie Clarke Employment Tribunal case were made public. When she did not resign, it was your responsibility as interim Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service to take the appropriate action, which any other person on those facts would have seen as using the Council’s disciplinary procedures against her for the gross misconduct which the Tribunal had highlighted.
As a first step in dealing with this mess, which you have allowed to develop through trying to “sweep it under the carpet”, I believe it is reasonable to ask you again to reply, openly and honestly, to Council staff, elected councillors and publicly to Brent’s residents, to the two simple “yes” or “no” questions I put to you a week ago:
You know the answers to these questions, and I think it is unfair of you to have passed the matter to Brent’s Chief Legal Officer to respond to on your behalf (which she has not yet done).1. Can Brent Council confirm that there has not been, and that there will not be, any financial payment by the Council to Cara Davani in connection with her leaving the Council's employment as Director of HR and Administration, other than her normal salary payment up to 30 June 2015? YES or NO.2. Can Brent Council confirm that it has not agreed, and will not agree, to pay any award of compensation, damages or costs made against Cara Davani personally, as a separately named respondent from Brent Council, in any Employment Tribunal or other legal proceedings in which she and the Council are named parties? YES or NO.
As I said to you last week, if the honest answers to both of these questions is "yes", then that will be the end of the matter, and it is difficult to understand why you have delayed saying so.
If the answer to one or both of these questions is “no”, then I believe that you have a duty to disclose, particularly to elected councillors, what financial arrangements (other than her basic salary payment to 30 June 2015) have been made or agreed in Brent Council’s name for Ms Davani’s benefit, who made or agreed those arrangements, and what is considered to be the justification for them. You have tried to put off my enquiries about this matter by saying that the Council cannot ‘legally disclose’ any details, and when I hoped to raise this matter at Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday evening it was claimed (at short notice by the Head of Executive and Member Services) that it would be ‘inappropriate’ for me to raise this subject at the meeting, because of the provisions of the Data Protection Act 1998 (which “provisions” has still not been disclosed). Whatever the legal excuses, it is surely in the public interest that councillors, staff and residents can be assured that any payments were properly and fairly due.
The way that this matter has been handled by you and other senior officers gives the impression of a “cover-up”, even if the rumours of a “pay off” to Ms Davani prove to have been false. What is needed, on this and any similar issues, is transparency and accountability. I realise that you only have a short time left as Brent’s interim Chief Executive, but please act promptly to resolve this matter on a reasonable basis, so that you do not leave the borough even further in disrepute. Thank you.
Yours sincerely,Philip Grant