Monday 3 August 2015

PAY OFF FOB OFF: Christine Gilbert’s “answer” to the questions about a “pay off” by Brent to Cara Davani

Guest blog by Philip Grant
Christine Gilbert promised me a reply by today to the two questions I had first put to her on 9 July, and repeated in my open letter to her a week later. 

I said that I would share her reply with “Wembley Matters” readers, and it came in an email to me at 5.55pm today:

Dear Mr Grant, 
Thank you for your various letters and emails to the Chief Executive in relation to Cara Davani, which have been passed to me for reply.

Ms Davani, then Director of HR and Administration, left the council at the end of June 2015.  The council is grateful for the significant contribution Cara made over the last three years.
The council cannot legally disclose any details of the arrangements relating to Ms Davani’s departure.  
In relation to your separate question regarding compensation, the remedies hearing in the case of Ms Clarke has not yet determined any compensation award and, as such it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.

Yours sincerely 
Fiona Alderman
Chief Legal Officer

The heading to Ms Alderman’s email was “Recent correspondence”. I replied to it at 8.50pm today, under the heading “Re: Recent correspondence about possible "pay off" to Cara Davani, and your failure to reply to it”, as follows:-

‘Dear Ms Gilbert and Ms Alderman,

I am replying to Ms Alderman’s email to me today at 17:55, headed “Recent correspondence”. I am also writing this to Ms Gilbert, who my correspondence was addressed to, and who must accept the responsibility for answering the two questions which I raised, as Brent’s interim Chief Executive and its Head of Paid Service, and as the person who must know the answers to those questions.

The main statement in your email of 3 August is in exactly the same words as Ms Gilbert’s email to me of 8 July:
‘The council cannot legally disclose any details of the arrangements relating to Ms Davani’s departure.’
You have not explained why you believe you 'cannot legally disclose', although that is not the main point here. The original reply in these words was to an email of 30 June in which I had made a formal request for information including details of amounts and arrangements in connection with Ms Davani’s departure from Brent Council. You are now using the same reply to my email request of 9 July, repeated in my open letter to Christine Gilbert of 16 July. That request was specifically drafted so that Ms Gilbert did not have to disclose any details of the arrangements relating to Ms Davani’s departure. That request has not been replied to, and I will set it out again here:
‘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:

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.’

After I first put these questions, Ms Gilbert replied on 10 July: ‘I have passed these to Ms Fiona Alderman, Chief Legal Officer, for her consideration. She will respond to you in due course.’ I now wonder whether her instruction to Ms Alderman was not ‘please reply to these questions on my behalf’, but ‘please find an excuse for not replying to these questions, and delay responding to the email for as long as possible’. 

The whole point of this correspondence, from my point of view, has been to highlight the serious concerns which many people have expressed over rumours of a “pay off” by Brent to Cara Davani, and to seek to resolve those concerns by either getting confirmation that the rumours are unfounded, or by getting those responsible for deciding on such a “pay off” to explain their reasons for agreeing it. That is what Brent’s Constitution, and the principles of conduct in public life, expect of you as senior Council officers in delivering openness and accountability. Instead you seem determined to prevaricate, and not to resolve those serious concerns, which I know that a number of elected councillors share. 

I would ask you to read again my open letter to Christine Gilbert of 16 July 2015, and the question which I included in the letter which I had published in the “Brent & Kilburn Times”:
‘What are senior officers at Brent Council trying to hide from us, and why?’
I acknowledge that Ms Alderman did refer to my second question in her email to me today, saying: 
‘In relation to your separate question regarding compensation, the remedies hearing in the case of Ms Clarke has not yet determined any compensation award and, as such it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.’
I accept that the remedies hearing has yet been finalised, but that does not mean that the question I asked cannot be answered now. If Brent has not agreed ‘to pay any award of compensation, damages or costs made against Cara Davani personally, as a separately named respondent from Brent Council,’ then the answer to that question should be “yes”. If the Employment Tribunal, based on all the evidence that it heard and read, and the findings of fact that it made from that evidence, decides that any compensation, damages or costs should be awarded against Ms Davani personally, as distinct from the award(s) that it will decide to make against Brent Council (on the basis of its judgement of September 2014), then Brent Council should accept the Tribunal’s decision, and its Chief Executive should commit the Council to do so. 

It might be argued that Brent Council should pay all of the compensation, damages and costs awarded to Ms Clarke, as Ms Davani, though a separately named respondent in the case, was acting as an employee of Brent Council. I dealt with this point in my first email raising concerns over this matter, of 12 June 2015 to my Fryent Ward councillors and copied to the Chief Executive, explaining why, if any award were made against Ms Davani personally, Brent should not pick up the bill:
‘At first sight, this may sound vindictive, as the case relates to actions she took while Brent's Head of HR (although she held this role up to 31 March 2013 as a self-employed interim consultant) and as interim, then formally appointed, Operational Director of HR. However, it is clear from the evidence and findings of fact in the Tribunal judgement that her actions against Ms Clarke were totally contrary to the Council's HR policy and practices, and that her victimisation of Ms Clarke was done for reasons of personal spite, as a result of Ms Clarke complaining of being bullied and harassed by Ms Davani. Her actions were therefore not in the proper performance of her duties, particularly when those duties were of Brent's most senior HR officer, who should have been leading by example.’
I would only add that, in these circumstances, any payment by Brent of any awards made against Ms Davani personally would be a misuse of Council funds.

I look forward to receiving from Christine Gilbert her honest answers to the two simple “yes” or “no” questions above by the end of this week.

I am copying this email to the councillors to whom our previous correspondence on this matter was copied, and will also make it openly available, in the public interest.

Yours sincerely,
Philip Grant.’


Anonymous said...

Dear Philip

At Brent Elite Leadership we take all concerns about cronyism, evasion and corruption very seriously. Transparency and openness are core values to the Team. Squirm, squirm, wriggle, wriggle, time waste, delay and bullshit is at the heart of all that we do.
I hope this fully answers your concerns. Thank you again for your enquiry.
Best regards

Fiona Ledden pp Christine 'I'm outta here' Gilbert pp Cara Davani pp etc etc etc

Mike Hine

Anonymous said...

Oops! Forgot to say we're totally passionate about everything as well .
Fi xx (pp as above)

Anonymous said...

We put the community (oops! our interests), at the centre of everything we do.. Value for money, eh!?

Anonymous said...

Pehaps BC should send out a customer satisfaction servey..

Anonymous said...

Significant contribution .. !? Does this include alleged fraudulent use of Brent Council's Oyster cards, bringing the Council into disrepute, and findings at an an employment tribunal of racism, bullying & harassment? I would have thought a well run Council with a proficient HR and Legal Department really ought to know better.

Anonymous said...

You have to wonder whether the Leader of any other local authority would allow its Chief Executive to continue to act in such a way when asked to reply to two straightforward questions by a local resident.

Unfortunately, in this case it would be hypocritical of the Leader of Brent Council to reprimand his interim Chief Executive, given the way he has failed to reply to two questions which were publicly put to him in February 2015 - see:

By coincidence (?), one of the questions he has failed to answer is:
'Why is Cllr. Butt still “protecting” these two senior officers [Cara Davani and Christine Gilbert], when he has known about their misconduct in the Rosemarie Clarke case since at least September 2014?'

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it's particularly surprising as Christine Gilbert prides herself to be a literacy expert - one wouldn't thought she would have had a problem replying. Looks like a few of our officers and leaders have learning difficulties as they are clearly in denial.

Nan. said...

‘The council cannot legally disclose any details of the arrangements relating to Ms Davani’s departure.’

I suppose the answer to one of Philip's questions has been given by implication in the above sentence. (a) There were 'arrangements relating to Ms Davani's departure.
(b) The Davani strategic flight to safety has never been described as a simple 'resignation'.

Anonymous said...

I can't see the problem with disclosing 'details relating to Ms Davani's departure'.

When did it happen? Did she leave by the front door or the back? Staff lift or service lift? What was she wearing? Did she call a cab or take public transport using her Oystercard? Can we purchase official pictures of the event? Was there a guard of honour? Did the staff have a whip-round? What did you buy her? Were there cakes? Drinks? Were there tears? Have Civic Centre staff been offered counselling to help them deal with their loss at this difficult time?
Come on Cllr Butt, this is an event which affected all members of the community: share.

Mike Hine

Jaine Lunn said...


Anonymous said...

The amount of any payment would have to appear in the financial statement for this year, so all likely to have to wait till next May to find out. Possibly none of the senior staff responsible will still be there then which will be convenient.

Nan. said...

Good questions for an FOI request.........

Anonymous said...

Thanks for confirming this. Hope the financial statement is well published and scruitinised.

Anonymous said...

Despite a reminder to Christine Gilbert this afternoon that I was expecting her reply 'by the end of this week', I have not heard anything further from her, and so am still waiting for her answers to my two simple "yes" or "no" questions (see blog above if you don't know what these are).

Cllr. Warren copied to me an email he sent to Brent's Chief Legal Officer on Wednesday, referring to my email above of 3 August and supporting the arguments I had made. Calling for Christine Gilbert or Fiona Alderman to provide the answers to my questions, he said: 'It cannot be right to deny both Members and Brent Council tax payers such basic information.' Ms Alderman copied to me her acknowledgement, saying that she would reply to Cllr. Warren shortly, but if she has replied, I am not aware of what she has said.

I can now say for certain that there WAS an agreement between Brent Council and Cara Davani. Some WM readers have said that the continued mantra from Ms Gilbert, Ms Alderman and Cllr. Butt of: ‘The council cannot legally disclose any details of the arrangements relating to Ms Davani’s departure,’ meant that there must have been "arrangements". They were right.

A reliable source has now told me that when she left Brent in June 'both Cara Davani and the Council signed an agreement. One clause of this restricted either party from disclosing the details of the agreement.' So much for openness and transparency! Both parties had something to hide, so they both agreed to hide it.

Despite this, it is NOT the details of the agreement that my two questions are asking for, so there is no valid reason why Christine Gilbert should refuse to answer them. It seems highly likely that the agreement involved some financial benefit to Ms Davani, so that the answer to at least one of the questions must be "no". In that case, Christine Gilbert also needs to tell Brent's councillors, its staff and its residents what the justification is for the Council giving that financial benefit to Cara Davani, so that councillors in particular can satisfy themselves that this is not a misuse of Council funds.

Philip Grant.

Anonymous said...

WHAT HAPPENED NEXT? See the follow-up blog of 8 August, and comments on it,at: