|Muhammed Butt - just a few questions to answer
Brent councillors have been informed that the independent investigation into issues involved in the death of Cllr Tayo Oladapo will be undertaken by Richard Penn, a former local authority chief executive. He will conduct an investigation into the Council's processes regarding the matter as well as the conduct of Brent Council leader Muhammed Butt which has been the subject of a Members' Code of Conduct complaint.
The two inquiries will overlap but the latter will be considered by the Standards Committee. Cllr James Allie's recent appointment as Chair of that Committee was the subject of controversy in the light of a possible referral of Butt to the Standards Committee over the Cllr Oladapo affair. LINK
Sandra Kabir, Chief Whip, named in the appointment letter as someone who should be spoken to, is now vice chair of the Standards Committee. As Chief Whip she was involved in the move against Labour maverick Cllr John Duffy. Cllr Krupa Sheth, another committee member, is a close associate of Cllr Butt.
Carolyn Downs, Brent Council Chief Executive Officer told Brent councillors:
An independent investigator has been appointed to examine processes and the conduct of a councillor at Brent Council following the sad death of former Councillor Tayo Oladapo.
Richard Penn, a former local authority Chief Executive of two major metropolitan authorities with 35 years of public sector experience, is expected to start his investigations next week. Mr Penn has led a number of high profile examinations of local government, the health service, the police service and as Commissioner for Standards at the National Assembly for Wales.
Former Councillor Oladapo died at the Royal Free Hospital on 29 January 2016 following a long illness. However, Councillor Oladapo’s death was not confirmed to the council until 10 March 2016 and the death was not formally registered by his family until May.
Mr Penn’s investigation into the council process is expected to last around three weeks and it is intended that any recommendations from his report will be considered by Full Council in July.
The investigation concerning the councillor is expected to last around five weeks and will be reported to the Council’s Standards Committee.
Full terms of reference for the investigations were sent to Mr Penn in the following letter:
Appointment to conduct investigations into Council processes and the conduct of an individual CouncillorI am writing to confirm that you have been appointed by the Council to conduct two separate but closely related investigations following the sad death of former Councillor Tayo Oladapo who was a member of the Council’s Labour Group.Former Councillor Oladapo died at the Royal Free Hospital in the Borough of Brent on 29 January 2016 following a long illness.For a long period of time prior to his death, former Councillor Oladapo was unable to attend any meetings of the Council and was therefore at risk of automatic disqualification. According to the Local Government Act 1972, if a member of a local authority fails throughout a period of 6 consecutive months from the date of his last attendance to attend any meeting of the authority then, subject to certain exceptions, he ceases to be a member of the authority unless the failure was due to some reason approved by the authority before the expiry of that period.Former Councillor Oladapo was elected in May 2010 and last attended a Council meeting on 26 November 2014. Since then his absence from meetings of the Council was approved by Full Council on 2 March 2015; 20 May 2015; 7 September 2015; 18 January 2016 and 22 February 2016. Copies of the public reports considered at these meetings of Full Council are available on the Council’s website.Following enquiries made by the Council’s Chief Executive, Carolyn Downs, on 10 March 2016, the Police notified the Council that former Councillor Oladapo had died on 29 January 2016 but that his death had not been registered. A copy of Ms Downs’ statement presented to the annual meeting of Full Council on 18 May 2016 is attached hereto.In the circumstances, the Council recognises that the reporting of former Councillor Oladapo’s absence to Full Council and the approval of his absence raises issues which warrant review in the public interest. It is the Council’s objective to ensure that its processes are independently reviewed; the facts, as known and understood by the Council, and indeed the actual facts are formally reported; that any lessons are learned and that any improvements are implemented.Against that factual background, you are requested to review/investigate the following:1. The events leading up to the meeting of Full Council on 22 February 2016 concerning former Councillor Oladapo’s illness and continued absence from Council meetings;2. The information and facts known and understood by key officers and members of the Council throughout the relevant period and how this was formally reported at meetings of Full Council;3. Whether further or better information could reasonably have been obtained about former Councillor Oladapo prior to the meeting of Full Council on 22 February 2016;4. The Council’s general processes for reporting former Councillor Oladapo’s illness and continued absence from Council meetings;5. What, if anything, the Council could have done differently or better at the time;6.. What, if any, lessons the Council should take from this experience; and7.. What, if any, improvements the Council should implement.You are also requested to make any other recommendations that you consider appropriate and prepare a written report to the Chief Executive within a timescale of 2 to 3 weeks.Arising from these same circumstances, on 13 May 2016, in my capacity as Monitoring Officer, I received a Members’ Code of Conduct complaint about the conduct of Councillor Muhammed Butt. Councillor Butt is the Leader of the Council and Leader of the majority Labour Group.In broad terms, it is alleged that Councillor Butt apparently misled the Council over the death of former Councillor Oladapo. A copy of the full complaint is attached hereto and you are asked to investigate the following issues and prepare a separate standards investigation report which will be considered by the Council’s Standards Committee. You are asked to consider the contents of the email which is referenced in the complaint and address each allegation, save those which relate to the employment relationship between the then Labour Party official and the Labour party.In your standards investigation report you are asked to make findings on the following:1. Whether or not Councillor Butt was acting in an official capacity and whether the alleged conduct was capable of falling within the scope of the Members’ Code of Conduct.2. Whether or not Councillor Butt breached the requirements or obligations of the Members’ Code of Conduct. If so, specify which paragraphs of the Code you find have been breached.3. If applicable, the action that you recommend the Council should take in response to any finding of breach.I also attach a copy of the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct and associated complaints procedure which you will need to consider carefully before preparing your standards investigation report. The expected timescale for this report is 4 to 5 weeks.Inevitably, the terms of your general review will overlap with the standards investigation into the conduct of Councillor Butt and therefore your two reports are bound to contain much of the same information. As no doubt you will appreciate, however, they are intended to serve distinct purposes and will be reported accordingly.I would suggest that your enquiries should extend in total to approximately 5 working days. If, in your assessment, a greater amount of time is needed, I would ask that you contactThe opportunity to interview and make enquiries of the officers and Members you consider are relevant to your review and investigation will be given to you.It is suggested that in order to pursue the enquiries listed above you will need to interview the following officers:Carolyn Downs, Chief Executive
Fiona Alderman, Chief Legal Officer
Thomas Cattermole, Head of Executive and Member Services
Peter Goss, Democratic Services Manager
Daniel Elton, Labour Group Political AssistantI will strongly encourage any Members who you consider it necessary to interview to make themselves available. I suggest that the following may be most able to assist:Councillor Butt – Leader of the Labour Group Councillor
Sandra Kabir – Chief Whip
Councillor Thomas – then Chair of the Labour Group
Councillor McLennan – the current Deputy LeaderThe following members attended a pre-council briefing on 18th February 2016 and may be of assistance:Councillor Butt – as above
Councillor Lesley Jones – then Mayor
Councillor Kansagra – then leader of the Conservatives
Councillor Colwill – current leader of the Conservatives and then Deputy Leader.Yours sincerely,Fiona AldermanChief Legal Officer