Procedure for Joint Complaint Against Council, Deputy CEO and Borough Solicitor

D.J. Doyle made this Rhyddid Gwybodaeth request to Hillingdon Borough Council

This request has been closed to new correspondence from the public body. Contact us if you think it ought be re-opened.

Gwrthodwyd y cais gan Hillingdon Borough Council.

Dear Hillingdon Borough Council,

Under the freedom of information act would you kindly supply the following information

What is the procedure for official combined complaint against the Deputy CEO, Borough Solicitor and Council Leader under the following circumstances.

For negligence and failure of duty and or failing to declare a conflict of interest in the handling a complaint to which they were the ultimate responsible subjects compounded by joint supported misleading actions with misleading statements made to a resident and registered elector's representative in relation the compliance of official legally required public notices published in the London Gazette for a period of no less than 20 years.

The negligence and misleading actions became evident after those cited made unambiguous statements in February 2017 to early March 2017 that the process and notices were fully complaint. Furthermore it is noted that the Deputy CEO's name is attached to notices with a significant change of wording in subsequent published notices that was made and has been in constant use since April 2017. This small but legally significant change was in contradiction of those previous statements in that the term "Intends to make" being no longer used and replaced with the standard use by all other local authorities of "Proposes to make" despite no recent change in legislation or directives warranting that change indicating that the previous term used was indeed erroneous and voiding said notices using that term prior to April 2017.

The fact that the majority of notices still fail to cite the relative 1984 act or appropriate acts and sections while a significant minority do compounds the lack of legitimacy of those erroneous notices as does the aforementioned action in changing the wording policy. These actions were not in the interest of the Borough, Residents and or the Electorate. I can go into further details but this makes the point and gives a good basis for the procedure to deal with such a complaint

The following has to be taken into consideration prior to response.

The LG Ombudsman only acts if there is a direct out of pocket issue to the resident or it is to do with social care. As there is no direct financial loss incurred at this stage, pursuance through the LG Ombudsman is negated at this stage.

That other local authorities have a procedure in place for complaints against the Borough Solicitor in which they are referred to a another Borough's Solicitor for action, otherwise an independent chair of the standards committee can be appointed in order to review the complaint.

Yours faithfully,

M.J. Doyle
On Behalf of D.J. Doyle

Dear Hillingdon Borough Council,

Please note that the response for this FOI is due on Friday the 2nd November. If there are problems or clarification required please revert in order to avoid any misunderstandings and possible complaint

Yours faithfully,

M J Doyle on behalf of
D.J. Doyle

Glen Egan, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear MJ Doyle,
Your emails of 2nd,3rd and 5th October 2018 have been passed to me for
reply.
It is clear from your emails that you are dissatisfied with decisions made
by the Council in relation to the making of Road Traffic Orders.
Please note that these are matters that cannot be dealt with under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000.  This Act is concerned with providing you
with copies of information and is not a mechanise for requiring the
Council to justify any action or decision that it has taken.
All I can suggest is that you seek your own independent legal advice.
Yours sincerely
Glen Egan 
Glen Egan
Office Managing Partner | London Borough of Hillingdon | Legal Services
3E/04
Tel: 01895 277602 | Fax: 01895 250784 | E-mail:
[1][email address]
Hillingdon Council routinely monitors the content of emails sent and
received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with its
policies and procedures. The contents of this message are for the
attention and use of the intended addressee only. If you are not the
intended recipient or addressee, or the person responsible for sending the
message you may not copy, forward, disclose or otherwise use it or any
part of it in any way. To do so may be unlawful. If you receive this email
by mistake please advise the sender immediately. Where opinions are
expressed they are not necessarily those of the London Borough of
Hillingdon. Service by email is not accepted unless by prior agreement.

References

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1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Hillingdon Borough Council,

FAO Glen Egan

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Hillingdon Borough Council's handling of my FOI request 'Procedure for Joint Complaint Against Council, Deputy CEO and Borough Solicitor'.

The question put to the council was

"What is the procedure for official combined complaint against the Deputy CEO, Borough Solicitor and Council Leader under the following circumstances."

The circumstances were laid out in order that the correct procedure can be rendered. It is known that there are special procedures for such events and they are not published by Hillingdon Council, therefore it is not an unreasonable request as it is information that can be dealt with under the FOIA.

Therefore to avoid complaint with the ICO I suggest that it would be in the best interest to supply details of the special complaints process forthwith.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/p...

Yours Sincerely

M. J. Doyle on behalf of
D.J. Doyle

Gadawodd D.J. Doyle anodiad ()

Regardless of the reasons for requesting the information, the data compliance officer has a duty to supply the information within the specifications of the request in isolation, in this case supply details of a special complaints procedure. The mingling of a complaint in a request is usually unacceptable unless it is pertinent to the request itself. In this case the procedure is a special one and the request should have been dealt with by democratic services, not the legal department under the control of the Borough Solicitor. Therein is the necessity to clarify in order that the legal department declares a conflict of interest, they did not.

In the case of LBH responses and actions in relation to redressing veracity issues have fallen far too short of acceptable as the requests that have been made by us have seen significant issues in this respect.

As a result of the actions of the legal department and senior political and executive officers, a formal complaint has been lodged with the ICO and it is the actions of that Legal Department which has taken addressable issues to a point of escalation and further investigation. I have yet to receive a straight an honest answer from the London Borough of Hillingdon and the fact that this has spread to FOI requests should concern every resident and particularly the electorate in the Borough

FOI ., Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Mr Doyle,

 

Please note that this has been passed on to office managing partner who
will respond within due course

 

Regards

Data Protection &
Freedom of Information Officer
Legal Services (3E 04)
London Borough of Hillingdon
Civic Centre
High Street
Uxbridge
UB8 1UW
01895 55(6923)

dangos adrannau a ddyfynnir

Glen Egan, Hillingdon Borough Council

1 Atodiad

Dear Mr Doyle
Please find attached correspondence with reference to the above
Yours sincerely
Glen Egan
Glen Egan
Office Managing Partner | London Borough of Hillingdon | Legal Services
3E/04
Tel: 01895 277602 | Fax: 01895 250784 | E-mail:
[1][email address]
Hillingdon Council routinely monitors the content of emails sent and
received via its network for the purposes of ensuring compliance with its
policies and procedures. The contents of this message are for the
attention and use of the intended addressee only. If you are not the
intended recipient or addressee, or the person responsible for sending the
message you may not copy, forward, disclose or otherwise use it or any
part of it in any way. To do so may be unlawful. If you receive this email
by mistake please advise the sender immediately. Where opinions are
expressed they are not necessarily those of the London Borough of
Hillingdon. Service by email is not accepted unless by prior agreement.

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]

Dear Mr Egan,

Without Prejudice

In relation to your responses devised to placate the ICO investigating officer and not to furnish the requests in a reasonable, expeditious and unbiased manner.

First of all I'm not entirely sure you are aware that these requests and responses on behalf of the London Borough of Hillingdon you have made are immediately published in the public domain without intervention and on public view. This is because upon reflection your responses appear to be somewhat deliberate, tenuous and moreover recklessly dismissive and prejudicial. Above all else the one that is attached to this request contains a highly offensive and intrinsically baseless accusation in order to refuse to render information requests. As you chose to address this through open channels I will respond likewise.

Formal response for the attention of the ICO investigating officer

ICO References: FS50770146, FS50803416, FS5083417, FS50803419 (LBH FOI 7060194)

The FOI act and principles require that internal review or information officer take the requests upon the merit and if the information provider has the information to hand. The information holder’s officer should not act upon any predisposition or prejudice toward the person who is making those requests or any previous dealings with the requester and above all remove any personal animosity when dealing with a request. To do so could be deemed as bestowing unusual prejudice and an abuse of position by an officer dealing with a request or internal review on behalf of a regulated information provider.

The 2 refused requests under a reason of being vexatious were for the Joint Complaint Procedure
1. FS50803416: The special complaint procedures outside the standard framework for gross misleading actions and statements by senior elected and appointed executives which the process although understood a framework exists, is not currently available to the public through the website or in fact known by democratic services or rather they may be hesitant to disclose the procedure.

Although this request is linked to a closed complaint, circumstances have change significantly since that file was closed and subsequent actions affects the response and outcome of that closed complaint. The statements and subsequent actions of the most senior officers, including the internal review officer’s direct superior, in relation to that closed complaint dealt with by that superior officer and others clearly indicate that in hindsight their previous stated position and statements in the complaint responses were grossly misleading toward a member of the electorate and resident of the borough. As such the request is reasonable and not vexatious as the internal review officer claims.

The closed complaint aside; the FOI framework allows for the disclosure of such procedures if they exist. The fact that the internal review officer is still refusing to disclose the information indicates the existence of such a procedure and the request for details of the procedure is not unreasonable, regardless of the reasons offered or assumed. The reason for withholding the information is now patently unreasonable and prejudicial, moreover it is deliberate obstruction.

The request for Change of Wording Policy relating to 1501 Notices documentation

2. FS50803417: The internal communications and meetings minutes relating to a change of policy regarding the wording of legal notices for TMOs/TROs which took place in the approximate period between February 2017 and April 2017 and subsequent to the closed complaint.

The fact that the internal review officer is refusing to furnish the request indicates that the information not only exists that it may incriminate his superior officers and the refusal appears to be an attempt to protect those who may be implicated by obstructing the release of the information requested. Even so the request for these communications and documentation is not unreasonable while the reason given for refusal is wholly unreasonable. It also has to be taken into account that the one of the officer’s roles is the Statutory Data Protection Officer and his direct superior was a subject linked to a refused request whose role is the Borough Solicitor and cited as the other appointed Data Protection Officer. It is therefore not unreasonable to construe that the internal review officer consulted directly with their superior in order leading to the obstruction of requests under a false vexation accusation and indicative of abuse of position.

In the internal review officer’s latest response they are deliberately anchoring their refusal to the original closed complaint period of January/February 2017 as if no change of circumstances and or no subsequent records had been made after the complaint was dealt with and closed and the Borough Solicitor's recommendation that we seek legal advice that was later relayed through John McDonnell. Instead in their official role as the internal review officer they have chosen the route of misleading by omission and distortion of facts and timeline based upon the status of the closed complaint prior to the changes in notice policy and relevant new documentary evidence and contradictions in the resolution of that closed complaint. The evidence to hand indicates that these meetings and communications took place after the complaint closure and prior to April 2017. The internal review officer’s argument would also rely on no information or policy changes or indeed contradictory actions to executive officers statements after the complaint closure in February 2017. If this were the case then the internal review officer would have to make a statement to that effect to the ICO. The fact is they did not.

As I have indicated in respect of these request the internal review officer is obliged to deal with each request on its individual merits and separate from any other request or requests or indeed requestor. However, the internal review officer has deliberately combined the requests in an attempt to conflate and refuse them under for the same baseless reason of being vexatious, even though other FOI requests have been rendered by the same office mentioning council officers without incident or accusations of being vexatious. It is also very important to note that without the existence of previous closed complaint the internal review officer has absolutely no foundation or indeed possible link in which to refuse. In essence the internal review officer is grasping at straws in order to obstruct. Therefore by using the closed complaint as an unjustified reason to refuse and in turn I formally and wholeheartedly object to the internal review officers refusal on the grounds of prejudicial and unreasonable refusal as well as deliberate obstruction by an information holder’s appointed internal review officer.

It has become clear that the difficulties with obstruction are being encountered when the same internal review officer dealing with these requests and they appear to have taken personal issue on the responses being questioned to the point of what can be construed as unprofessional behaviour toward a requestor by failing to deal with FOI requests in an objective and unbiased manner. The accusation of being vexatious is being made simply to avoid rendering the information requested with a minimum of explanation or indeed no evidence. The fact that any information requested may incriminate executive and or political officers of the council does not constitute the requests being vexatious as any information released may or may not incriminate an officer. An example of which is the FOI request relating to MPs expenses, under the internal review officer’s interpretation that would have been a vexatious request and refused.

In consideration of your own ongoing actions, original response and response after being contacted by the ICO, the internal review officer’s frivolous statement that the requests are vexatious in relation to the 2 requests is not only disingenuous, it is wholly unacceptable and offensive under the circumstances and I take serious issue with that accusation as it is conspicuously false as the internal review officer has misrepresented the circumstances and quoted high profile individuals in an attempt to influence a ICO investigating officer . In fact it is fundamentally a malicious accusation through a public portal on the internal review officer’s part as an employed officer acting on behalf of the London Borough of Hillingdon in order that the council not supply the information requested under the FOIA as to do so may incriminate the council and senior officers. As this was a public domain request replied with by an unsubstantiated accusation I will ask that the commissioner take action.

There is something else which is just as troubling and an indication of deliberate and desperate misleading. As I have indicated already, the internal review officer decided to bring in a message relayed by John McDonnell the MP for Hayes in that it was he alone that stipulated I should seek legal advice. Again this is deeply concerning as one it has no relevance to the legal framework in dealing with the FOI requests and furthermore that Mr McDonnell was passing the message on from the Borough Solicitor prior to the subsequent actions of senior executives and officers from April 2017. Therefore it has no relevance to the requests and the introduction of that statement is fundamentally misleading in order to add gravitas to a baseless refusal and intended to influence the ICO investigating officer. It is also doubtful that the internal review officer or any other officer of Hillingdon Council has consulted Mr McDonnell in relation to this specific refusal and use of his name in this matter. As such the London Borough of Hillingdon are misrepresenting and misquoting Mr McDonnell’s statement in an official public capacity and response and I will be requesting that the investigating officer contact Mr McDonnell‘s office for his input in relation to unsanctioned use and misappropriation of his communication to a constituent.

To summarise the internal review officer has not offered any legitimate reasons for refusing the requests and their position. The baseless accusation was designed to negate any request I make that has any link to a closed complaint dating from January/February 2017. Simply it appears that the internal review officer is deliberately obstructing genuine requests under the FOIA. It is clear that due to this action the London Borough of Hillingdon is on very unstable ground and should reconsider rendering the requests forthwith.

The reported requests complaints to the ICO will boil down to these questions in 4 areas:

1. Does the council have the information requested?
2. Was the council in a position to render the information request?
3. Should the council have supplied the information in the requests?

Taking into consideration the response of the 7th August relating to the internal review for the FOI relating to Woodhouse Close FS50770146:

4. Did the council deliberately or unintentionally make a false response or responses to the requestor?
5. Did the internal review Officer fail to properly investigate and correct the information when an internal review was requested?
6. Did the internal review officer finally respond with remedied and or requested information in accordance with the original and or internal review requests?

Taking into account the response to the Paragraph 3 request response of the 19th December 2018 FS50803417

7. Was the internal review officer’s opinion on the point of law relating to paragraph 3 a genuine mistake or was it intended to influence and mislead the investigating officer? It has to be taken into consideration that the internal review officer is the managing partner of the legal department and has been a qualified and regulated solicitor of 26 years covering the following practice areas

• Advocacy
• Education
• Human rights
• Landlord and tenant - residential
• Litigation - general
• Planning

8. If question 7 indicates misleading by intent, did the internal review officer offer a genuine pointer to the location of the information or was it a reply designed to be deliberately obstructive and unhelpful as reasonable disclosure would reveal a history of numerous legal citation mistakes?

Taking the aforementioned and the formal complaint to the ICO into consideration with the singular response to the complaint Procedure FS50803416/17:

9. Did the internal review officer carry out proper investigations upon the internal review requests?
10. Did the internal review officer offer any legitimate reason for refusal to render the information requests?
11. Did the internal review officer erroneously or deliberately conflate 2 requests into a single refusal with the intent to obstruct the release of information on either or both requests?
12. Did the internal review officer with intent anchor the requests to a complaint closed prior to information requested becoming active and or known to exist?
13. Did the Internal review officer knowingly obstruct the release of information requested or did the internal review officer conduct the reviews in an objective and impartial manner?
14. Did the internal review officer act appropriately or inappropriately toward the requests and or the requestor and or when carrying out the internal reviews and or when responding?
15. Did the internal review officer seek permission and consult John McDonnell on the use of his name and comments that the officer solely attributed to him?
16. Did the internal review officer carry out their role in knowledge that there was a direct conflict of interest?
17. Did the internal review officer act in accordance with the FOIA and principles when dealing with the request and or requestor and or internal reviews?
18. Did the internal review officer act in a manner not conducive with that role but in fact as a legal representative protecting their client interests and in direct conflict with the FOIA and principles?

The other main questions should be asked by removing any perceived assumptions or prejudices by the internal review officer:

1. Given that the requests were not addressed or sent to any person mentioned therein; were the requests and or subsequent questioning and pursuance of internal reviews vexatious or legitimate? If so on whose part and why? (It is important to note that council officers have been cited in previous requests through the same whatdotheyknow.com portal which have not been deemed as vexatious by the council)
2. Were the reasons given for the request necessary and or to be taken into consideration?
3. Have the council been ample opportunity to fulfil and or remedy request responses by the requestor prior to complaint to the ICO?
4. Could the internal review requests and ICO complaint that have arisen have been made moot by rendering the requests and or supplying accurate information either in a formal response or as a result of the internal reviews?
5. As the internal review officer has conflated the 2 requests: Were the requests in the public interest or frivolous and vexatious?
6. Was the requestor treated fairly in the same manner as other requestors with integrity and honesty or were they treated subjectively and or prejudicially?

I think that these are pertinent questions which all could have been avoided if the request were rendered without obstruction. If the information was furnished with the correct information it would not give rise to questions of integrity of the information and or the handling and objectivity of the internal reviews procedure by a singular officer. Therefore I will leave it for the Commissioner to decide.

It is with good reason that I request that ICO investigating officer add this to the complaint files relating to the obstruction of and failure to respond and supply information from the aforementioned requests. Moreover that the matter be formally pursued as it is evident that they is specific prejudice and obstruction being displayed in 4 separate requests

Yours Sincerely,

M. J Doyle on Behalf of
D.J. Doyle

Glen Egan, Hillingdon Borough Council

Dear Mr Doyle,
Thankyou for your email.
I believe that your request has been dealt with in accordance with the law
and will not be corresponding with you further on this matter.
Yours sincerely,
Glen Egan
Glen Egan
Office Managing Partner | London Borough of Hillingdon | Legal Services
3E/04
Tel: 01895 277602 | Fax: 01895 250784 | E-mail:
[1][email address]

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