Christopher Pennell Conflict of Interest Investigation

S Sims made this Freedom of Information request to Peak District National Park Authority

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

The request was refused by Peak District National Park Authority.

Dear Peak District National Park Authority,

Following the complaint to the PDNPA by Peak and Derbyshire Vehicle User Group (PDVUG) that Christopher Pennell, chairman of the Peak District National Park Authority’s Audit, Resources and Performance Committee had failed to declare a personal interest to members, Mr Pennell has not been admonished, merely "ordered" to apologise.

This request is for an explanation of the investigatory and decision-making process specific to this case which resulted in such a minor sanction.

In particular I ask

Who are the officers (and their rank) involved in the investigation?
What was the scope of the investigation?
At what stage was Mr Pennell personally interviewed about his alleged lack of honesty.
How was the progress of the investigation reported and to whom?
How was it determined that the allegations were true?
At what stage were Members of the Authority informed of Mr Pennell's proven deception?
Why has no disciplinary action/sanction applied to Mr Pennell?
Has the PDNPA satisfied Members that the decision-making process at the meetings in May 2013 and November 2012 was not predjudiced, given Mr Pennell's failure to declare his interest?
Given that a failure to declare an interest is a serious breach of trust, has any further investigation into Mr Pennell's conduct been carried out to ensure that he has not prejudiced the work of other PDNPA Committees?

Yours faithfully,

S Sims

Customer Service, Peak District National Park Authority

1 Attachment

Tel: 01629 816200

Fax: 01629 816310

E-mail: [Peak District National Park Authority request email]

Web: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk

Minicom: 01629 816319

Aldern House . Baslow Road . Bakewell . Derbyshire
. DE45 1AE
   
SENT BY EMAIL Your ref:  

[FOI #183083 email] Our ref:   
PE\2013\ENQ\18760
NA
Date:      04 November
S Sims 2013

 

 

Dear S Sims

 

Thank you for your request for information dated 04 November 2013*. Your
request has been logged and is being dealt with under the Freedom of
Information Act 2000.

 

If we can meet your request we will send you the information within 20
working days and certainly no later than 02 December 2013. If we are
unable to release the information, in part or in its entirety, we will
contact you and explain why.

 

The Authority does not normally charge for providing information in
response to requests, however, there are some circumstances under which it
may ask for payment and this is permitted under the Act. If the Authority
decides it would be appropriate and fair to make a charge, we will advise
you in advance.

 

If you have any queries about this letter please contact me quoting the
reference number above. Further details about Freedom of Information can
be found at http://www.ico.gov.uk.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Karen Hathaway

Customer Service Team Adviser

 

 

 

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Information Requested |
|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|  |
| |
|FOI - Member Conflict of Interest Investigation |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

HATHAK

Karen Hathaway

Customer Service

Peak District National Park Authority
01629 816200
[email address]

Peak District National Park Authority, Aldern House, Baslow Road,
Bakewell, DE45 1AE t:01629 816200 f:01629 816310
[1]www.peakdistrict.gov.uk Twitter: @peakdistrict
The Peak District: where beauty, vitality and discovery meet at the heart
of the nation.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/

Sarginson Michele, Peak District National Park Authority

2 Attachments

Tel: 01629 816200

Fax: 01629 816310

E-mail: [Peak District National Park Authority request email]

Web: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk

Minicom: 01629 816319

Aldern House . Baslow Road . Bakewell .
Derbyshire . DE45 1AE
   
SENT BY EMAIL Your ref:  

[FOI #183083 email] Our ref:   
PE\2013\ENQ\18760

Date:      18^th October
2013

 

 

 

Dear S Sims

 

Thank you for your email dated 2013 requesting information* under the
Freedom of Information Act 2000 (“The Act”).

 

The Act provides a right of access to recorded information held by public
bodies.  Under the legislation you are entitled to submit a written
request for information and, except in particular circumstances, you are
entitled to receive a reply to that request. The Authority is obliged to
provide you with the information or must explain why it is being witheld.

 

The Act does not require an Authority to provide explanations, comments,
or justification or any other information unless it is already on record,
nor to enter into other correspondence. Neither does the Act require a
public authority to create records in order to reply to a request for
information.

 

As such I am unable to deal with your request within the terms of the
legislation, however if you would like to contact the Authority’s
Democratic Services Team by email at
[1][email address], they should be able to help
you further.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Michele Sarginson

Records and Information Manager

01629 816278

[2][email address]

 

+------------------------------------------------------------------------+
|Information Requested* |
|------------------------------------------------------------------------|
|  |
| |
|This request is for an explanation of the investigatory and |
|decision-making |
| |
|process specific to this case which resulted in such a minor sanction. |
| |
|  |
| |
|In particular I ask |
| |
|Who are the officers (and their rank) involved in the investigation? |
| |
|What was the scope of the investigation? |
| |
|At what stage was Mr Pennell personally interviewed about his alleged |
|lack of honesty. |
| |
|How was the progress of the investigation reported and to whom? |
| |
|How was it determined that the allegations were true? |
| |
|At what stage were Members of the Authority informed of Mr Pennell's |
|proven deception? |
| |
|Why has no disciplinary action/sanction applied to Mr Pennell? |
| |
|Has the PDNPA satisfied Members that the decision-making process at the |
|meetings in May 2013 and November 2012 was not predjudiced, given Mr |
|Pennell's failure to declare his interest? |
| |
|Given that a failure to declare an interest is a serious breach of |
|trust, has any further investigation into Mr Pennell's conduct been |
|carried out to ensure that he has not prejudiced the work of other PDNPA|
|Committees? |
| |
|  |
+------------------------------------------------------------------------+

 

Michele Sarginson
Records and Information Manager
Peak District National Park Authority
01629 816278
[email address]

Peak District National Park Authority, Aldern House, Baslow Road,
Bakewell, DE45 1AE t:01629 816200 f:01629 816310
[3]www.peakdistrict.gov.uk Twitter: @peakdistrict
The Peak District: where beauty, vitality and discovery meet at the heart
of the nation.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. mailto:[email address]
3. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/

Dear Michele Sarginson,

Thank you for your reply which has left me rather confused. Your gist seems to be that an FOI relates to "recorded" information held by an Authority and that as there is no "recorded" information related to my enquiries, you will not or cannot respond to my request.

It is a matter of public record that Christpoher Pennell failed to disclose a conflict of interest. He was subsequently instructed to apologise to the Authority following a complaint (which exposed his duplicity) by the Peak and Derbyshire Vehicle User Group.

It is also a matter of public record that the Authority, under the Localism Act 2011 adopted a Code of Conduct for members and the following appears on the Authority's website (sic);

"When the Authority has received a complaint relating to a member in accordance with the procedure below the monitoring officer will carry out an initial assessment to determine whether the allegations warrent further investigation. If this is the case the Monitoring Officer will appoint an invesitgator to look at the allegations in more detail and then makes a decision in light of the recommendations in investigators final report."

My FOI request is to seek out information relating to this matter for public record. Clearly I need to ask the "right" questions to elicit the "right" answers from you. So, in order to proceed with my FOI request, I need clarification from you at this stage.

I should be grateful therefore if you would clarify which of the following statements is correct.

1 No records exist because no records were kept of the investigation/inquiry into Christopher Pennell's undisclosed conflict of interest. For clarity, the Authority investigated in accordance with its own policy, but chose not to record anything.

2 No investigation or inquiry took place into Christopher Pennell's undisclosed conflict of interest. Again, for clarity, the Authority did not undertake any investigation even though it is obliged to under it own procedures.

I trust the foregoing is clear.

Yours sincerely,

S Sims

Dear Peak District National Park Authority,

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

I am writing to request an internal review of Peak District National Park Authority's handling of my FOI request 'Christopher Pennell Conflict of Interest Investigation'.

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

Yours faithfully,

S Sims

Sarginson Michele, Peak District National Park Authority

Dear S Sims

 

Thank you for your email dated 3^rd December requesting a review of the
FOI process.  I am happy to deal with this, however, as you contacted me
on 28^th November providing clarification following my response to your
original request, I would like to deal with this before initiating a
formal review.  This would avoid processes overlapping and would enable me
to answer the points raised in your most recent email.

 

Copies of your requests have been forwarded to the Authority’s Democratic
Services Manager for comment and I propose to provide a full response no
later than 19^th December.

 

If after receipt of my response, you remain dissatisfied, then you have a
right to appeal through the Authority’s complaints procedures by
contacting Ruth Marchington, Director of Corporate Resources , email
address: [1][email address].

 

Yours sincerely

 

Michele

 

Peak District National Park Authority, Aldern House, Baslow Road,
Bakewell, DE45 1AE t:01629 816200 f:01629 816310
[2]www.peakdistrict.gov.uk Twitter: @peakdistrict
The Peak District: where beauty, vitality and discovery meet at the heart
of the nation.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/

Sarginson Michele, Peak District National Park Authority

2 Attachments

Tel: 01629 816200

Fax: 01629 816310

E-mail: [Peak District National Park Authority request email]

Web: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk

Minicom: 01629 816319

Aldern House . Baslow Road . Bakewell .
Derbyshire . DE45 1AE
   
SENT BY EMAIL Your ref:  

[FOI #183083 email] Our ref:   
PE\2013\ENQ\18760

Date:      18th December
2013

 

 

 

Dear S Sims

 

Further to my email dated 4^th December please find below my response to
the questions you have raised.

 

It is not a matter of public record that,” [the Member] failed to disclose
a conflict of interest”. In accordance with legislation and our
publication scheme [the Member’s] entry in the Register of Interests is
published on our website and membership of ‘Friends of the Peak District’
is recorded in the register.

 

The Authority’s Monitoring Officer did receive and determine a code of
conduct complaint which alleged a failure to declare a personal interest
in items relating to TROs that were considered at four meetings of the
Audit and Resources. The Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the
Authority’s Independent Person concluded that, while there were two
occasions where the Member did not declare a personal interest at meetings
of the Committee, in accordance with the published procedure, the
complaint could be resolved without an investigation and the Member was
asked to apologise to the Authority for this oversight.

 

The same complaint also alleged that the Member had failed to declare a
personal prejudicial interest in items relating to TROs because of
membership of ‘Friends of the Peak District’. The Monitoring Officer, in
consultation with our Independent Person concluded that, in this case,
while the Member had a personal interest it was not prejudicial as the
Member was not an employee or trustee of the organisation and is not
involved in decisions relating to its management or strategic direction.
The Authority’s Standing Orders and Member Code of Conduct, which are
available on the Authority’s website and listed in its publication scheme,
only prevent participation at a meeting where a personal interest is,
according to our Code of Conduct, prejudicial. The complainant
subsequently referred the matter to The Local Government Ombudsman who
concluded that the complaint would not be investigated because there was
no indication that the Authority acted with fault and it was unlikely an
investigation would find fault. In coming to this conclusion the
investigator confirmed that the Authority was correct in deciding that the
interest was not prejudicial.

                 
                                                                                                                                                              

Investigations into complaints against a Member of the Authority are
carried out in accordance with the Authority’s arrangements for dealing
with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011. These arrangements
and supporting procedures are public documents published on the
Authority’s website and are accessible from the page quoted in your email.
These documents clearly state how complaints are handled, who is involved
in determining complaints, the timescales for dealing with them and ways
in which they can be resolved.

 

With regard to the two statements at the end of your mail - neither
statement is correct. The Authority does have records relating to the
complaints including a record of the meeting with the independent person
and the decision notices which provide reasons for the decision. To
release such records would be in contravention of principle 1 of the Data
Protection Act (1998) which states that “personal data shall be processed
fairly and lawfully” and principle 6 which states that “personal data
shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under
the Act”. 

 

The Authority publishes a quarterly performance report which includes
details of complaints in ‘anonymised’ format.  The last report to the
Audit Performance and Resource Committee was on 8^th November 2013 and a
summary of all complaints, including those relating to Members is set out
in Appendix 2b of the Quarter 2 Corporate Performance and Risk Management
Report. This report does refer to the complaint mentioned in your request
and I have attached a copy for your information.

 

With reference to a comment made in your initial request regarding the
impact of the complaints on the decision making process – even if the
Monitoring Officer had come to a different conclusion, Section 28(4) of
the Localism Act 2011 states that “…a decision is not invalidated just
because something that occurred in the process of making the decision
involved a failure to comply with the code.”  When proposals relating to
TROs have been considered at meetings of the Audit, Resources and
Performance Committee the discussion and subsequent decisions have taken
place at an open meeting with a number of members of the public in
attendance.

 

The Authority does not intend to review any decision of the Committee as
it is satisfied that the decisions have been made in an open and
transparent way and Committee Members approached the issues with an open
mind considering all relevant arguments and evidence put to them before
reaching a final decision.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Michele Sarginson

Records and Information Manager

01629 816278

[1][email address]

 

 

Michele Sarginson
Records and Information Manager
Peak District National Park Authority
01629 816278
[email address]

Peak District National Park Authority, Aldern House, Baslow Road,
Bakewell, DE45 1AE t:01629 816200 f:01629 816310
[2]www.peakdistrict.gov.uk Twitter: @peakdistrict
The Peak District: where beauty, vitality and discovery meet at the heart
of the nation.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/

Sarginson Michele, Peak District National Park Authority

3 Attachments

Dear S Sims

Apologies, I had neglected to attached the report!

Regards

Michele

--------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tel: 01629 816200

Fax: 01629 816310

E-mail: [Peak District National Park Authority request email]

Web: www.peakdistrict.gov.uk

Minicom: 01629 816319

Aldern House . Baslow Road . Bakewell .
Derbyshire . DE45 1AE
   
SENT BY EMAIL Your ref:  

[FOI #183083 email] Our ref:   
PE\2013\ENQ\18760

Date:      18th December
2013

 

 

 

Dear S Sims

 

Further to my email dated 4^th December please find below my response to
the questions you have raised.

 

It is not a matter of public record that,” [the Member] failed to disclose
a conflict of interest”. In accordance with legislation and our
publication scheme [the Member’s] entry in the Register of Interests is
published on our website and membership of ‘Friends of the Peak District’
is recorded in the register.

 

The Authority’s Monitoring Officer did receive and determine a code of
conduct complaint which alleged a failure to declare a personal interest
in items relating to TROs that were considered at four meetings of the
Audit and Resources. The Monitoring Officer, in consultation with the
Authority’s Independent Person concluded that, while there were two
occasions where the Member did not declare a personal interest at meetings
of the Committee, in accordance with the published procedure, the
complaint could be resolved without an investigation and the Member was
asked to apologise to the Authority for this oversight.

 

The same complaint also alleged that the Member had failed to declare a
personal prejudicial interest in items relating to TROs because of
membership of ‘Friends of the Peak District’. The Monitoring Officer, in
consultation with our Independent Person concluded that, in this case,
while the Member had a personal interest it was not prejudicial as the
Member was not an employee or trustee of the organisation and is not
involved in decisions relating to its management or strategic direction.
The Authority’s Standing Orders and Member Code of Conduct, which are
available on the Authority’s website and listed in its publication scheme,
only prevent participation at a meeting where a personal interest is,
according to our Code of Conduct, prejudicial. The complainant
subsequently referred the matter to The Local Government Ombudsman who
concluded that the complaint would not be investigated because there was
no indication that the Authority acted with fault and it was unlikely an
investigation would find fault. In coming to this conclusion the
investigator confirmed that the Authority was correct in deciding that the
interest was not prejudicial.

                 
                                                                                                                                                              

Investigations into complaints against a Member of the Authority are
carried out in accordance with the Authority’s arrangements for dealing
with standards allegations under the Localism Act 2011. These arrangements
and supporting procedures are public documents published on the
Authority’s website and are accessible from the page quoted in your email.
These documents clearly state how complaints are handled, who is involved
in determining complaints, the timescales for dealing with them and ways
in which they can be resolved.

 

With regard to the two statements at the end of your mail - neither
statement is correct. The Authority does have records relating to the
complaints including a record of the meeting with the independent person
and the decision notices which provide reasons for the decision. To
release such records would be in contravention of principle 1 of the Data
Protection Act (1998) which states that “personal data shall be processed
fairly and lawfully” and principle 6 which states that “personal data
shall be processed in accordance with the rights of data subjects under
the Act”. 

 

The Authority publishes a quarterly performance report which includes
details of complaints in ‘anonymised’ format.  The last report to the
Audit Performance and Resource Committee was on 8^th November 2013 and a
summary of all complaints, including those relating to Members is set out
in Appendix 2b of the Quarter 2 Corporate Performance and Risk Management
Report. This report does refer to the complaint mentioned in your request
and I have attached a copy for your information.

 

With reference to a comment made in your initial request regarding the
impact of the complaints on the decision making process – even if the
Monitoring Officer had come to a different conclusion, Section 28(4) of
the Localism Act 2011 states that “…a decision is not invalidated just
because something that occurred in the process of making the decision
involved a failure to comply with the code.”  When proposals relating to
TROs have been considered at meetings of the Audit, Resources and
Performance Committee the discussion and subsequent decisions have taken
place at an open meeting with a number of members of the public in
attendance.

 

The Authority does not intend to review any decision of the Committee as
it is satisfied that the decisions have been made in an open and
transparent way and Committee Members approached the issues with an open
mind considering all relevant arguments and evidence put to them before
reaching a final decision.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

Michele Sarginson

Records and Information Manager

01629 816278

[1][email address]

 

 

Michele Sarginson
Records and Information Manager
Peak District National Park Authority
01629 816278
[email address]

Peak District National Park Authority, Aldern House, Baslow Road,
Bakewell, DE45 1AE t:01629 816200 f:01629 816310
[2]www.peakdistrict.gov.uk Twitter: @peakdistrict
The Peak District: where beauty, vitality and discovery meet at the heart
of the nation.

show quoted sections

References

Visible links
1. mailto:[email address]
2. http://www.peakdistrict.gov.uk/