The former leader of Norfolk County Council will face accusations at a standards hearing that he asked his political assistant to lie about who instructed him to send an email which appeared to undermine a fellow Conservative leader, it has emerged.

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And the standards committee will hear that an independent investigation has also concluded that Derrick Murphy, who stepped down as county council leader this month to focus on the standards hearing, gave answers which were “misleading, evasive and lacked candour” when he was quizzed by the county council’s chief executive over the email.

The revelations emerged after the agenda for the standards committee meeting, where fellow councillors will decide whether Mr Murphy breached the councillor code of conduct, was published.

The complaints surround an email which was sent by Kevin Vaughan, the political assistant to the Conservative group at County Hall, to BBC Radio Norfolk, in April last year.

It was sent two days before Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council. was due to appear on Nick Conrad’s show to discuss the King’s Lynn incinerator, which has long been a source of tension between West Norfolk and Norfolk County Council.

It suggested it might “be pertinent information” for the broadcaster to know that the borough council leader was facing “a serious leadership challenge” and that his authority had failed to procure alternative technology to the plant.

When the email came to light it sparked an independent investigation at County Hall, which concluded in the summer that Mr Vaughan had acted on the wishes of leader Mr Murphy. Mr Vaughan later left the council, with a pay-off.

Following the independent report, seven people complained about Mr Murphy’s behaviour and the county council asked Jenni Richards, QC, an expert in local government, to investigate.

Her full report has not been made public, but a summary which has concludes that:

• It was Mr Murphy’s idea to provide the information about the leadership challenge to the BBC and he instructed Mr Vaughan to do so.

• Mr Murphy saw the email (probably only briefly) before it was sent.

• The contents of the email were largely factually correct and in fact already known by Mr Conrad.

• The email came to light after a Freedom of Information Request by Mr Daubney and, on April 24, Kevin Vaughan was questioned about it by his line manager.

• In a conversation on April 24, Mr Murphy told Mr Vaughan to say it was twin hatter councillors (those who sit on the county and West Norfolk council), rather than Mr Murphy, who had asked him to provide the information to the BBC. Ms Richards said by asking Mr Vaughan to say something which Mr Murphy knew was not true, his conduct was “unfair and unreasonable and he failed to treat Mr Vaughan with respect”.

• In conversations between Mr Murphy and County Hall chief executive David White on April 27 and May 23 about the email, Mr Murphy’s responses “lacked candour and were misleading and evasive”. Ms Richards says, again, that was “unfair and unreasonable” conduct towards Mr Vaughan and failed to treat him with respect.

Ms Richards reported: “For a member to act in this way could not but result in a reasonable person considering that both the office and the authority were brought into disrepute” - with the code of conduct breached both by Mr Murphy asking Mr Vaughan to lie and in relation to his conversations with the chief executive.

However, she also concluded Mr Murphy had not failed to treat Mr Daubney or Mr Conrad with respect. She added a lack of clarity at the council, over the extent to which a political assistant should deal with the media, meant Mr Murphy had not failed to treat Mr Vaughan with respect with specific relation to requesting him to send that email.

While the sending if the email was “ill-advised”, she said, that particular action was not so serious as to amount to a code of conduct breach and nor did it bring Mr Murphy’s office or authority into disrepute.

She also said Mr Murphy could not be held responsible for Mr Vaughan’s suspension, for the length of the internal disciplinary process or for the fact he later quit.

Mr Murphy, who has previously revealed he intends to call Mr Vaughan as a witness, has always said he believes he will be exonerated by the standards committee and hopes to return as council leader.

The hearing will take place at County Hall on February 1. The council’s monitoring officer, head of law Victoria McNeill, will recommend that the full report could be considered behind closed doors, but it will be up to the committee to decide.

The committee, made up of seven county councillors, including five Conservatives, could recommend to the council that Mr Murphy be removed from his position if they agree he breached the code of conduct and brought his office into disrepute.

Other options include censuring him, ordering training in ethics or standards or preventing him from having access to council premises.

Last night, Mr Murphy said: “From my point of view, I am looking forward to February 1 and I have always said I would like the standards committee meeting to be held in public. I would like the report to be made a public document.”

36 comments

  • @Dickens.It's called public scrutiny to establish democratic accountability and don't forget this is not some tiny pressure group.There are 65,000 people behind them.Also,if Cllr Murphy has no objection to the hearing being made public exactly what is the problem?What are they trying to hide?

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • What do you think? A wrap on the knuckles and abit of training in ethics and standards? Whatever! The issue is now with and about the Standards Committee and its integrity. Anybody offering odds on DM being blackballed...??!!

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Any shred of credibility the anti incinerator activists had left seems to have vanished when they drove Derrick Murphy out of his job through their incessant trouble making which has left the county of Norfolk without its elected leader. Having lost the moral ground they now face an uphill struggle at a complex planning Public Inquiry. This is a highly specialised quasi judicial event which requires a particular talent for constructed argument delivered with an in depth knowledge of legal minutia in order to have even the slightest chance of winning. It is not a place for amateur activists and is a complete waste of time for officials and also a waste of local tax payers money. Council tax will have to increase to pay for the expensive actions of these self styled ‘campaigners‘. More time wasted on this 'Standards' hearing.

    Report this comment

    Dickens

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • For all those interested in the matter please look up under Agenda 1.02.2013. The report from the QC can be viewed by clicking on the second blue text. http:www.norfolk.gov.ukCouncil_and_democracyCommitteesindex.htm

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • What do you think? A wrap on the knuckles and abit of training in ethics and standards? Whatever! The issue is now with and about the Standards Committee and its integrity. Anybody offering odds on DM being blackballed...??!!

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • The county council are throwing money at problems with the savings made from hundreds of job losses,job and pension cuts,closure of youth services,loss of Educational Maintenance Allowance,threats to the Silver rooms,numerous town,district and parish councils,24 hour transport for the blind,cuts to disabled accompaniers' transport,but not their local government pension entitlement or their members' allowances in their Twinhatterdoms.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Dickens, you sound a bit bitter and twisted DM,NCC and the cronies are being shown for what they really are. Perhaps you should read up on alternative technologies like everyone else has?

    Report this comment

    d, west lynn

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • This is very interesting information about procuring alternative technology! Responding to this KL West Norfolk Borough has come up with the goods and signed a deal with a Chester and Southampton based company. Knowing KL west Norfolk Borough council was serious about procurement to recycle waste in desperation NCC signed up with up Cory Wheelabrator as fast as a dose of salts to sabotage while negotiations were in progress. Now reading the whole article does not inspire confidence and the incinerator should be shelved for many reasons. Like myself how many people phoned or emailed our county councillors for help to explain why NCC are dealing with an unsavoury incinerator waste company CW that has a long history of fraud and polluting. Truth is some of our county councillors were aware if they stepped out of line their leader has influence on their future and benefits that go with the job will be withdrawn. The alleged harassment by less than a handful of councillors, no reports to the police shows this was a cry for help or harassment by their superior or superiors in county hall. It is bizarre that Bill Borrett has been allowed to stand as temporary leader when he is involved with the incinerator fiasco as incinerator is the reason for the infighting within the Tory party! Knowing how devious NCC are, I wonder have they stage managed Derrick Murphy’s standards hearing to coincide with the incinerator public inquiry to have maximum publicity when he has been found innocent on all charges? Influencing proceedings

    Report this comment

    Alan Allan

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • This is not a hearing to decide whether Murphy is innocent or guilty. That was established in the QC's investigations. If this was a proper Court procedure then what is coming up would be the sentencing hearing. Poor old scared Dickens seems to be unable to take this on board, but I gather from other remarks and his posts elsewhere that he is one of the Tory Councillors who have wrecked this county and therefore somewhat frightened he is going to take a five mile walk off a one mile piercomet May. Goodbye and take all your mates with you.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • This is stacking up quite nicely - we have Kevin Vaughan, no longer the innocent party but a willing accomplice who Murphy is using for his defence, being paid taxpayer’s money to leave NCC’s employment. We have Chief Exec David White who Murphy gave evasive and misleading replies to and was not open and honest, yet White, instead of making his own complaint or having Murphy hauled over the coals, is himself being paid taxpayer’s money to leave NCC’s employment. The twin hatter mentioned in the summary, a well known West Norfolk turncoat is being allowed to sit on the Standards Committee unopposed by Fifi McNeill who is running the show again, and would have been heavily involved in the cover up last year, so it’s no wonder she is recommending the meeting is in private and the report remains private, to prevent the massive scale of this cover up being exposed. Looking now like there may be a much larger gaggle than just Murphy who have brought the NCC into disrepute. That smell? The heavily soiled underkegs of all those involved in the previous cover up knowing it’s only a matter of time before the lid is blown off this whole sorry shower.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • I for one, have absolutely no faith in this standards committee and won't be surprised to see Murphy get away with this.

    Report this comment

    John L Norton

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Once behind closed doors, will Murphy still say he wants the meeting and the full report to be in public? Very unlikely. How can Cllr Langwade, one of the twin hatters mentioned, possibly be allowed to sit on the Standards Committee? Wasn't he put there by Murphy after the complaints went in? Fifi McNeill is doing a sterling job on behalf of NCC, wanting the report to remain confidential, no doubt the dirty washing to be kept tidily in the NCC laundry bag, but shouldn't she be acting impartially? What is the point of paying so much taxpayer's money on a top QC to carry out the investigation, if it is then decided by NCC? Too much covered up from the last investigation by Fifi McNeill already, time for her to go.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • As reported in this organ, David Cameron said of the inquiry: “I think it’s very important that the planning system does listen to local people and proper processes are followed.” So there Dickens. Listening is one thing, but one can't always give way to populism when there are contrary overriding interests. Take for example Leveson. That had to be seen to be done, and a lot of people were listened to, and it cost a lot of money, but that didn't mean anything had to be done about it. Now don't anyone start preuming the EU referendum is similarly destined...

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • On July 19th 2012 Derrick Murphy said to the EDP: "There is no excuse for Kevin sending an email like that, ......" There is now no doubt that the reason 'Kevin' sent the e-mail was because he was told to by Derrick Murphy to do so, and then told to lie about who told him to send it. As writer about major political figures, Derrick Murphy should know that it was not the break-in into Watergate that brought down Nixon, it was the cover-up and the lies and half-truths. Time to go Derrick - fall on your sword before you feel the knives in your back.

    Report this comment

    jpm@edp24

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • It is difficult to find this very recent story. Too many unsupportive comments perhaps.

    Report this comment

    mrsmurphy

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • Damn it all, Piggles! What are the yokles playing at? Have they learned nothing from BJ's example - at the first whiff of scandal drag out the FOI response indefinitely. I mean they could have stalled the whole thing by claiming everyone had forgotten the name of the officer involved, or some intruder chap's dog had eaten the file, but instead it has been allowed to gather momentum. Very disappointed!

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • A storm in a rea cup!! obviously someone feels it is fine to li e, mislead and evade but those who dare to complain are to be abused. I imagine that person may be a councillor, or council employee, as they seem to know county hall and its staff inside out, they also have a completely warped sense of right and wrong.

    Report this comment

    Wymondham boy

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • What a storm in a rea cup. This anti incinerator mob have caused a lot of trouble.

    Report this comment

    Dickens

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Maybe that's it! Has to be in secret because some of the committee members are having trouble memorising their lines.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • What concerns me greatly is this; why has it taken the efforts of seven members of the public to secure a high-level investigation into the role Derrick Murphy in the Kevingate affair? Surely, as long ago as last May – when the outcome of the earlier investigation into Kevin Vaughan’s role was known – the NCC Chief Executive should himself have commissioned an investigation into the part that Derrick Murphy played. Failing that, one or more opposition members could have lodged their own conduct complaints. (Clearly no Conservative members were likely to do that.) But none of this happened. Was the whole of County Hall just turning a blind eye? There really needs to be a change of attitude among all of the members and officers..

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • "Lie" surely not. !!!!!!!!!

    Report this comment

    Sandra Osborn

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Due to lack of help and information from some of our County Councillors has caused stress and anxiety as the public have had to search for information. When they searched the net they found NCC had picked a company to treat our waste that has a long history of fraud and pollution. This news confirmed the public should be very concerned about Cory Wheelabrator and our county council for choosing a company with a record of law breaking. Today Palm Paper has said they will be building their 80 metre high chimney to burn inert waste as they do not to be involved with Cory Wheelabrator. This makes Cory Wheelabrators information in the planning application redundant and the planning inspector will have to scrutinise extra emissions from Palm Paper and CW have no customers for energy from waste.

    Report this comment

    Alan Allan

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • What is the basis for McNeill's recommendation? Concerning the 'pay-off' Mr Vaughan left with, a payment is usually made when buying something. Hope that doesn't mean he has been bought-off as well as paid-off.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • The man should be dismissed everyone knows the man should be didmidded, but due to the putridness of the county council you somehow doubt whether this will happen.

    Report this comment

    Catton Man

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • The ability and willingness to lie and mislead would appear to be a condition of employment at County Hall. Is it possible therefore, to believe that the so called "standards committee" will do other than look after one of their own? The main concerns of the upper echelons at County Hall appears to be the pursuance of self interests and agendas over the best interests and wishes of the people of Norfolk. This is typified by the desire to force an Incinerator on the population of Kings Lynn and by the purchase, without a detailed and published business plan, of RAF Coltishall. If you cannot understand the rationale behind these and some other obscure decisions, It may be possible to draw your own conclusions with reference to a report by the National Fraud Authority who found that procurement fraud in UK local government had reached £885 million. Fraud in central government and the NHS reached £1.5 billion.

    Report this comment

    mrsmurphy

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Oh dear Dickens - you really haven't been paying attention have you? The complainants are complaining about Murphy's treatment of an employee and lies and this has nothing whatsoever to do with incineration. That association appears to be yours and yours alone!!

    Report this comment

    Sandy.L

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Oh dear D.ickens - are you reduced to copying and pasting your rants on any website that will let you these days? I suspect that if you ask your so-called 'Anti Incinerator Activists' if they are members of KLWIN of the Farmers Campaign they will confirm that they are not so that's another myth shot down. As for the current situation with the Standards Committee, I'm wondering if you are one of the members who will be there wringing your hands over the plight of poor Derrick?? Talking of vast expense to the council tax payer, isn't it a pity that an external QC had to be brought in, given that we are all currently paying through the nose for the useless people in nplaw anyway?

    Report this comment

    User Removed

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Has anyone noticed that if you mention Di.ck..ens you will be moderated! this man has seen the full report from what he said prior to the publication of the summary on the website therefore he is either a member of the committee, an employee of NCC or perhaps even Cllr Mur phy himself. The EDP are happy to allow him to spout his abuse but won't let others speak to him directly, all very strange.

    Report this comment

    Wymondham boy

    Saturday, January 26, 2013

  • There are 2 substitute Councillors on duty at the hearing. How much experience of standards hearings will they have had, under the new or old system? Will the twin hatters be allowed to speak, and when will the result of the hearing be published?

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • The county tax payers must hope that after this latest 'Inquiry' a line will be drawn under this affair and that the ’anti incinerator’ activists will desist in costing local people a small fortune in higher council taxes. This small group have cost the county a huge amount in terms of not only money but the time of Council Officers, Councillors, Government Agencies and Mps in a systematic time wasting campaign that has no legal legs whatsoever. What it has demonstrated clearly is that a handful of determined people are able to completely disrupt democratic process and ruin the reputations of elected representatives as and when they please. This type of tactic and action must never be allowed to be repeated. Those in public office that support this rubbish beware - next time it will be you.

    Report this comment

    Dickens

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • What else has our county council been up to over the years? It does not matter if it was the man in the moon that demanded action over Derrick Murphy’s behaviour. NCC must be seen they are doing the job correctly and sweeping any allegation under the carpet leaves them vulnerable and open to scrutiny. Reading Alan Alan’s comments about Cory Wheelabrators record of breaking the law makes me believe NCC has a lot to answer by not divulging this information to the public as part of the procurement. How did NCC ever get involved with Cory Wheelabrator when there is many serious counts of polluting and fraud and millions of $s in fines.

    Report this comment

    Emma Miller

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • D.ickens, you sound very much like you have read the full report - interesting that.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Friday, January 25, 2013

  • This high level summary is rather emphatic isn't it? It says that DM 'could' be considered to have brought his office and the authority into disrepute (well, according to any 'reasonable' person), and he failed to treat Vaughn with respect by asking him to lie. He has 'lacked candour and was misleading and evasive'. Is this the sort of behaviour becoming of an elected Leader of a County Council? It is now up to the Standards Committee to show their colours and decide the fate of DM. I'm assuming the 7 members are reasonable people! Whatever their conclusions, the efficacy and integrity of the Standards Committee is now firmly in the spotlight and I suspect the conclusion they reach will have a bearing on how the electorate perceives that Committee and the Council as a whole.

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • This should not be decided behind closed doors, in fact, there are no closed doors at County Hall, especially not the offices of Ms. O'Neill. I have just posted the reference to the agenda, bnut it is yet to appear.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • The independent investigation would have been better after the May elections as Derrick Murphy might not get re-elected at Freebridge. Very unlikely to get voted in at South Norfolk saving the ratepayers a fortune. The reason to hold the investigation now is he will be found innocent and sent off packing with a gold platted pension and a bung as compensation package. Another stage managed NCC fiasco.

    Report this comment

    tonybromley1951

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

  • Any shred of credibility the anti incinerator activists had left seems to have vanished when they drove Derrick Murphy out of his job through their incessant trouble making which has left the county of Norfolk without its elected leader. Having lost the moral ground they now face an uphill struggle at a complex planning Public Inquiry. This is a highly specialised quasi judicial event which requires a particular talent for constructed argument delivered with an in depth knowledge of legal minutia in order to have even the slightest chance of winning. It is not a place for amateur activists and is a complete waste of time for officials and also a waste of local tax payers money. Council tax will have to increase to pay for the expensive actions of these self styled ‘campaigners‘. More time wasted on this 'Standards' hearing.

    Report this comment

    Dickens

    Thursday, January 24, 2013

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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