back to article Freedom of Information coverup clerk stung for £2k after deleting council audio recording

A town clerk in the English county of Shropshire has been the subject of the first ever successful Freedom of Information prosecution after lying to a member of the public who made an FoI request. Nicola Young, clerk of Shropshire's Whitchurch Town Council, was fined £400, ordered to pay legal costs of £1,493 and a victim …

  1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    Million dollar question

    Did the clerk delete the recording because they couldn't be arsed to deal with the FOI or to protect themselves or someone else due to what the recording might have revealed?

    1. 2+2=5 Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Million dollar question

      > Did the clerk delete the recording because they couldn't be arsed to deal with the FOI or to protect themselves or someone else due to what the recording might have revealed?

      Two buttons to click on in the recording management software: [DELETE] [RETRIEVE]

      Oops, butter fingers.

    2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Million dollar question

      Accidental deletion - look how well that worked out for Richard Nixon.

  2. myhandler

    I bet someone else put her up to it and the spineless toe rag agreed. Clearly not fit to hold that position and must now resign.

    1. Steven Raith

      Unlikely. This is local government we're talking about. Even a criminal prosecution with respect to your competence to do the job is likely not enough to get shot of them.

      Steven "Spent too much time in Local Govt" R.

      1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory

        Yeah, I can second that. The stories I could tell... were I not afraid my ex employers might decide to sue me.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        You do know that you're not allowed to give yourself a nickname, right? I'm sure I'll be downvoted for finding it an irritating habit but I just couldn't keep my (worthless) opinion to myself any longer. Sorry.

        Anonymous "Richard Roeper" Coward

  3. Cardinal

    Re: Million dollar question

    Presumably must be the latter. Doesn't take much arse-ishness to attach a sound file to an email after all.

    In the interests of open and transparent government, why shouldn't they routinely post recordings of council meetings on their website anyway - then no need for an FOI request?

    Or is that too much of an arsk as well?

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Meh

      Re: Million dollar question

      A lot of councils actually do. I do know of at least one council that used to live stream them and then load the video up on their website - and this was back in the early 2000s, so you just know they were using RealPlayer...

      1. Cardinal

        Re: Million dollar question

        @Zippy

        Ok - then why shouldn't they BE FORCED TO routinely post recordings of council meetings on their website.

        Sound files would keep the size down, but video would be more fun so viewers could play 'spot the brown envelope(s)'.

      2. VonDutch

        Re: Million dollar question

        With all the talk of novel viruses, border closures, fights in supermarkets, economic downturns... life is bad enough right now without bringing up RealPlayer.

        1. cynic56
          Paris Hilton

          Re: Million dollar question

          You are wrong, wrong wrong! Real player was brilliant and unforgettable.

          Ok. I admit that my only encounter with a Real Player video was the Kylie Minogue Agent Provocateur underwear ad.

          Memorable.

          1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: Million dollar question

            Oh...My....Word!!!! You mean This?

            No thanks, I don't need my coat. I'm off for a cold shower.

    2. UncleZoot

      Re: Million dollar question

      In the US state of Texas, local governments make you jump through hoops to get public information by extorting you for hundreds or thousands of dollars for public information. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRMrW-1_Qqc

      The other game local government uses is calling a recess of the meeting to meet in executive session, then once they finish scheming, go back out infront of the cameras to act as if nothing went on. They claim deliberative process shields them from public disclosure.

      Look @ the YouTube channel for Justin Pulliam, a person well versed in freedom of information requests.

  4. Robin Bradshaw
    Devil

    There is muck to be raked here

    I just googled this case and found an article on the whitchurch heralds website* that quoted the judge as saying:

    "All parties need to take a long, hard look at themselves. I suspect if the residents of Whitchurch saw those emails, they would be deeply shocked."

    Which seems to be in reference to:

    "[Young] found herself the subject of criticism from some councillors, which affected her health," said Mr Hanratty. "Including 250 emails from two councillors in a short period of time.

    As they seem to have been evidence in court can you FOI request the emails so the residents of Whitchurch, and us in the peanut gallery, can read them and be deeply shocked?

    *https://www.whitchurchherald.co.uk/news/18312091.whitchurch-town-council-branded-toxic-clerk-fined-deleting-meeting-recording/

    1. spireite

      Re: There is muck to be raked here

      Well the locals can buy some vegetable seeds to grow in it then, if the stock levels of my supermarkets are anything to go by!

    2. Youngone

      Re: There is muck to be raked here

      The Whitchurch Herald is an absolute treasure.

      I am disappointed to learn, for example, that Whitchurch Alport have only won 2 of their last 19 matches, including going down 4 - 2 away to Irlam.

      I can't see them beating Runcorn Town next up.

    3. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: There is muck to be raked here

      I think you're right. Sounds like the judge had a fair amount of sympathy for her.

      Also looks like she might have a claim against the council if they try take things further as she was not trained to handle FOI requests.

      Also the foi request was made by a Councilor! This stinks to high heaven.

  5. Pascal Monett Silver badge
    Coat

    Oh, great

    Some third-rate Council in a tiny burg has been found guilty and prosecuted to the final extent. Yay for Justice.

    Now, how about those FOI requests that land in London and never get an answer ?

    Just a question.

    1. Cardinal

      Re: Oh, great

      I believe FOI is shorthand for 'AFOID answering'.

  6. STOP_FORTH Silver badge
    Happy

    Irrelevant comment here

    I know nothing about this case or local councils generally.

    Just came here to say that the Llangollen canal is delightful and passes over the stunning Pontcysyllte aqueduct.

  7. Claverhouse Silver badge
    Happy

    Keep Quiet, Little People

    Our beloved neo-liberal Prime Minister Tony Blair found nothing he had ever done in power caused him so much regret as passing the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

    "You idiot. You naive, foolish, irresponsible nincompoop," Blair wrote of himself in his autobiography A Journey last year, recalling his adoption of the law, which took effect in 2005. "There is really no description of stupidity, no matter how vivid, that is adequate. I quake at the imbecility of it."

    https://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/28/freedom_information_data_protection_act_handy_guide/

    1. BigE

      No man is an Island

      The whole point of the FOI was to release information that you already knew they have. Irrespective of what Sir Humphrey would say about the minutes of the meeting (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jNKjShmHw7s), if a majority of people remember a meeting vastly different from the actual minutes then there is a prima facie case for corruption of some kind. All the FOI has done is criminalise the cover up.

    2. Teiwaz Silver badge

      Re: Keep Quiet, Little People

      'neo-liberal'?

      He was 'new' labour wasn't he?

      Where a red tie was actually sort of blue.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Keep Quiet, Little People

        Teiwaz, I think that was 'neo-liberal' by mindset rather than political party - the sort of "liberal" who believes everyone's opinion is equally valid (as long as it agrees with theirs), that everybody is equal (unless you disagree with them) and nobody should have any more rights or privileges than anyone else (as long as you go along with everything they say).

        AC because I work with several people who are exactly the sort of "neo-liberal" I describe here.

  8. Citizen99

    Junior employee takes the rap for a 'toxic' organisation. The 'suits' seemingly in the clear. Job done.

  9. low_resolution_foxxes

    Blimey, this is in my old neck of the woods, amusingly enough I even used to vaguely know the defending lawyer (as a bloke down the pub to say hello to).

    It seems remarkably difficult to find the exact nature of the complaint, but from a vague distance it seems she was explicitly guilty of what she was accused of.

    It seems that during a "confidential" part of a committee meeting, one councillor made "serious" allegations against the town clerk (the defendant), with one of the quirks being that the town clerk was in charge of making the meeting minutes. She apparently wrote minutes that conveniently did not record the allegations against her - the 2nd complaint being that she "whitewashed" the complaints made against her.

    I have no idea what was alleged (and probably don't care). It seems the original source of the complaint asked why the records were missing, followed up with an FOI request. She claimed she had deleted all the files and was under no obligation to store them. At which point the IT department pointed out she had deleted the files several days later after the FOI request, at which point she had essentially committed perjury in a FOI request related to her own performance and alleged complaints about herself.

    Sod knows what it was (it led to resignations among the team). One of the suggestions at the time was that she successfully raised her own town clerk "budget" from £1000 to £2000 without council approval...? Which is quite coincidental cause they fined her £2000.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NHS FOI

    It would be nice f they put a hold on FOI requests to the NHS at the moment as I am sure myself and fellow NHS managers have better things to be doing.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020