It involves two of Norfolk’s major public and political figures, but the full story behind what has become known as Kevingate remains tantalisingly out of reach.

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One thing we do know for sure is that Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy asked a publicly-funded political assistant to tip off Radio Norfolk that a fellow Conservative leader - West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney - was facing problems.

That was the finding of an independent investigator commissioned by the county council to look into the sending of that email as part of disciplinary proceedings against Kevin Vaughan - the council worker who sent it on April 18 two days before Mr Daubney was due to appear on a radio programme to talk about the King’s Lynn incinerator.

And therein lies the reason why questions remain. It was not an investigation into the behaviour of Mr Murphy; it was an internal investigation into the conduct of a county council employee. And as such, the county council says that means the report must remain confidential.

Not making it public is a source of frustration for those wanting to understand more about Mr Murphy’s involvement in the sending of that email.

Chief among the questions which remain is - could, indeed should, Mr Murphy have prevented Mr Vaughan from being investigated at all?

If he had simply admitted he had instructed him to contact Radio Norfolk to tell them Mr Daubney faced a leadership challenges and difficulties in sourcing an alternative technology to incineration, would that not have stopped the probe?

And would it not have saved the £5,800 cost of the inquiry - which is after all council taxpayers’ money?

People also want to know at what point in the investigation Mr Murphy admitted culpability.

Mr Murphy himself says it was at the earliest available opportunity but that he was in the Turks and Caicos Islands in the West Indies, on a Foreign Office assignment to mentor political staff, when the investigation started on Monday April 30.

David White, chief executive at County Hall said this week that the independent report was commissioned by the county council when the email of the political assistant Kevin Vaughan came to light following a Freedom of Information Request made on April 24.

It was on Sunday, April 29, that Mr Murphy landed on the Turks and Caicos Islands and he said: “The first I became aware of an investigation into Kevin was on Wednesday May 2, when I was in the Turks and Caicos islands.

“I texted back and was told the matter was subjudice so I could not speak to anyone. I was told to wait and that the independent investigator would have to see me.”

He said it was during the “second or third week” of the probe that he met the investigator John Anslow. He said: “I was asked ‘would I be happy to meet him’ and I said ‘yes, I’d like to help as quickly as possible’.

“For the first week I was out of the country, so it was the second or third week that I met him.

“The investigator said to me, did you discuss it with Kevin and I said yes. But it was only retrospectively that I found out he had sent an email.”

Mr Murphy insisted, once the investigation had started, he could not have stopped it by publicly stating that Mr Vaughan was acting on his instructions.

He said: “I was hamstrung, because if I made a statement, I was advised that would prejudice Kevin.”

The EDP asked the county council if its lawyers had advised Mr Murphy that the issue was subjudice. The response was a rather evasive: “In determining what information it can make publicly available in relation to employment-related matters the council must have regard to both data protection principles and the employee’s legitimate employment rights.”

The irony in all this, and one not lost on Mr Murphy, is that journalists are often called up by politicians and told things in confidence.

The key difference with this case is the use of a political assistant to do that. Political assistants occupy an unusual role in that they are paid local government officers.

While they are employed to support local political groups in their day-to-day council duties, they are not allowed to voice their political opinion in public, nor publicly canvas for a particular political party, although they are allowed to convey their political opinion and advice to the group they support.

Exactly what sanction, if any, has been taken against Mr Vaughan is not clear and the county council are not saying. The closest we get is that “appropriate action has been taken” and Mr Vaughan has not been sacked. He has reserved his right to appeal and will have to decide whether he will do within 10 working days of the investigator’s finding.

While Mr Murphy describes the experience as “a salutary lesson” he has suggested that, if he had his time again, he would still tip off the broadcaster about Mr Daubney’s difficulties.

What he would do differently, however, is that he would call up the radio station himself, rather than asking his political assistant to do so.

He points out that the leadership challenge to Mr Daubney and West Norfolk Council’s difficulties in sourcing an alternative technology to incineration were in the public domain already.

He says he merely wanted the BBC’s Nick Conrad to ask questions of Mr Daubney which Mr Murphy felt needed to be asked.

One question which the county council has now answered is how much the investigation cost. The answer is £5,832.98 of taxpayers’ money has gone into the probe.

Quite what the Conservative Party thinks of a county council leader effectively briefing against a fellow Tory leader of a second tier authority remains unclear.

Tiz Baskerville, chairman of the East of England Conservatives, said she was aware the issue had “landed on the desk” of Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) but did not know what they were being asked to do or what their response might be.

The EDP contacted CCHQ yesterday to find out what action, if any, might be taken but had not received a response by our deadline.

Mr Daubney had hoped the North West Conservative Association would alert the party at a higher level about what had occurred.

His association, of which Mr Murphy was a member until very recently, had stated it was to look into the issue.

But that seems to have been a rather cursory look. George Eve, chairman of the North West Conservative Association, said “informal discussions” had taken place among its association members about the issue.

He said: “No conclusions were reached, which is to say that no action was agreed. We merely took note of what had happened. “It is an internal employment issue at the county council and we, as a humble association, felt there was no need for us to interfere.”

He said the discussions held would be reported to the executive of the association when it meets next month.

In any case, Mr Murphy is no longer a member of that association.

His membership lapsed on Friday, July 13 and he is now a member of the South Norfolk Conservative Association, where he hopes to win the seat of Forehoe in next May’s elections.

However, the man who was deselected to make way for Mr Murphy has no intention of going quietly. Jon Herbert, the current county councillor for Forehoe, has complained about Mr Murphy to South Norfolk Conservative Association and called for them to expel him for bringing the party into disrepute.

Deputy chairman Christopher Kemp confirmed he had received two complaints and the management team would meet on August 28 to decide whether the matter should go any further.

But he added: “I think it’s highly likely, unless more comes of this, that this will probably not go any further because at the moment I don’t think there is enough material there, but we will need to see if it develops in the coming weeks.

Mr Herbert recently quit the South Norfolk Conservatives to join the Mid-Norfolk Conservative Association.

And Mr Murphy said: “No-one in my association has brought any case against me. There has been no statement at all that I have breached any Conservative Party rules.

“This is what I would call rather base gesture politics. I have complete confidence that will be thrown out.”

In the meantime, a number of corporate complaints about Mr Murphy have been sent to the county council - though it has refused to reveal how many.

A spokesman said: “All standards complaints are considered by the monitoring officer. In the interests of fairness we don’t publicise details of any complaint received until the monitoring officer determines whether or not there may be a case to answer.

“Under the new standards arrangements introduced by the Localism Act and adopted by the council in May the monitoring officer will assess any complaints that come in and determine whether to take action.

“She will make her determination publicly available, as under the previous regime. if she conducts or commissions an investigation and there is a finding that there has been a breach she will consult the independent person as to whether the matter necessitates a hearing in front of the standards committee.”

dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

26 comments

  • here we go, now all the conservative parties are sitting on their hands! It really is an insight into how weak the conservative party has become, none challenging and getting on with whats right.

    Report this comment

    Marigold

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • "........but the full story behind what has become known as Kevingate remains tantalisingly out of reach". I would have thought the answer was obvious. Sack him with no pension and no payoff until he tells the truth !.

    Report this comment

    "V"

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Why did Kevin Vaughin leave a paper trail? Surely an informal lunchtime meeting with Nick Conrad would be more normal. Incompetence in my opinion.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • 'Derrick' do the honourable thing, if you know what it is.

    Report this comment

    Cuthbert J. Twillie

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Nemesis. Derrick Murphy has now caused a lot of hostility within his party. Up to now they have tried to keep their heads down but realise the Murphy’s have lost them the next election and they will want their pound of flesh. I expect a few will spill the beans from now until May. What has infuriated many is the Murphy’s have deserted West Norfolk and will leave the ones that did his dirty work to carry the can.

    Report this comment

    Alan Allan

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • This article is full of contradictions.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • John. Districts collect Council Tax but the majority goes to County and the Police. Local Government funding is a complex mix of direct and indirect tax. However the fact remains that that the tax payer certainly pays for the County Council in one way or another. I wouldn't advocate witholding Council Tax for any reason other than gesture because you cannot win. However, you get an opportunity to make your feelings known at election time, probably the only time most politicians actually listen.

    Report this comment

    norfolkngood

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

  • .....How many people need to be poisoned before this nonsense is stopped?" ......I suppose one (proven) case would be sufficient.

    Report this comment

    Rhombus

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • The idea of Norfolk politicians of the stamp of Mr Murphy going to the Turks and Caicos Islands to do mentoring work is hilarious. This is the British Overseas Territory whose government was suspended by the UK government in 2009 because of the extraordinary level of corruption and malpractice that was going on there. Look it up on Wikipedia to find out more. One wonders what kind of values Mr Murphy will be teaching them!

    Report this comment

    Trevor Ashwin

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Good for Jon Herbert, I take my hat off to him. If all the Norfolk Conservative Associations continue to bury their heads in the sand over the behaviour of their members, not just Murphy, but the likes of Cllr's Isles, Hanton, Borrett and Jordan to name but a few, they too will open themselves up to scrutiny for allowing the Party to be brought into further disrepute. Not to mention the door for the Independents next May.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • The 65000 people who voted no to this should start to with hold council tax payments now.

    Report this comment

    Steve33

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Jon Herbert or Derrick Murphy - what a choice. Look at Mr Herbert's local government pedigree.

    Report this comment

    norfolkngood

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Good post Norfolk and Good. Levels of dioxins and furans cannot be adequately controlled in these mass burn incinerators. Also high levels of particulates will be released. The people of KL&WN will be subjected to these emissions as will the general environment. Dioxins and furans are not easily removed from the natural environment and will find their way into dairy herds and food crops.

    Report this comment

    norfolkngood

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • That was a "busman`s holiday" for Murphy then, Trevor A? Or coals to Newcastle. Perhaps he went out to learn, rather than teach..... Never too old to hone your skills.

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Did County reduce Mr Murphy's allowances while he was working for the Foreign Office in the Turks and Caicos? How much work did he do for his County Council allowance related to Norfolk and his electorate while he was away? One phone call re this matter?

    Report this comment

    bedoomed

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Steve - council tax goes to the Borough not the County, so that would be self-defeating, plus those withholding would be fined to swell the council coffers. NCC is crumbling by the day, more and more is being uncovered and their legal department can no longer go on covering up for the unacceptable actions of the members or allow David White to continue backing them all up. Murphy and his mates are doing untold damage to the Tory Party and if they don't take a very firm stand soon it will cost them all dearly.

    Report this comment

    Honest John

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

  • While the consultation for the incinerator was in force, Derrick Murphy should not have influenced the public using the media. Is this against the County Councils code of conduct? He did the same when the referendum was on but NCC said they could not comment for legal reasons it could jeopardise the poll. I wonder did he consult NCC legal department on any of these occasions, FOI.

    Report this comment

    CleanAirPlease

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Just as with this story over Cllr. Murphy's lack of manners, another, showing the rude reply's to retired Joy Franklin from Kings Lynn, by cllr. Cliff Jordan, it epitomises today's aloof out of touch behaviour that is displayed by some Cllr.s. We all can change this next time, far from hoping that a different party politician would act for our concerns, we should trust local Independent [people who come forward and who are part of the Independent Alliance, not default Conservatives who want to hide for a wee bit. Choose your own local candidates and start NOW!

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Saturday, July 28, 2012

  • Norfolkngood. It has not been an easy ride for the county councillors that support the burner. It just shows how out of touch they are with the public.

    Report this comment

    Choice

    Tuesday, July 31, 2012

  • If, as many of us suspect, Cllr Derrick Murphy did instruct Kevin to send the e-mail, is it possible that other members of the NCC Cabinet were complicit? This surely is a further question that needs to be asked.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • This is the third article half ways critical of Cllr. Murphy and we are being subjected to a show down at dawn. We are witnessing the downfall of a beligerent and power crazy Cllr. who does not heed his voters wishes, nor does he consult much on what he is planning singlehandedly. I'm also question the choice of the Foreign and Commonwealth office in sending an individual who talks down to people and who communicates most to himself. Did he proposed himself and they could not say no? one explanation. I think that Cllr. Herbert will not just be deposed, he has done valuable work for his constituents. It is only now that the Tory party is waking up to this liability, too late, the Murphy, Mackie Jordan triumvirate has done its damage, some Conservatives had enough and will take their votes were they are heard and respected.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • All 65,000 residents of KL&WN who voted against the Tory Wheelabrator Incinerator should travel to South Norfolk to campaign for Jon Herbert in an attempt to stop Murphy being elected!

    Report this comment

    Norfolk and Good

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Trevor A, perhaps he went there to learn, not teach?

    Report this comment

    Mad Brewer

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • Residents of Norfolk please note this article from Cheshire Today..... "Plans for incinerators across the country are now in disarray after it was revealed that a new state of the art incinerator at Dargavel in Dumfries has had its operations restricted by SEPA (Scottish Environmental Protection Agency) due to airborne dioxin releases at up to two and a half time the permitted levels. The Company behind this is Scotgen and they had been trying to gain another permit for a plant at Dovesdale Farm nr Stonehouse in South Lanarkshire, coincidentally the source of the first batch of waste that Weston Point in Runcorn are planning to burn. These plans for another Scottish incinerator appear to now be on hold as local residents have raised over 24,000 objections to the plan and with this latest breach SEPA are unlikely to grant a second permit. Pretty much every other incinerator plan around the country will be worried at this news as these new ‘state of the art’ plants are always touted at Planning Inquiries as being ‘perfectly safe’ and ‘operating within tolerable levels’, posing ‘little or no health risk’. Clearly this latest news shows these assertions to be nothing more than a fabrication and it should reinforce residents objections to these plants on health grounds. Incinerator firms are now well versed at playing down the health risks at Public Inquiries, backed by various other Quangos and the Government themselves who insist that the health risks are negligible at best. This news should push the health card higher up the agenda once again, and rightly so as these plants are long term health time bombs and could become the ‘asbestos scandal’ for the next generation. This latest emission issue is not the first problem for the 200,000 tonnes pa Dumfries plant. Before the plant was shut down in April last year, it had breached its emission limits over 200 times, twice because of dioxins. According to SEPA, it also had 100 “short-term exceedances” and this had prompted some 45 noise complaints. Problems began again soon after the plant was restarted late in March this year. Then on May 29 it emitted 0.25 nanograms of dioxins against a permitted limit is 0.1 nanograms. After a closure and tests it then went onto breach emissions again in June 2012 but amazingly the plant was given the go ahead to start again last week. Surely this is madness when it is only a matter of time before it breaches emissions again. How many people need to be poisoned before this nonsense is stopped?"

    Report this comment

    Norfolk and Good

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • This probe has cost the taxpayer £5,833 to date. It will cost much more if Kevin takes the matter further! If this does happen, who will be footing the bill - the taxpayer? Or can we rely on Mr. Murphy paying for his own misdemeanor? What sort of an excuse is being in the Turks and Caicos when the information came to light anyway? Mr. Murphy was fully aware of what he had done from the time he actually did it! and if he was away on NCC business, then he should have been in constant contact with his office anyway. I guess this will just be another of NCC's costly 'cover-up' operations..

    Report this comment

    Sandy.L

    Friday, July 27, 2012

  • County hall and the Tory backed county councillors have not come up with a convincing argument that Norfolk residents want an incinerator. I expect Derrick Murphy had rolled his sleeves up and took it upon himself to sort out the Norfolk bumpkins, maybe better than sheep. Because of his brash attitude he has upset many and made the conservative group a laughing stock all over Norfolk. If NCC think we are like sheep many other political parties will be rounding us up on polling day.

    Report this comment

    Choice

    Sunday, July 29, 2012

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

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