The conduct of Norfolk County Council’s chief executive in secretly recording his former council leader has been defended - by the leader of another Conservative council.

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John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said County Hall top officer David White had “laid down his career” to try to do what was right.

The revelation that Mr White had taped a phone conversation with former leader Derrick Murphy without his knowledge came out at a standards hearing into Mr Murphy.

That hearing was triggered after seven members of the public complained about Mr Murphy’s behaviour in relation to an email sent in April last year.

That email 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 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.

She concluded Mr Murphy should face the standards hearing, with her investigation finding he had asked Mr Vaughan to lie about who asked him to send the email and, in conversations with the council’s chief executive about the issue, Mr Murphy “gave answers that were misleading, evasive and lacked candour”.

Mr Murphy had stood down as leader to focus on the hearing. The committee cleared him of six of the seven complaints, including those which related to the conversations with Mr White.

Mr White had told the hearing he had recorded a conversation on April 27 last year and had part of it transcribed because he had feared further down the line it could be his word against Mr Murphy’s. He said Mr Murphy often spoke “in riddles”.

Mr White had told the hearing: “While others might judge that not to be in my own personal interests, I felt the interests of the authority must come first.”

Mr White said he had sought legal advice before making the recording, but, when asked at the hearing whether he would share what that advice was, he said: “It is something that I have no longer retained.”

And Mr Fuller gave his backing to Mr White, who will be taking voluntary redundancy in April after deciding he did not have the commercial skills to head up the authority as it seeks to become more commercially minded.

Mr Fuller said: “The chief executive did his statutory duty, even at the expense of his own career and salary and benefits.

“That should be recognised as one of the most honourable and selfless acts by any civil servant in recent times. David laid down his career for the benefit of Norfolk.”

Acting leader Bill Borrett has already said Mr White will not face any internal disciplinary action.

Mr Murphy was found to have breached the code of conduct by asking Mr Vaughan to claim it was twin-hatted councillors, who represent the county council and West Norfolk Council, rather than Mr Murphy, who had asked him to send the email.

He has since quit as chairman and leader of the Conservative group and he and his wife Janet have pulled out of county council elections in May.

Mr Murphy has said the hearing raised a number of “very important issues” which he is “honour bound to pursue against Norfolk County Council.”

The conduct of Norfolk County Council’s chief executive in secretly recording his former council leader has been defended - by the leader of another Conservative council.

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said County Hall top officer David White had “laid down his career” to try to do what was right.

The revelation that Mr White had taped a phone conversation with former leader Derrick Murphy without his knowledge came out at a standards hearing into Mr Murphy.

That hearing was triggered after seven members of the public complained about Mr Murphy’s behaviour in relation to an email sent in April last year.

That email 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 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.

She concluded Mr Murphy should face the standards hearing, with her investigation finding he had asked Mr Vaughan to lie about who asked him to send the email and, in conversations with the council’s chief executive about the issue, Mr Murphy “gave answers that were misleading, evasive and lacked candour”.

Mr Murphy had stood down as leader to focus on the hearing. The committee cleared him of six of the seven complaints, including those which related to the conversations with Mr White.

Mr White had told the hearing he had recorded a conversation on April 27 last year and had part of it transcribed because he had feared further down the line it could be his word against Mr Murphy’s. He said Mr Murphy often spoke “in riddles”.

Mr White had told the hearing: “While others might judge that not to be in my own personal interests, I felt the interests of the authority must come first.”

Mr White said he had sought legal advice before making the recording, but, when asked at the hearing whether he would share what that advice was, he said: “It is something that I have no longer retained.”

And Mr Fuller gave his backing to Mr White, who will be taking voluntary redundancy in April after deciding he did not have the commercial skills to head up the authority as it seeks to become more commercially minded.

Mr Fuller said: “The chief executive did his statutory duty, even at the expense of his own career and salary and benefits.

“That should be recognised as one of the most honourable and selfless acts by any civil servant in recent times. David laid down his career for the benefit of Norfolk.”

Acting leader Bill Borrett has already said Mr White will not face any internal disciplinary action.

Mr Murphy was found to have breached the code of conduct by asking Mr Vaughan to claim it was twin-hatted councillors, who represent the county council and West Norfolk Council, rather than Mr Murphy, who had asked him to send the email.

He has since quit as chairman and leader of the Conservative group and he and his wife Janet have pulled out of county council elections in May.

Mr Murphy has said the hearing raised a number of “very important issues” which he is “honour bound to pursue against Norfolk County Council.”

• Do you have a council story? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

28 comments

  • If you live in west Norfolk and you were at the polling booth this May elections who do you vote for. Catch 22 because the results of the planning inquiry will not be finalised until July and the final decision made by Eric Pickles some time after. I cannot see a problem voting Tory if you’re Tory Councillor has worked their socks off to reject the incinerator. Now that Derrick and Janet Murphy will not be standing at the next County elections will be a huge problem for the Tories. Watlington south of Kings Lynn must be a warning to the Tory Party that their stronghold is about to diminish drastically. Since Adam was a lad it has always been Tory held until Dr Mack Lib-Dems took over as Borough Councillor. The embarrassing part is Derrick Janet Murphy Shelagh Hutson and Richard Rockcliffe all voted in favour of the incinerator and lives in Watlington. If the new leader has had dealing with promoting the incinerator will be meltdown for the Tories in west Norfolk.

    Report this comment

    Alan Allan

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Ooh someone's got their beak in a knot. I think the posts here haven't even got started on what they could say about these knuckle-trailing monobrowed numbskulls.

    Report this comment

    Electra

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

  • Mr White had to do something as murphy is a nutter, I wonder how many more of his mates will turn against him. What do you think mr fuller? I think the phrase rats leaving a sinking ship comes to mind, I wonder if these councillors who send him messages of undying love will stand by him? What do you think Cllrs steward, langwade, borrett , chenery, humphry, jordon and plant to name but a few.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Saturday, February 9, 2013

  • What an extrordinary bunch of simple-minded, duplicitous creatures we have in charge and we are actually paying them! This has gone from pantomime to horror story over a period of days all starting with the total ineptitude of the Chairman of the Standards Committee Tompkinson not knowing what he is supposed to be doing (S Norfolk) Herbert not knowing what day its meant to be and what party he believes in(S Norfolk) the all swinging all dancing Solicitor Kemp who is very shortly going to be up to his eyes in muck because of his complete and utter ineptitude dealing with an issue he was incapable of understanding I suggest all sensible people move from S Norfolk Association immediately.

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • You are overlooking the underlying strategy at work. Murphy is the sacrificial offering to public opinion. White goes with the blessing of NCC and get's a few quid, and that puts a lid on the whole sorry affair. No one else, e.g. Borat, comes under the micrsoscope, case closed, and they are all free to got about their business. This mysteriously inconsistent outburst from Fuller is no different to his outbursts in support of the incinerator. That was the fashion then but this is now, and to be anyone in the world of Norfolk tories you have to keep up to stay in.

    Report this comment

    Police Commissioner ???

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Could this be the same Cllr Fuller Leader of South Norfolk District Council who sent one of a set of three absolutely identical letters to the Minister supporting Murphy in his attempts to get the incinerator through. He was so daft he didn't even think to change the wording slightly so the three not so wise monkeys didnt look completely ridiculous sending in the three letters. He was happy to do as he was told then and now he is pretending that it was nothing to do with him. The truth will out Fuller and it wont be pretty when it appears. Is this why you are acting all innocent and a friend of the people now? You were one of the people's worst enemies when you wrote that letter and not one single person in Kings Lynn has forgotten that. Wait for that letter and its exact copies to appear in election literature in South Norfolk to remind the people there why they would have to be mad to vote for your lot.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • What is really scary is that, in April, a month before the election, the NCC will not have a Chief Executive, and, as it stands at the moment, it will have an un-mandated leader. With the cabinet leaderless, and thereby in disarray, who will running NCC? Do the people of Norfolk not understand that unless action is taken now to get rid of the other dead wood in the current cabinet and appoint honest leadership to the Conservative Group, then they will not have a chance in the next election.

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Mr White had to do something as murphy is a nutter, I wonder how many more of his mates will turn against him. What do you think mr fuller? I think the phrase rats leaving a sinking ship comes to mind, I wonder if these councillors who send him messages of undying love will stand by him? What do you think Cllrs steward, langwade, borrett , chenery, humphry, jordon and plant to name but a few.

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Saturday, February 9, 2013

  • Even though snakes are sometimes cannibalistic, the phrase "nest of vipers" in this case would be used wrongly as it is simply unfair to snakes.

    Report this comment

    Peter Watson

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • I'm sure that John Fuller's views are in no way connected to fact that he and David White live in the same village or the fact that they are often seen drinking together at the local public house in that same village. Has anyone told John Fuller's cllrs that he condones Chief Executive's secretly recording elected members? Does the CEO of South Norfolk know that his leader is happy to have his phone conversations recorded and will applaud such efforts as honourable and selfless acts. Next time the Chief Executive of SNDC gets the jitters with one of Fuller's mad schemes he knows what to do - press the record button!

    Report this comment

    pig in trough

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Now we know NCC used manipulation on BBC radio Norfolk to push the incinerator through and the pro-recycling campaigners were disadvantaged. This was apparent with the stage managed planning committee meeting when Tories went in with a preconceived idea to vote in support. They had to or lose valuable financial benefits as Derrick Murphy was the leader of the nasty gang. The planning application must now be reversed because the planning authority is not trustworthy especially getting involved with a waste company with long history for fraud and pollution.

    Report this comment

    batemansusan

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • All this has happened because councillors that have been chosen by the electorate have not been doing their job. All the Tory YES Dear Leader are all fools. They have brought all this onto themselves because they let it happen. You have let Norfolk people down. Now you are fighting for the money at election time. You are all a disgrace to the hard working councillors that tried to make a difference and put Norfolk first. You should all resign. Langwade, Humphrey, Steward, Borrett. Why have a standards hearing when it does not have any standard. Roll on election day the public will not vote for you. You should all be ashamed.

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • That is Cllr. Fuller who only last month was full square and fair behind Derrick Murphy and who, together with DM, persuaded Ms Spelmann to award the PFI credits to the ill fated plan for the waste burner. Cllr. Fuller who insisted that 'Incineration was part and parcel of Norfolk waste strategy' when it clearly was never mandated or mentioned as an option. What surprise that Cllr. Fullers rag should now been flying for Cllr. Borett, the wind must have changed.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • How to shoot your former buddy in the back, without even having to mention his name. You can bet your bottom dollar that Fuller - in his SNCA guise - was completely supportive of the move to parachute th Murphy twins into Forehoe and Clavering divisions last year. he should feel just as foolish as Stebbings and Kemp.

    Report this comment

    Nemesis

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Now we know NCC used manipulation on BBC radio Norfolk to push the incinerator through and the pro-recycling campaigners were disadvantaged. This was apparent with the stage managed planning committee meeting when Tories went in with a preconceived idea to vote in support. They had to or lose valuable financial benefits as Derrick Murphy was the leader of the nasty gang. The planning application must now be reversed because the planning authority is not trustworthy especially getting involved with a waste company with long history for fraud and pollution.

    Report this comment

    batemansusan

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Has anyone warned the Turks and Caicos - he might just be on his way?

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Moderators . Since when does the truth become libellous ??

    Report this comment

    Sandra Osborn

    Monday, February 11, 2013

  • Has anyone warned the Turks and Caicos - he might just be on his way?

    Report this comment

    maryjane

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Very interesting, but hardly surprising, that no-one wants to be seen supporting Murphy.

    Report this comment

    Johnboy

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • If you live in west Norfolk and you were at the polling booth this May elections who do you vote for. Catch 22 because the results of the planning inquiry will not be finalised until July and the final decision made by Eric Pickles some time after. I cannot see a problem voting Tory if you’re Tory Councillor has worked their socks off to reject the incinerator. Now that Derrick and Janet Murphy will not be standing at the next County elections will be a huge problem for the Tories. Watlington south of Kings Lynn must be a warning to the Tory Party that their stronghold is about to diminish drastically. Since Adam was a lad it has always been Tory held until Dr Mack Lib-Dems took over as Borough Councillor. The embarrassing part is Derrick Janet Murphy Shelagh Hutson and Richard Rockcliffe all voted in favour of the incinerator and lives in Watlington. If the new leader has had dealing with promoting the incinerator will be meltdown for the Tories in west Norfolk.

    Report this comment

    Alan Allan

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • What is really scary is that, in April, a month before the election, the NCC will not have a Chief Executive, and, as it stands at the moment, it will have an un-mandated leader. With the cabinet leaderless, and thereby in disarray, who will running NCC? Do the people of Norfolk not understand that unless action is taken now to get rid of the other dead wood in the current cabinet and appoint honest leadership to the Conservative Group, then they will not have a chance in the next election.

    Report this comment

    Scooby

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Sounds very likely Police! Word on the street is that Borrett (Borat) is trying to get John Herbert reinstated as the conservative candidate in Forehoe after Herbert publicly declared his undying love and allegiance for Commisar Borrett. It's true when they say every last vote counts. Perhaps in a twisted irony, Herbert has been promised the cabinet job of waste, a second Mr Incinerator. Borrett can't escape from being the third man in the infamous Kevingate email saga. When exactly is he going to explain his role? It's alright, he can turn to Fifi McNeil for more legal advice out of Alice in Wonderland.

    Report this comment

    pig in trough

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • There seems to be a lot of petty minded name calling on here which says a lot about those that do so. No wonder the incinerator campaigners are losing ground if this is the best they can offer.

    Report this comment

    Canary Brain

    Sunday, February 10, 2013

  • this is simular to the event when gordon brown didnt realise he had his microphone on and called a woman a bigot because she voiced her concerns on immigration

    Report this comment

    milecross

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • John Fuller would push a stinking waste incinerator on West Norfolk knowing that 65.516 people said they did not want it. Conservatives have a mountain to climb. Fuller you are at the bottom. He represents his own ego he does not represent the Norfolk people. When councillors make a mockery of Democracy they don't last long. In fact it was seven members of the public that complained about Murphy. John Fuller what did you do to change things? Thats right nothing.

    Report this comment

    Jack

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • County needs a new unaffected leader and a new cabinet with no connection to who they have now. Fuller is two faced as he has been sucking up to Murphy for months. Mr White had just had a belly full, poor sod

    Report this comment

    Sweet cheeks

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • I say scooby my dear fellow, fear not for there will be much running at NCC prior to the election. Running to and fro between photo opportunities to be emblazoned across the pages of the EDP as the ruling party enters into a frenzy of last-minute voter bribing with the funny money hand-out announced today from Westminster.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Friday, February 8, 2013

  • Another turncoat tory trying to effect damage limitation by distancing himself from Murphy and sucking up to Borrat. The only way the Conservatives can recover any creditability in Norfolk is to show some leadership quality. Cancel the disasterous Incinerator project and start serving the people instead of serving themselves for a change. Another cut and paste article from the edp, the bulk of it has appeared time and time again.

    Report this comment

    mrsmurphy

    Friday, February 8, 2013

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