Thursday, November 15, 2007

Labour Leader Cleared of Sleaze ...

KIRKLEES Council still has no clear policy on how and when councillors can use council phones despite a leading councillor being investigated by a watchdog. Labour party leader Clr Mehboob Khan was cleared of any wrong doing in an investigation – but that has been dubbed a ‘whitewash’ by his political foes.

And officials will only state that “mechanisms’’ are in place for councillors to pay money back if they have used council phones, but have refused to say exactly what these mechanisms are and how they work.

Clr Khan had made personal phone calls totalling £1,321 from council offices to Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation. Clr Khan, ward member for Greenhead, made the calls between April and October 2006 and paid the bill – along with interest – as soon as he was advised to by a Kirklees Council officer and in line with terms suggested by Kirklees Council Chief Executive Rob Vincent.

But the Board’s investigator said: “Had Clr Khan alerted officers promptly to the personal calls instead of assuming that they would approach him and ask him to pay for them, he could have avoided any suggestion that he was not intending to pay for the calls.’’

Who would suggest a thing like that ? I often clock up four-figure personal phone bills at work without telling anyone. Doesn't mean I'm not going to pay for them, does it ?

“The ethical standards officer looked at the council’s policies and protocols on phone use as well as its custom and practice and concluded there was no policy on reimbursing the costs of private calls made on council landlines. Neither was there any established custom or practice for the use of such phones. Therefore Clr Khan did not breach the council’s policy or requirements and did not fail to comply with the Code of Conduct in this respect.’’

There wasn't a policy, so he didn't breach it, see ? Nothing could be clearer than that, could it ?

Council leader Clr Robert Light, said: “I am disappointed that the Standards Board have not take a firm line on the case put to them. I don’t think in any shape or form they have exonerated Clr Khan. What he did was wrong and he shouldn’t have used council equipment like that. Questions still remain unanswered about why he should see fit to use a council phone to make international calls and why he would see the need to be in a council facility at some of the late times at night."