23rd November 2011: Email to Celia Hart

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Dear Celia

I am writing to you about what happened at the ‘Fairness in Wrexham’ event yesterday, which you referred to as your event.

Although I understand that you were not happy about me handing out flyers at this event, I would like to point out that many groups were handing information round at lunchtime.

Although the document was headed ‘Fairness in Wrexham?’, it would have been obvious to anyone reading it that it was not an official event document.

It was not my intention to disrupt the ‘Fairness in Wrexham’ event, which is why I chose to merely hand out the flyers without comment for people to read if they so wished and draw their own conclusions.

The information contained in the flyers is true and it is in the public interest that people should know about it.

I think it was extremely unfortunate that you chose to create a scene in the main event room by:

– taking me away from a conversation I was having with Deaf friends with the words: “Genny, I want to talk to you now, over here” delivered in what I can only describe as the style of an angry headmistress. I have not been spoken to like that since I was at school and it wasn’t acceptable then.

– expressing your displeasure by standing inches away from me and jabbing your finger towards my face while delivering an angry rant. You are an equality officer. You must know that such behaviour is intimidating, confrontational and unacceptable.

– refusing to go along with my suggestion that we find a facilitator to assist so we could discuss the matter more calmly.

I regret that I raised my voice in response, but you refused to move back to an acceptable distance from me and continued to jab your finger at me and I will not be treated in such a manner.

Regarding what you actually said during this time, I noted the following comments:

– That you are not dealing with my complaint in relation to the ‘One Wrexham Charter of Belonging’ because the Council complaints officer is dealing with it.

– That the above somehow explains why you have ignored emails from me in the past.

– That I have ‘no idea’ how hard you are working on my behalf behind the scenes, how hard everyone is working on my behalf behind the scenes.

– That everyone is trying to help me and that you will continue to help me ‘even after this’.

– That it was ‘a mistake’ that I was told by Sue Bywater that you were dealing with my complaint, when it was in fact she who was dealing with it.

There is a contradiction implicit in the above. I do not understand how you can both not be dealing with my complaint AND be working so hard behind the scenes on my behalf.

However, I am more interested in your comment that I have ‘no idea’ what’s going on ‘behind the scenes’. That is hardly surprising, since no one has seen fit to tell me. I am interested in transparency and accountability and would have hoped that an equality officer might be too. A glance through the correspondence I have received (and not received) from the council over this period demonstrates that there has been a sad lack of both these qualities.

You told me yesterday that it was a mistake that I was told you were dealing with my complaint, yet none of the correspondence I received says this. If that was the case, it would have been very simple for someone to have written to me to say so and to issue a simple apology for the confusion. You’re an equality officer. Please consider this whole sorry matter from an equality perspective.

On the subject of everyone ‘trying to help me’, I would be interested to know what help is being attempted. This is not about me. It is about public confidence, accountability (again) and justice. I consider AVOW’s involvement in the One Wrexham Charter and its involvement in events like yesterday’s ‘Fairness in Wrexham’ event (as the main body publicising it) to be matters of public concern.

Given the damning findings of the tribunal which now stand as no appeal was lodged,
given what has happened (or not) at AVOW since that time,
given that AVOW took on the Plas Madoc Communities First contract AFTER it had received verbally the damning tribunal judgment about its own governance,
given that the Chief Officer who was found to have abused his position and behaved reprehensibly is still in post and at work,
given that most of the Trustees who were found to have failed in their duties, deferred all decisions to the Chief Officer and overseen a grievance procedure which the Tribunal found to be ‘from start to finish.. a sham’, including the Chair and Vice-Chair, are still in place,
given that the AVOW membership has not yet been informed by AVOW of the tribunal or its outcome,
given that the terms of reference of the internal inquiry have been withheld by AVOW and are not in the public domain,
given that the inquiry has already been going on for two months and has not indicated when it will report,
given that the main witness to the events being investigated (me) has not been contacted as part of the inquiry,
given that the panel has not confirmed that it will consider all the evidence and witness statements presented to the tribunal including the documents AVOW tried and failed to suppress,
these ARE serious matters of public concern.

AVOW has a very high public profile, acts as representative of and mentor to smaller voluntary bodies and receives a lot of public money. The public has the right to be confident that public money is being spent properly and not allocated to organisations which have very serious governance issues (like impropriety, abuse of position, fraudulent behaviour, dereliction of duty etc.). The public also has a right to be assured that bodies which have such serious governance issues do not continue to be explicitly or implicitly recommended or promoted by public authorities like WCBC.

I’ve seen enough of ‘behind the scenes’ goings on over the years to be justifiably suspicious.

What I see, and what the public sees, is an authority which appears to still be endorsing AVOW because of a complete absence of any evidence to the contrary.

This is extremely unfortunate and needs to be urgently addressed.

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