Tuesday, June 05, 2007

INFORMATION COMMISSIONER FINDS CITY COUNCIL GUILTY OF BREAKING LAW OVER CONFIDENTIAL EMAILS

PRESS RELEASE: CITY COUNCIL GUILTY OF BREAKING LAW OVER EMAILS – OFFICIAL 4/06/07

LIVERPOOL city council broke the law by publishing confidential emails between its former Leader and communications chief.
The Information Commissioner has found the city council guilty of breaking the ‘First Principle’ of the Data Protection Act, 1998 - that the publication of any personal information should be ‘fair and lawful.’
The Commissioner upholds an official complaint by Matt Finnegan, the city council’s former Assistant Executive Director (Media), who had accused the council of acting unlawfully in first publicising the confidential emails two years ago.
In the emails, the then Council Leader Mike Storey, instructed the council’s media chief to publicise his opposition to a £240,000 pension deal for the council’s chief executive Sir David Henshaw, who had announced his early retirement.
A report containing the emails was sent to all 90 city councillors in May 2005, after the Liverpool Daily Post reported that the chief executive was demanding Councillor Storey’s resignation.

The draft report, drawn up by Executive Director Phil Halsall - the council’s Section 151 Officer - also contained details of Mr Finnegan’s mobile phone calls and text messages, as well as the emails.
Mr Finnegan submitted his complaint to the Information Commissioner immediately after quitting his job last September, accusing the council of waging a vendetta against him for obeying the instructions of the council’s democratically-elected Leader.
Mr Finnegan’s teenage daughter, who was also identified in Mr Halsall’s report, also submitted a separate formal complaint.
The Information Commissioner has now upheld both complaints, ruling that the council acted illegally.
In his adjudication to Mr Finnegan, the Commissioner says: “It is clear that the decision was taken to distribute the full contents of the Draft Report somewhat prematurely, in response to ‘media pressure’, which we believe was unfair to you.
“It is therefore our view that Liverpool City Council has breached the First Principle of the Data Protection Act 1998 in this instance. Whilst it is acknowledged that this is perhaps an extraordinary case in terms of the nature of events which occurred, and the high profile of the individuals who were involved, the disclosure, having been circulated at such a premature time, was still unfair.”
The Commissioner warns that publication by the council of the report may also have compromised any further disciplinary proceedings it brought.
He adds: “Whilst it is unlikely that this specific situation would arise again in the future, we shall be pointing out to the Council that they do have a general duty to ensure that the processing of all personal data complies with the provisions contained within the Data Protection Act 1998.
“In light of this, the Council may wish to review the actions which were taken in this case and consider whether it may be appropriate to implement further measures in order to prevent a similar event from occurring again in the future.
“The Commissioner would hope that once this contravention of the Act has been brought to the attention of the Council, steps will be taken to rectify the situation.”
Mr Finnegan is now calling for the council to take legal action against Sir David Henshaw, currently chair of the North West Strategic Health Authority, for contravening the Data Protection Act and to suspend Mr Halsall, who is still employed by the council, pending a full investigation into his actions.
Mr Finnegan said: “These two men broke the law. There is no argument about that. At the time, Mr Henshaw even issued an astonishing public statement welcoming the illegal report and praising his own integrity! The council should now show that it is cleaning up its act by taking appropriate action against both men and any others who were party to this decision. Proven law-breakers such as these should not be in charge of any public service for a moment longer.”
Mr Finnegan added: “My complaint to the Information Commissioner was the first of 38 grievances which I had first submitted to the council, for breaching their own internal rules and procedures. The current chief executive, Colin Hilton dismissed them out of hand.
“I am pleased however, that the Information Commissioner takes a very different view from Mr Hilton and has not allowed such illegal actions by very senior employees to be covered up.
“I am also grateful to the Daily Post for making public the astonishing events in Liverpool at the time. In my view, there was an attempted coup by certain officers against the democratically elected Leader, using emails which had been illegally obtained.
“This is a small, if belated, victory for democracy and is a vindication of my actions in obeying the Leader of the Council. I never broke the law – Mr Henshaw and Mr Halsall did. The council will never again be able to get away with treating employees like me with such flagrant contempt for both the law and their own internal rules and procedures.
“If the council had any decency it would now issue an abject public apology to both me and my daughter for acting illegally. But we won’t be holding our breath.
“It has been a sorry and shameful little episode linked directly to the huge pension claim of Mr Henshaw. That began a train of events which have caused significant harm to the public image of the city of Liverpool and have damaged people’s confidence in public servants and public service. I hope the council now deeply regrets breaking the law of the land.”

20 comments:

tom said...

good on you.

Anonymous said...

hear, hear. just shows the bastards can't get away with whatever they like. I am glad mattie stood up to them and fought a good fight against the evil cabal. they won't try that again with anyone else...

Tori Blare said...

Well done to Matt Finnegan, persistence pays off, however this has turned Matts hair grey!

Although this is another rap on the knuckles for the council, it is the 3rd time they have been done for the Data Protection and Freedom of information acts, they just carry on regardless and continue to break the law, the council senior officials like Hasitall and Coverup don't give a flying fig about this, the only thing they are bothered about is the fact they got caught again and will have to tighten up their belts to keep the confidential bullying out of the limelight!
As Matt's daughter sadly fond out the council do not care who they upset in their quest to rule the City, the Cabal don't take prisoners they just destroy everything you ever built up for yourself and stand on your head when you fall to the floor, if you don't do as you are told then out you go and take a public humiliation and a few personal digs at your family while your at it.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND

Ratepayer said...

Hooray and Well done to Mat Finnegan (and daughter) we need people like him back in the Council and the current evil regime out as soon as possible

Andrea Makinson said...

I hope Matt can now claim for substantial damages against the law breaker Henshaw, and that MPs will seek the immediate removal from his NHS post of one now shown to have acted illegaly.

Gwladys Street said...

Delighted to hear about this judgement- the initial leaking of the emails was a low, disgraceful trick.

Mike Storey said...

He's a better man than me.

Henshaw said...

and me

Dr mcElhinney said...

oh no he's not

Cinderella said...

oh yes he is!

Anonymous said...

Tori is right, the council will ignore this and they won't apologise because they are not big enough to do so and accept that they did anything wrong. Which tells you a lot about what kind of organisation they are. The mealy-mouthed words in the Post today are a shameful refusal to acknowledge their fault and their failure. It needs a root and branch reform now.

intellectualsarefun said...

I bought the ECHO tonight, for the first time in ages. No surprise that there was no coverage of the council again breaking the law. But what I was slightly surprised to see was the new Joe Riley column - the man the council loves to hate. Matt Finnegan must be delighted to see such pages nowadays because he would never have allowed the Echo to get away with that kind of stuff when he was in charge of the council's news operation. If I remember his style correctly, he would have given such an almighty bollocking to those officials responsible, that they would never have dared fuck-up ever again. I daresay even Bradley and Hilton would have got it in the neck too. He didn't seem particularly bothered or scared about the previous chief exec or leader during his time with the council. But more fundamentally, what also struck me about Riley's full page demolition job was that a) it was very similar in style and tone to this blog - taking the piss out of the council in an uncompromising and very direct way (but not as funny, obviously) and b) that it hadtherefore probably been prompted by the success of this blog and the others and c) that the Echo must have felt very threatened and scared of being successfully painted as a newspaper whose independence and journalism could be so easily bought by its Capital of Culture sponsorship deal, that it decided to go out of its way and turn Joe Riley into some kind of latter day Cassandra (but not as good, obviously, ed) let loose on the council every week. For reasons most of your readers will, I think, well understand, I think Mr Finnegan has, besides his welcome Data Protection success, therefore probably scored another, quieter, but infinitely more damaging victory, over both the city council and the Liverpool Echo. At the same time. Which is some kind of achievement. I am 100 per cent sure, of course, that Tony Parrish must be very proud indeed.

Tori Blare said...

To Intellectualsarefun,
SHAME ON YOU BUYING THE ECHO!

SHAME ON YOU

MILDRED said...

Absolutely brilliant!

This was the beginning of the war that ensued within the City Council and the reason for the LIVERPOOLEVILCABAL blog starting, this also created a blogging family to let the world know what has gone on in this dirty council.
This is a very significant victory, for Matt and his family in a personal way, but also it shows that the City acted illegally at the time, when Henshaw and his Cabal were ruling the roost.
Henshaw has a high position in the NHS and has been proven to have acted illegally!
He must be removed for this, it reflects badly upon the Government and one would hope our MPs will now act upon this?
Phil Halsall was the person who presented this investigation document to all the councillors and made sure it was leaked to other officers within Liverpool City Council, then he should now be investigated, he has been proven to have acted illegally in a position he is still employed to do!
If the City councillors do not demand this then they are as corrupt as the Cabal!

Geoffrey Crayon said...

I'd like to thank the information commissioner for giving us some of the best birthday presents a city could wish for.

And well done Mattie. A personal victory but also a victory for culture over barbarism.

Anonymous said...

hasitall should be suspended now. he broke the law and has exposed the council to significant risk. there needs to be a full investigation

ange said...

is there a single councillor who has the guts to demand action against hasitall? i doubt it!

Anonymous said...

We hear Paul Clein is manouevring....

Anonymous said...

Paul Clein is manouevring what exactly ?

I expect that Hasitall is sick with worry about an imminent attack from the Wet Nellys

Mrs Clein said...

Paul Clein is a slimey gob shite the only place he should manouever to is out of his seat and let a real politician take his place.
The only people he helps in Liverpool is himself and all his Clein family.
Look at the political history of Liverpool, his name crops up everywhere, not in a nice way either.

How the council use Ripa to spy on you....

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