Yesterday, (31.3.11) Haringey Standards board hearing found Cllr Charles Adje, former chair of the Ally Pally board of trustees, has breached the councillors' standards code while Haringey attempted to flog off Ally Pally to ex-slum landlord Firoz Kassam.
Cllr Adje was Accused and Found to have concealed an important briefing note from his fellow-trustees. The briefing note written by Keith Holder former APP General Manager, stated that there was no need to further sweeten the deal with more financial inducements to Kassam's company – Firoka, to ensure the deal (May 2007). Holder who appeared at the first day of the hearing admitted to later collude in the suppression of this information out of loyalty to the political group he served for 15 years in Haringey, and to Adje himself.
Adje who represented himself in this hearing, crossed examined Holder at length, which was later described as both personal attack on him and his competence as an officer. Cllr Adje was pressed by the council's solicitors to explain why he had not disclosed the note to his fellow trustees, a move which resulted in over 2 million pounds loss of income from the Palace exhibition business, which went straight into Firoka's coffers.
Adje resigned as chair in early 2007, when it was clear that the deal to flog off the Palace, was going to be legally challenged. However, by that time the trustees had already allowed Firoka to occupy the palace without paying any rent, or wages to the palace employees, causing huge losses. They could not contemplate that their plans could unravel and only a month after the high court ruling in Oct 2007, they started considering evicting Firoka - which took few more months to accomplish.
In his defence Cllr Adje submitted “the persistent pursuit of this matter, which should have been laid to rest after the first Walklate report has the every appearance of a witch hunt”, This is an interesting but not surprising comment, given that the ‘crucial briefing note’ which formed the basis for this complaint and hearing ONLY came to light in THE SECOND Walklate report. If we did not have the second Walklate report, we wouldn’t have never uncovered the truth, or the contradicting accounts regarding the relationship and contact with Kassam given to the 2 separate Walklate investigations.
Adje’s defence continued: “I have never in my experience and when I was leader of the council when I transformed it to a –Good 3 Star performing Authority with Good Prospects for Improvement, known it to be in ‘breach’ not to share such information... It is ludicrous to infer or allege that I would compromise the impartiality of an experienced officer...”
It must have come as a great shock then, when the panel imposed a further rehabilitating sanction in the form of ‘retraining period’ under the supervision of the monitoring officer within the first 6 months upon his return to Council duties...
By persisting with this complaint, Clive Carter had forced the two key players to justify their actions, in the full glare of the public gaze, resulting in former council leader Charles Adje being suspended for four months after the five-member panel agreed he had brought the council into disrepute.
When asked by the determination panel chair: what he would consider to be an appropriate sanction? Adje said: No further sanctions should be imposed, as being found guilty is punishment enough. A view obviously not shared by his colleagues, who further suspended him from the labour group in addition to the 4 month suspension from council duties and allowances.
Council leader Claire Kober is quoted in the independent as saying: “Charles Adje has been suspended from the Haringey Labour Group. He can no longer participate in our decision-making or policy development, nor will he be eligible to attend any Haringey Labour Group meetings.”
It is unclear if such discharge from ‘work’ will be considered punishment by Adje, who during this hearing publicaly stated a number of times - he went to serve as the chair of the APP board seeking an “EASY LIFE”...
Kober also said: “I am very disappointed by Charles and his actions. His conduct fell well below the standards expected of any Councillor but he has particularly failed to meet the high expectations that the Labour Party places on its members who hold elected office.”
Although such a move is welcomed and goes some way in giving the right message in an attempt to restore public confidence, it can arguably be seen to be - too little too late, especially since questionable conduct including the complaint that lead to this hearing, was flagged out few times, even before the last election.
In guidance on appropriate sanctions, council lawyer Terence Mitchison advised the panel to consider that Adje was found to be in breach of conduct once before by the standards Board for England (case no. SBE21513.08) and he proceeded to read the case summary out loud. At the centre of case no. SBE21513.08 was yet another property set to be flogged to another developer – This was the story of the Welbourne centre.
At the time, just before the last election, there was little appetite for honest self reflection within Adje’s political group, but the attempt to cover it up failed and the story was exposed for all to read.
I would like to hope this is indeed a new chapter in Haringey council transparency and accountability, but I don’t hold my breath. Do you?