I am sure that Mr Patterson will conduct the internal review in an unbiased, fair, and non pre-determined way. I am sure that the fact that some, or all, of people who are involved in providing (or not providing) me with Transeuropa information, were the architects of the agreement with this company, is nothing to do with the incredible resistance I am encountering in seeing the documents
I have now taken my concerns to the Information Commissioner in the hope that he will intervene and allow the information I have requested to be released from a safe in Fortress Thanet, because what's gone on here is a public scandal of the first order which has cost £3.4 million of taxpayers money and which the people of Thanet have a right to know about.
Strangely on 11 July Thanet Council will be discussing a report on the "Probity & Reputation" of the Council. I would encourage everyone to come along the meeting for a good laugh. How can Thanet Council seriously talk about openness, honesty, probity and reputation when its most senior officers are trying to supress documents about Thanet Council's worst ever financial scandal".
Here is my e-mail to the Information Commissioner
Dear Sir/ Madam
I am writing to seek your advice in relation to what I believe to be a FOI internal review which is likely to be prejudiced and unfair.
Briefly, in my capacity as an elected local councillor of Thanet District Council I contacted The Council's Chief Executive on 3 June 2013 requesting to see documents relating to a controversial and secret financial arrangement made by very senior Council officers and political leaders with a cross-channel ferry company. This secret arrangement became public knowledge because the ferry company was placed in receivership in April owing the Council £3.4 million. The matter was, and still is, one of very great public interest.
On 7th June 2013 I received an e-mail from Mr Harvey Patterson, the Council's Corporate & Regulatory Services Manager rejecting my request as a councillor to see the information. In this e-mail Mr Patterson states that "As to your rights as an individual, I intend to treat your e-mail of 3 June as a request for information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 and have arranged for it to be dealt with accordingly".
On 27th June Mr Mark Seed, Thanet Council's Director of Operations responded to my FOI request rejecting it. Mr Seed advised my of my right to request an internal review. On 1st of July I submitted a request for an internal review. On 4th July I received an e-mail from Ms Amanda Buckingham advising me that Mr Patterson would be conducting the FOI internal review. I was astonished that a person who had previously rejected my request for information, albeit in my capacity as a Councillor, would now be charged with task of reviewing a decision to reject my FOI request for the same information! In my opinion this cannot be a fair and transparent internal review and there is an extremely high probability that Mr Patterson will be prejudiced in his review having already rejected a similar request from me.
I have e-mailed Mr Patterson today requesting that in the interests of fairness and transparency a person independent of the Council who is mutually agreeable to both parties is appointed to conduct the internal review. I would also like to request that the Information Commissioner considers waiving his requirement for Thanet Council to have gone through its independent review process before he can consider my complaint.
This is an extremely unusual and rare situation because my request for information as both a councillor and via the FOI process, involves asking the people who were directly involved in the secret arrangements with the ferry company for information which may possibly have extremely serious implications for them.
I attach copies of the e-mail exchanges and hope that you will use you good offices to ensure that my request for information is managed properly and lawfully by Thanet Council. I look forward to hearing from you.
Councillor Ian Driver
Thanet District Council