MP questions Euro Election role for ‘suspended’ Council Chief

Carmarthen East and Dinefwr Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards called for ‘Ministerial intervention’ last week as it emerged the Chief Executive of Carmarthenshire County Council – who is no longer ‘undertaking his duties’ due to a police investigation – will continue to be the Local Returning Officer for the upcoming European Election.

At the end of January the Wales Audit Office released two reports in the ‘Public Interest’ in which the Auditor considered two items of expenditure to benefit the Council Chief Executive Mark James to be ‘unlawful’.

Last week it emerged that Council Chief, Mark James, who last month left his post while Gloucestershire police investigate whether any criminal activity has taken place in relation to that expenditure, will be the official Local Returning Officer for Carmarthenshire in May’s European Election poll.

Plaid Cymru Member of Parliament Jonathan Edwards used last week’s Wales Day Debate in Westminster to question whether the Chief Executive should continue that role.  Following his contribution, the local MP went on to table a series of Written Parliamentary Questions to the Cabinet Office.

Speaking after his debate, Jonathan Edwards MP said:

“The public may well have questions about the suitability of the Chief Executive to undertake the role of Local Returning Officer while the police investigate whether any criminal activity has taken place. 

“Whilst not dismissing those concerns, for me the matter boils down to whether the Chief Executive can undertake the role logistically and maintain the integrity of a police investigation whilst not at his desk.

“Councillors have been told the Chief Executive is not to have contact with any member of staff – it is therefore impossible to see how he can conduct the election properly if that is indeed the case.

“The complete lack of leadership and the failure to formally suspend the Chief Executive in the first place – for the benefit of both the Council and Mr James himself – has left so many important questions unanswered.  It has highlighted further uncertainties about his departure, has potentially compromised the position of staff who must follow his instructions as election officer, and has the potential to undermine the integrity of a police investigation.

“It is because of these serious matters that I have requested intervention from the UK Cabinet Office which coordinates the European election.”


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