It is remarkable that the mainstream Welsh media have reported how a key player in a controversial multi-million pound land deal alleges one of the partners in the scheme does not want it to succeed for “selfish” reasons, when it is at the heart of a top-level investigation which has seen the suspension of senior executives and is the subject of a libellous internal dirty tricks campaign which only The Eye have reported.
The controversial one-time Carmarthenshire Council Chief Executive, Mark James, has attacked “keyboard warriors” in his farewell speech at the council Annual General Meeting (AGM) last week, perhaps meaning us as we have continued to reveal the disturbing truth.
Mr James also condemned the “negative media” and our journalists are happy to lay out interesting facts about him which he may also believe are not positive.
His tenure at the council has not always been welcomed.
Some have described him as a “great leader” but one former councillor had a slightly different view.
When his retirement was announced, Sian Caiach said: “(He is) rather arrogant and a control freak and vicious…”
Mr James was listed as a trustee of a headline-grabbing scheme in Kuwait that investigators are examining along with the main contentious £1.3 billion project in South West Wales, yet his role was not actually listed in the authority’s declaration of interests.
Even so Mr James generated a huge amount of publicity by stating how he believed a participant in the Swansea Bay City Deal did not want it to succeed for “selfish” and “petty” reasons.
Mr James did not name the organisation but claimed people were “going out of their way” to “make sure it didn’t happen”.
Yet the entire project is under the microscope, and five executives at one of the ‘partners’, Swansea University, including the former Vice-Chancellor (VC) Richard Davies and the Dean of his School of Management Marc Clement, have been relieved of their duties as a high-level inquiry continues.
Carmarthenshire’s flagship project within it – a proposed £225m ‘Wellness Village’ in Llanelli – has been particularly contentious following the suspension of the Swansea staff linked to it.
Neighbouring Neath Port Talbot Council has threatened to pull out of the City Deal, citing the cost of bureaucracy and issues of confidence in governance.
Despite this a scurrilous and libellous internal campaign has been conducted by someone calling him or herself ‘Your friend’ within Swansea University, who is sending anonymous gmails supporting the alarming scheme to staff at the institution as well as the Welsh First Minister.
One from a ‘Lady Righteous’ account, stated: “The incredible opportunity represented by the Kuwait project has been lost to another country”.
In another gmail, ‘Your friend’ has tendentiously asked: “Why is this witch hunt … still continuing?” and alleged that there had been “A trial by media, a kangaroo court, a selection of evidence and suspensions before interviews”.
Previous gmails have claimed that the VC had been crucified during the investigation.
The stunning crusade at the scandal-hit university also forms a worrying backdrop to our exclusive disclosure that officials there had employed a fraudster called Steve Chan who used to work on a contract at the institution’s management school, and after we had revealed how a previous Dean accused of bullying had died.
The Eye showed how Chan had even represented the university in advising an international agency on the ways to combat fraud.
Chan had been imprisoned by a court in Boston for four years and three months, and ordered to pay millions of dollars in compensation.
His jail term was followed by three years of supervised release, after he admitted one count of conspiracy to commit fraud and one count of mail fraud, he was also ordered to pay restitution of $12,596,298.
Meanwhile the extraordinary anonymous campaign at Swansea University has continued in support of a scheme under investigation which Mr James apparently wants to ‘succeed’.
One gmail from ‘Your friend’ was sent, as before, to the university’s Chair of council and staff, coming from another created address which has been used in the past, called ‘Lilith Sumerian’.
Others have also been employed including ‘The iniquities Of the selfish’ (that word again) and ‘Ivs Titia’
A senior academic called Alison Jones from an Australian university who was slated to become the new VC at Swansea, turned the job down.
An internal gmail in the astonishing campaign soon followed.
This libellous message from ‘Your friend’ said in part: “To lose one VC is unfortunate, to lose a second before she even starts must (say) something about the priorities and competence of whoever is responsible for such processes. It is time to save your university”.
A volley of internal messages from ‘Your friend’ followed the news of the appointment of Paul Boyle who is leaving his £285,000 a year job in charge of the University of Leicester to become VC at Swansea University.
These gmails were marked from a ‘Themis Titaness’ address and one came in the form of a spoof letter congratulating Professor Boyle on his appointment, but, along with the ones from the ‘Vanitas Vanitatum’ address, it had also been sent to the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.
It said: “The transformed University which you applied to lead remains there, though is suffering internally and publicly under the weight of such deceit”.
Another defamatory message, was also sent to workers, and included criticism of an identifiable individual.
It asked one-sidedly: “When will you explain that a never ending smear investigation is an appropriate use of charity funds? When will you accept the damage to the university will cost jobs?”.
A past statement to staff using the ‘Iniquities Of the selfish’ address was highly-libellous too, and the only part of this gmail we can reproduce is: “It is time you step up to your responsibilities and take control of the situation“.
But Mr James himself is also no stranger to controversy.
A blogger paying hundreds of pounds a month to settle her libel case after criticising him, was refused further details about the questionable project he was involved in.
Jacqui Thompson had demanded information about the cost of the scrapped draft ‘Joint Working Agreement’ (JWA) for the City Deal.
But she was told: “… the draft Joint Working Agreement is protected by legal professional privilege”.
Ms Thompson, from Llanwrda, has been highly critical in the past of Mr James, who was the lead Chief Executive for the scheme, leading to the libel.
She was even charged with non-violent harassment of him, but the case against her was dropped.
Mr James has been at the centre of unlawful payments as well.
The Assistant Auditor General for Wales, Anthony Barrett, has ruled that payments made to him directly instead of to a local authority pension fund were unlawful.
Mr Barrett also ruled in a public interest report that the Carmarthenshire Council had acted unlawfully by funding the libel claim Mr James won against Ms Thompson.
At The Eye our journalists hold their hands up to the charge he made at the council AGM that some in the media are ‘keyboard warriors’, but surely accusing a partner of being ‘selfish’ in a scheme under investigation is also rather ‘negative’…
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