The most senior official at Sutton Council has been accused of intimidation and bullying after instructing the borough’s lawyers to fire off a second threatening legal letter to an elected councillor in a matter of weeks.
Niall Bolger, Sutton’s chief executive, may still be smarting over his £30,000 wasted trip to the MIPIM “booze and hookers fest” and part-time developers’ conference staged in Cannes earlier this month, where he and two colleagues mixed it among the champagne and canapes while trying to flog the idea of a multi-million-pound cancer research hub, even though they already knew that their scientific partners, the Institute for Cancer Research, had pulled the plug on the charity’s financial contribution.
This week, Sutton’s legal department has issued a second warning letter to Nick Mattey, the independent councillor who represents Beddington North ward. Mattey has continued with persistent and dogged questioning, asking about who paid for Bolger’s Bollinger trip, and how sponsorship had been sought from local developers with outstanding planning interests in the borough, and from local quangos with council officials among their directors.
Bolger has form when dealing with Mattey, who has waged a valiant rear-guard action against Sutton LibDems’ relationship with incinerator operators Viridor and the building of the industrial-scale incineration plant in Beddington. In 2015, Bolger “went ballistic” in a meeting with Mattey during the CEO’s previous campaign to gag the councillor.
This time round, Bolger is not being any more subtle, though he has resorted to having threatening letters issued by the council’s shared-service legal department, which potentially could cost local Council Tax-payers several hundred pounds, at least.
A previous letter to Mattey was distributed by Bolger to a range of political figures in Sutton, including council leader Ruth Dombey and LibDem MP Tom Brake, without the recipient’s permission and in an apparent serious breach of confidentiality. But Bolger’s attempts to gag Mattey’s criticism of the CEO’s jolly to the South of France failed.
The latest letter, sent yesterday, claims that Mattey had made “statements made which imply named officers have committed offences under the Bribery Act 2011”. The letter provides no evidence to support this.
The letter states: “As a councillor you have a role in holding the political administration and the council to account. That right is not in question.
“You do however seem incapable of recognising when your statements and actions have gone well beyond a councillor holding the administration to account and are lacking in respect and courtesy towards others, particularly council officers, and are made without evidence and despite being advised that they are unfounded and incorrect.”
By “council officers”, the lawyer’s letter actually means council staff, including Bolger, who receives a publicly funded salary of £163,000 per year.
The letter went on to explain how Mattey’s council email accounts would be restricted for three months.
Mattey denies that he has done anything wrong.
Sutton’s latest legal threat enraged the leader of the Tory opposition on the council, Tim Crowley, who published the letter on social media yesterday, describing it as “an affront to democracy and shows how Sutton Council are running scared of the truth”.
Crowley tweeted: “I call publicly for Sutton Council either to put up and explain what Mattey has done, or withdraw these measures.”
Crowley also called on the council to explain who Mattey is supposed to have defamed, how and when.
“They seem to have tried and found Nick guilty without giving him a chance in front of his peers to answer the accusations,” Crowley told Inside Croydon today. “It is as though they don’t want a public trial because of what may get aired.
“This is obviously a deliberate attempt to close Mattey down and almost act as a warning to others.
“It’s an intimidating and bullying approach which can not be allowed to stand.”
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