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Why we left the Liberal Democrats (Statement Sept 8th 2010)

September 14, 2010

Statement By the former members of the Executive Committee of the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party

September 8th, 2010

Why we left the Liberal Democrats

Last year we were elected to the executive committee of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party. On our election we became deeply concerned at several potential breaches of law and parliamentary protocol.

Before our election the party was already beset with problems resulting from the behaviour of two Lib Dem parliamentary candidates: Judy Evans and Karen Gillard who may have misused the sensitive voting data of the citizens of Plymouth. This Data combined with the EARS software includes the names, addresses, telephone numbers and voting preferences of the citizens of Plymouth.

In particular, access to this data was granted by Judy Evans to an individual who was not a member of the party. Karen Gillard also kept a copy of this Plymouth Data in Cornwall. Both candidates ignored several requests by the executive for the return and proper use of the data. A chairman of the party resigned in protest at this behaviour.

Of further concern to us was the behavior and actions of several officers of the Lib Dem regional and federal party in response to the attempts by previous chairmen of the party to resolve these problems and at our subsequent attempts at resolution. In particular threats were made by regional party secretary Mr. Dave Browne to the young elected Data Officer: Max Harding in response to his request to the PPCs for them to comply with the party constitution and Data Protection Act. On learning of Mr Harding’s informing the police of this threat and the party’s potential breach of data protection legislation, Kay Friend, Chair of the Lib Dem regional local parties committee suspended Mr Harding from his party membership.

We requested an investigation by the Lib Dem regional and HQ party officers into the issues raised by the allegations made by a chairman of the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party, the respected retired policeman, Mr Steve Barton. His allegation concerned a missing sum of money from the Plymouth Liberal Democrat party bank accounts during the period 2007 to 2008. During that period a sum of money may have been embezzled from the party accounts by those responsible for the financial management of the accounts at the time.

We are uncertain as to whether or not Karen Gillard,  Steven Turner or Stephen Goldthorpe held the office of treasurer of the Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party during that period. The Electoral Commission in response to our Freedom of Information requests, do not seem to be able to provide a conclusion as to who held the post of treasurer during the 2007-2008 accounting period.

Two previous chairmen of the party, Mr Steve Barton and Mr David Jolly asked similar questions about this matter and attempted to get the Lib Dem PPCs to comply with Data Protection legislation. Both chairmen resigned after receiving emails and phonecalls from Mr. David Allworthy, Compliance Officer at Lib Dem HQ. It is disappointing that these two respected chairmen resigned and that their reputations were subsequently called into question by a Lib Dem Party “spokespman” in the local media.

At the 2009 Annual General Meeting of the Plymouth Lib Dems, Mr Jan Mortier was elected vice chairman of the party executive committee. Mr Mortier had previously worked at the Audit Commission. On his election he called for the independent audit of the Plymouth Lib Dem party accounts for the 2007-2008 period. His party membership was then suspended by the regional officers at the request of David Allworthy. Our requests to party officers: David Allworthy, Dave Browne, Kay Friend and Judith Jolly to properly investigate the party accounts and allegations of embezzlement, resulted in mass suspensions of party membership, threats of expulsion from the party for going to the police and the closure of the Plymouth party by Lib Dem regional party officers and HQ. We were also disappointed that Dr Rebecca Trimnell unconstitutionally appointed herself Chairperson of the party on the resignation of the Chairman: David Jolly.

Requests for an investigation into allegations that Colin Breed MP’s constituency party office in Liskeard and parliamentary telephone lines in that office were used by the resident PPC to run a commercial telephone canvassing business from, and which it was alleged that the PPC may have financially gained from were also ignored by the Liberal Democrat Party.

We wrote to Nick Clegg informing him of the problems in the South West regional Lib Dem party. The response we eventually received from his office implied that Nick Clegg did not want to get involved and told us to take our concerns up with the regional party.

In his statement to the Plymouth Herald newspaper on Tuesday January 19th 2010 Lib Dem party spokesman, David Allworthy, told the Herald that: “The financial issues have been the subject of a formal investigation by the regional party and the Electoral Commission, which both said there were no substantive issues…There is nothing new that hasn’t been investigated by the party and the Electoral Commission.”

This claim is untrue, as on 22 January 2010 the Electoral Commission made the following statement in a letter to us:  “The above also applies to your allegation of a missing sum of money. This was not raised at the time nor was it part of the case review conducted by the Electoral Commission. Any allegation of theft would be a matter for the Police.”

The Information Commissioner has also made a statement expressing concern at the security of the voting data held by the local Liberal Democrat Party.

After attempting every internal party avenue for investigation and resolution of these matters, and being concerned that criminal activity may have occurred within the party and been knowingly covered up by its officers, we asked the Chief Constable of Devon and Cornwall to investigate these matters and resigned our party membership.

In our opinion the citizens of the South West region may have serious cause for concern at the security of their confidential voting preference data in the hands of the Liberal Democrat Party and at the integrity of that party while the officers and candidates concerned in these issues retain their positions within that party.

Signed

Max Harding, Former Data Officer
Dominic House , Former Youth Officer
Jan Mortier, Former Vice Chairman

Former Executive Committee Members of the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party

September 8th, 2010

Further information:

Electoral Commission Letter:
http://plymouthcoverup.wordpress.com/2010/05/05/electoral-commission-says-it-was-never-informed-about-the-missing-money/

Email and statements by David Allworthy published by the Red Rag Blog:
http://www.redragonline.com/2010/05/are-lib-dem-hq-trying-to-cover-up.html

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My Resignation Email to The Liberal Democrats

May 4, 2010

From: (s) Thomas Sale
Sent: 01 May 2010 09:42
To: Membership@libdems.org.uk
Subject: Termination of membership

Dear Sir / Madam

I am informing you that I wish to terminate my membership with immediate
effect.

I am very sorry that it has come to this, however in light of the past
events and how these have been handled by the party, it is clear to me
that despite having an admirable policy, what the party believes in and
what its actions show are in contradiction. I hope one day in the future that the Liberal Democrat Party will no longer be corrupted.

 
Can you please remove my personal
details from any records you hold. Please can you confirm that this has
been done.

Regards,

Thomas Sale

Party tresurer confirms Lib Dem council candidate Stephen Goldthorpe responsible for missing accounts for 2008

May 2, 2010

From: rICHARD LAWRIE [rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk] Sent: 16 January 2010 15:23 To: (s) Thomas Sale Cc: Rebecca Trimnell; parl cand ‘Stuart Bonar’; LIBDEMMAX MAXKLIBDEM; ppc ‘Judy Evans’

Subject: RE:E.C. and acounts TO CLARIFY; in respons eto e mail re; accounts, electoral commission 1) Accurate accounts exost for many years; thy are missing for 2007 and 2008. 2) Steve Gildthorp was treasurer for 2008, NOT 2007; that year our former acting chair Steve Turner was treasurer. 3) The accounts have been inspected by the Electoral Commission; they were asked to investigate. The conclusions were that the accounts were incomplete. Their accuracy could not be determined.The E.C. had access to those responsible for the accounts. The E.C. decided that there was no case to answer.The E.C. interprets and acts upon the relevant legislation. 4) Unless someone provides new evidence, this issue is dead.I have other things to spend my time on. 5(can someone forward this to Stve Goldthorp? and can they send me his e mail address. Richard

======================================== Message Received: Jan 16 2010, 12:55 PM From: “(s) Thomas Sale” To: “Max” , “rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com” , “rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk” , “s.bonar@yahoo.co.uk” , “plasticjudy@hotmail.com” Cc: stephen_goldthorp@yahoo.co.uk

Subject: Stephen Goldthorp

Dear executive members, I have been very concerned by the fact that Stephen is part of our executive committee. I would like to remind you all of what was disscussed at the AGM, regarding the accounts for the 2007 financial period. Stephen was the treasurer for that period, and the lack of information regarding the accounts caused a lot of tension amongst the members. Having read the constitution and also the Political Parties Elections, and Referendum Act 2000, I am now aware that the party is in breach of law regarding keeping accurate records of the accounts for a period of 6 years and making these accounts available to the electoral commision. To summarise Stephen Goldthorp is responsible for the missing accounts and I do not think it very wise to have him as a member of the executive whilst the accounts are investigated (decision of AGM) and we do not know whether he is implicated in anything worse. Therefore as an executive member I think it prudent that Stephen is temporarily suspended from the executive whilst the accounts are investigated, subject to the findings of the investigation. Regards,

Dave Browne, Lib Dem Party Secretary threatens legal action against me

May 2, 2010

 
From: (s) Thomas Sale
Sent: 19 January 2010 13:56
To: P.Rustad@libdems.org.uk
Subject: Complaint
 
Dear Paul,
 
 
 
I am hoping you will know who the relevant person is to send this official complaint
to.
 
I have included at the bottom of this email several correspondences between myself,
max harding, and Dave Browne.
 
Mr Browne’s silence to my reply, shows me that he was not only referring to myself,
 
but also that he has no intention of apologising for his insult.
 
 
 
I find his use of language to be most unprofessional,
 
Surely a regional secretary would not respond in such a threatening and aggressive
manner
 
to a matter which is merely questioning whether the party is complying with the law,
 
quite clearly being purely in the best interests for the party.
 
Because of this I can only assume that he was acting on ulterior motives, not in the
interests of the party.
 
I would like this complaint to be taken seriously.
 
 
 
Kind regards,
 
 
 
Tom Sale
 
Membership Development Officer, City of Plymouth Lib Dems
 
_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
RE: Your Stephen Goldthorp e-mail
 
 
 
 
(s) Thomas Sale
Sent:   17 January 2010 13:22
To:
 
thedavebrowne@aol.com
 
 
Dear Dave,
 
 
I am very sorry to hear that this “concerned” member felt the need to make this into
something bigger than it is, by contacting you and not liasing with myself first.
However in response to your points, I did not realise that by quoting legal
legislation and the fact that A) the accounts for years 2007 & 2008 are missing, and
B) stating that Mr Goldthorp was treasurer during that period is defamation. If this
is the case one had better not state that the government went to war in Iraq based
on weapons of mass destruction, even though there have never been any finds of any
such weapons, as this too I fear would count as defamation under your definition.
 
 
“These matters occurred before you took office, and therefore should not concern you”
I am very sorry to hear you make this statement, it sounds very elitist, surely any
matter which is of concern to the party is a concern for every member.
 
As far as the matter being already dealt with, may I remind you to re-read the AGM
minutes, as you have clearly missed the large section which dealt with the concerns
of the members about the accounts and the proposal to have a report written about
it, surely this would imply that the matter is very much a live one, hence my
concerns.
 
 
The “part of the story” that I “have been given” is from what I learnt at the AGM
and also the constitution and the law. Please do correct me but quoting your last
email to me, “Although this is an unusual procedure it is apparently the wish of the
General Meeting, which is the most powerful body of the City of Plymouth Party, and
should be respected.” so, we can be agreed that it is something that is current and
not finished and has also occurred during my office.
 
Please can you tell me why is it that any one who questions the accounts or any
other potential breach of law is threatened with suspension?
 
I would like to ask you who you keep refering to in your emails, again you have said
“certain person’s deluded vanity trips” I have said the reasons why i responded in
such a manner, I think it was only in the best interests of our party, and
definately not a vanity trip of mine, and I certainly do not take to kindly to being
refered to as deluded! unless you tell me the name of this “certain person” you keep
refering to, I can only come to the conclusion that you are refering to me without
actually stating it in writing, as my email only relates to my own views. Therefore
I request that you apologise for your insult to me.
 
 
 
Yours,
 
 
Tom
 
 
p.s.
“Unless explicitly stated, details in this message do not reflect the opinion of the
Liberal Democrats”
Can you please tell me which parts of your email explicitly state the opinion of the
liberal democrats, as opposed to your personal thoughts?
 
________________________________________
From: Dave Browne thedavebrowne@aol.com [thedavebrowne@aol.com]
Sent: 17 January 2010 10:57
To: (s) Thomas Sale
Subject: Your Stephen Goldthorp e-mail
 
Thomas;
Your e-mail of the 16th January, subject ‘Stephen Goldthorp’ has been passed to me
by a concerned member.
 
Can I make a few points:
 
1. The matters you refer to were investigated by both the Regional Party’s
Investigator (A former Regional Treasurer) and the Electoral Commission (who police
the PPERA). Both came to the conclusions that there was no action to be taken.
 
2. Since these matter have been correctly dealt with, your pursuing them could leave
you open to legal action by the person you are defaming.
 
3. Suspending people in the Liberal Democrat Party is only done in the most extreme
cases where their membership revocation is underway. It must be done formally in
line with the English Party’s Membership Rules Section 7.0. If you have not followed
these to the letter then you could be subject to disciplinary action yourself.
 
4. These matters occurred before you took office, and therefore should not concern
you, obviously you have only been given part of the story. Beware of people who only
tell you half of the truth for their own ends. The Plymouth Party should be fighting
to beat the Tories and Labour to get Liberal Democrats elected, not trying to
justify certain deluded persons’ vanity trips.
 
Regards,
 
Dave Browne
Secretary, Devon & Cornwall Liberal Democrats
 
Information in this email is confidential and may be privileged. It is intended for
the addressee only. If you have received it in error, please notify the sender
immediately and delete it from your system. You should not otherwise copy it,
retransmit, nor use or disclose its contents. Unless explicitly stated, details in
this message do not reflect the opinion of the Liberal Democrats. Thank you for your
cooperation.
 
__________________________________________________________________________________________________
Dear executive members,
 
I have been very concerned by the fact that Stephen is part of our executive
committee. I would like to remind you all of what was disscussed at the AGM,
regarding the accounts for the 2007 financial period. Stephen was the treasurer for
that period, and the lack of information regarding the accounts caused a lot of
tension amongst the members. Having read the constitution and also the Political
Parties Elections, and Referendum Act 2000, I am now aware that the party is in
breach of law regarding keeping accurate records of the accounts for a period of 6
years and making these accounts available to the electoral commision. To summarise
Stephen Goldthorp is responsible for the missing accounts and I do not think it very
wise to have him as a member of the executive whilst the accounts are investigated
(decision of AGM) and we do not know whether he is implicated in anything worse.
Therefore as an executive member I think it prudent that Stephen is temporarily
suspended from the executive whilst the accounts are investigated, subject to the
findings of the investigation.
 
Regards,
 
Tom
 
________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
 
 
From Dave Browne
Thedavebrowne@aol.com [Thedavebrowne@aol.com]
Sent:   07 January 2010 11:01
To:
 
maxharding@googlemail.com; karengillard@yahoo.com; jayschofield.uk@googlemail.com
 
Cc:
 
plasticjudy@hotmail.com; rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk;
stephen_goldthorp@yahoo.co.uk; s.bonar@yahoo.co.uk; (s) Thomas Sale;
rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com; dominicmountain@hotmail.co.uk;
judithjolly@oakleigh.eclipse.co.uk; timandglynisdumper@yahoo.co.uk;
david.a.robinson@btinternet.com
 
 
Mr Harding:
 
I read your extra-ordinary e-mail with some concern – I don’t know who has been
directing you to stir up further trouble, but then I noticed that you had copied
what should have been an internal party e-mail to a firm of London Solicitors.

 
Since the person you have copied is the pet solicitor of a member of the Plymouth
party who has been suspended pending revocation of his membership, this suggests to
me that you have been acting in concert with a suspended member.
 
Please reply explaining why you felt this e-mail was necessary and why it was copied
to this London solicitor.
 
Your reply will be passed to the Devon and Cornwall Region Local Parties Committee
to see if disciplinary action against yourself is required.
 
Dave Browne
Secretary, Devon & Cornwall Liberal Democrats

Party suspends Max Harding after he goes to the police

May 2, 2010

From: (s) Thomas Sale Sent: 26 January 2010 17:57

To: thedavebrowne@aol.com Subject:

Dear Mr Browne, Thank you for your email of January 24th. Mr Harding informs me that he has not received any notice of suspension of his party membership, but was aware that on the eve of January 18th (the night before the regional and HQ party press release) someone had changed his membership details in the database to ‘former member’ and to (SUS) which I imagine would mean suspension. Mr Harding would like to know why this was done, who did it and if he is indeed suspended, what are the reasons. Bearing in mind that Mr Harding approached the police with his concerns about being threatened by party members before that. Mr Harding also informs me that the Electoral Commission have told him that they were not informed of the missing money allegation and so did not include that issue in their case review. This would imply that the Party’s statement to the press on the 19th of January is untrue. I would be grateful if you could clarify. Regards, Tom