Tuesday, 1 February 2011
WHAT COMES AROUND GOES AROUND, HEY SEAN?
Statement of Resignation as Housing Minister.
At a meeting to-day, the Council of Ministers has expressed a view that I should resign as Housing Minister and I now do so.
The background is this. On the 5th August 2010, I visited the States Building on or about lunchtime to pick up some files I had left in my locker. There were workmen in this area. I noticed a printed e-mail document sitting face up on one of the printers nearest the wall. Because it was face up, it had already been read. The front page appeared to be an e-mail between the Deputy of Grouville to Deputy Judy Martin, dated the 3rd August. The following pages appeared to be, at first glance, an e-mail to the Deputy of Grouville from Mr. Stuart Syvret. I do not remember the date of this e-mail. I do remember the detail.
The substance of the e-mail was what appeared to be an alleged attempt to reclaim money from the Deputy with what appeared to be legal threats by her former partner, Mr. Stuart Syvret. If it was genuine, it was yet another example of a ruthless attack on someone else by Mr. Syvret and the Deputy of Grouville was being added to a long line of people that he has attacked over a three year period.
In that instant, I was not sure what to do as there were workmen in and out of the building. I quickly scanned the document and e-mailed it to myself. I put the e-mail in my bag. My feelings in those minutes were at best, confused. Why was this document lying around? Why had it been printed? Was it genuine?
Had it been left there on purpose and did someone have a motive to leave it lying around? Was it in some way left there to assist the Deputy of Grouville?
I took it back to my office and subsequently posted it that afternoon to the Data Protection Commissioner with a hand written note on a compliment slip.
That afternoon, I then e-mailed the scanned document to one person and asked them their view of the document. I was then advised to delete the scanned document and did so. My mistake was this act of scanning and forwarding to a third party.
I have been found to be in breach of a regulation of the Data Protection (Jersey) Law 2005 by the Data Protection Commissioner. Consequently, I have been found to be in breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
I accept that I made a mistake and breached a regulation on this part of the law and I now realise how easy it is to do so. I have left confidential Housing documents on a printer in the same room in the past and have had to rush back to retrieve them. I realise that I should have simply shredded the document there and then.
However, the contents were, in my opinion, salacious and I did want the Data Protection Commissioner to see it. I did not want to leave the e-mail where it was. I made no attempt at a cover-up.
My recipient has assured me that they deleted their copies of the offending document the next day and that no copy was forwarded to any other person.
The fact that it ended up on internet sites in August may have been due to the fact that another party may have picked it up between the 3rd, 4th and 5th August 2010 in the States computer room, where it may have been lying for over 24 hours.
Any overt threat against a serving States Member is unacceptable and while I have made a mistake in this case and regret my actions, I am glad that I did send the offending e-mail to the Data Protection Commissioner and that it has been investigated and concluded.
The threat of a vote of no confidence in the Council of Ministers is now averted and I hope that their fears are allayed. For my part, I find it interesting that the Council of Ministers were so worried about this threat that they lost confidence in me and regarded me as a threat.
To be honest, I would have reservations serving on a Council of Ministers that would roll over at the slightest whiff of trouble and e-cordite. I was never one of the inner sanctum on the Council of Ministers. As this is an election year, the present Council of Ministers have a chance to reinforce their ranks and attempt to put a more compliant pair of hands at Housing as long as that candidate respects the Housing Department and the Population Office.
A lot of innovative and good work has been done within the Housing Department with me in the past two years and it is in good shape to carry on. The Housing Transformation Programme is now on full steam ahead and the team at Housing is a great bunch of men and women. I apologise to them for leaving after just over two years of work together. I also thank my Assistant Minister for his loyalty and hard work over the last 8 months.
The worry related to this whole episode affected my health throughout November and December 2010. While I am now fully recovered, it is with a great deal of relief and a clear conscience that I return to my first duties as a Deputy of St. Brelade.