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Statement: Why we Left the Liberal Democrats (Sept 8th 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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September 14, 2010 at 10:15 am

My Resignation Email to The Liberal Democrats

From: Max Harding
To: membership@libdems.org.uk
Subject: Resignation
Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2010 18:25:38 +0100

Dear Sirs or Madam.
 
I hereby resign my membership of the Liberal Democrat with immediate effect.
 
My reasons for doing so are the following:
 
1) From my experience of the party it is neither Liberal nor Democratic.
 
2) As the first democratically elected Data Officer of the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party my election was question and objected to by region party secretary Dave Browne and PPC Karen Gillard.
 
3) I also was threatened and bullied by regional party secretary Dave Browne to the extent that I informed the local police who logged the incident.
 
4) As elected Data Officer my constitutional and legal obligations to ensure that my local party complied with data protection legislation were deliberately obstructed by Judy Evans PPC and Dave Browne.
 
5) I am also saddened that the regional party including the officers Dave Browne, Kay Friend and Judith Jolly thought that it be more appropriate to suspend my membership of the party rather than allow me to exercise my constitutional and lawful responsibilities with regards to ensuring the return of sensitive data which included the voting preferences of the citizens of Plymouth from Miss Karen Gillard and Miss Judy Evans who in my opinion after taking legal advice have been in breach of the Data Protection Act and therefore brought the party into disrepute.
 
6) Furthermore I am disappointed that party officers David Allworthy, Dave Browne and Kay Friend thought it better to suspend the Plymouth party rather than allow a Democratically elected young executive to investigate the financial irregularities of the parties accounts for years 2007-2008 during which it has been alleged that Karen Gillard and Steve Turner were treasurers of the party.
 
Yours faithfully,
 
Max Harding
 
Data Officer, City of Plymouth Liberal Democrat Party.

 

May 4, 2010 at 12:20 pm

Reqests to Judy Evans and Karen Gillard to stop breaking Data Protection legislation and the response I got from the party

Request to Karen Gillard

From: Max Harding

To: 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; thomassale@students.plymouth.ac.uk; rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com; dominicmountain@hotmail.co.uk; judithjolly@oakleigh.eclipse.co.uk; timandglynisdumper@yahoo.co.uk; thedavebrowne@aol.com; david.a.robinson@btinternet.com; membership@libdems.org.uk

Subject: EARS Data

Date: Thu, 7 Jan 2010 10:00:25 +0000

Dear Miss Gillard and Mr Schofield, As you are aware I have been elected to the position of Data Officer for the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats for 2010. It has come to my attention that you are in possession of a City of Plymouth EARS disk and data which is the property of the Plymouth Party and that prior requests for the return of this disk by members of the Plymouth Party Executive have not been adhered to. Therefore, I would be grateful If you could return this disk to me immediately by recorded post to my address below. I will expect this disk at the latest within seven days from the date of this email.

Thank you for your cooperation,

Yours,

Max Harding City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats Data Officer

Request to Judy Evans

From: Max Harding

To: plasticjudy@hotmail.com Cc: rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk; stephen_goldthorp@yahoo.co.uk; s.bonar@yahoo.co.uk; thomassale@students.plymouth.ac.uk; rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com; dominicmountain@hotmail.co.uk; judithjolly@oakleigh.eclipse.co.uk; timandglynisdumper@yahoo.co.uk; thedavebrowne@aol.com; richard.pinnock@libdems.org.uk; david.a.robinson@btinternet.com; membership@libdems.org.uk

Subject: EARS Data

Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2010 09:44:51 +0000

Dear Dr. Evans, As you are aware I have been elected to the position of Data Officer for the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats for 2010. It has come to my attention that you are in possession of the City of Plymouth Party’s Election Agents Record System software acquired from DataTrans in 2009 which is the property of the Plymouth Party and that prior requests for the return of this disk by several members of the previous Plymouth Party Executive committee last year have not been adhered to. You will be aware that under Article 5.1 Section (e) paragraphs (iii) and (iv) of the local party constitution, that I am constitutionally responsible for holding and maintaining the local party data and ensuring compliance with data protection legislation. Therefore, I would be grateful If you could return the Master copy of this disk to me immediately by recorded post to my address below. It is my intention that you and Stuart Bonar will each retain working copies of the master copy that I must retain. Furthermore that Mr Richard Pinnock, Deputy Director of Campaigns – South West will be sent a working copy to use should he need it. You and Stuart Bonar, as PPC’s of the Plymouth Party will have my full support and help to ensure success for the Party in your respective campaigns for the forthcoming General Election. I will expect this disk at the latest within seven days from the date of this email.

Thank you for your cooperation,

Yours,

Max Harding City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats Data Officer

Response from Dave Browne, regional Party Secrtary of the Liberal Democrats

From: Dave Browne
Thedavebrowne@aol.com
Sent:   07 January 2010 11:01
To: Max Harding 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

From: Dave Browne <Thedavebrowne@aol.com>
Date: 2010/1/8
Subject: Re: EARS Data
To: Max Harding Cc: rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk, stephen_goldthorp@yahoo.co.uk, s.bonar@yahoo.co.uk, plasticjudy@hotmail.com, thomas.sale@students.plymouth.ac.uk, rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com, judithjolly@oakleigh.eclipse.co.uk, timandglynisdumper@yahoo.co.uk, richard.pinnock@libdems.org.uk, david.a.robinson@btinternet.com, membership@libdems.org.uk
Mr Harding:
You will now have seen from Richard Lawrie’s e-mail that it was he, as last year’s Data Officer, who held the 2009 master EARS disc and not Dr Evans. He also asked why you had not contacted him before you made your premptory demands of Dr Evans.
 
In view of this I feel you should apologise to Dr Evans immediately.
 
Can I remind you that you have not responded to my earlier e-mail asking why you had copied internal party correspondence to a London solicitor, and whether you were acting under the direction of a suspended member?
 
In view of your non-response and your further e-mail today based on wrong information, I have grave doubts about your suitability to handle the Party’s data and would ask all recipients of this e-mail to delay handing over to Mr Harding any Party data until the Devon & Cornwall Local Parties Committee has had the time to investigate his behaviour.

Dave Browne
Secretary, Devon & Cornwall Liberal Democrats

 

May 2, 2010 at 8:00 pm

Trying to get Judy Evans and Karen Gillard to stop breaking Data Protection legislation and the response I got from party officers

 

From:

 

Max Harding <max.harding0@googlemail.com>

To: plasticjudy@hotmail.com
Cc: rlawrie@hohenlohe.fsnet.co.uk; stephen_goldthorp@yahoo.co.uk; s.bonar@yahoo.co.uk; thomas.sale@students.plymouth.ac.uk; rtrimnelluk@hotmail.com; dominic-mountain@hotmail.co.uk; judithjolly@oakleigh.eclipse.co.uk; timandglynisdumper@yahoo.co.uk; thedavebrowne@aol.com; richard.pinnock@libdems.org.uk; david.a.robinson@btinternet.com; membership@libdems.org.uk
Subject: EARS Data
Date: Fri, 8 Jan 2010 09:44:51 +0000
 Dear Dr. Evans,
 As you are aware I have been elected to the position of Data Officer for the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats for 2010.
 It has come to my attention that you are in possession of the City of Plymouth Party's Election Agents Record System software acquired from
DataTrans in 2009 which is the property of the Plymouth Party and that prior requests for the return of this disk by several members of the
previous Plymouth Party Executive committee last year have not been adhered to. 
You will be aware that under Article 5.1 Section (e) paragraphs (iii) and (iv) of the local party constitution, that I am constitutionally
responsible for holding and maintaining the local party data and ensuring compliance with data protection legislation. 
Therefore, I would be grateful If you could return the Master copy of this disk to me immediately by recorded post to my address below.
It is my intention that you and Stuart Bonar will each retain working copies of the master copy that I must retain. Furthermore that Mr Richard
Pinnock, Deputy Director of Campaigns - South West will be sent a working copy to use should he need it.
You and Stuart Bonar, as PPC's of the Plymouth Party will have my full support and help to ensure success for the Party in your respective
campaigns for the forthcoming General Election.  
I will expect this disk at the latest within seven days from the date of
this email. 
Thank you for your cooperation, 
Yours, 
Max Harding
City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats Data Officer
 

May 2, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Kay Friend of the Regional Lib Dems suspends me on a trumped up charge and only tells me when the membership officer asks her

To: ; max.harding@googlemail.com
Subject: Fwd: Suspension of Party Membership
Date: Wed, 27 Jan 2010 08:04:23 -0500
From: bkldfc@aol.co.uk

Dear Mr Harding

I have been forwarded a copy of an email from Mr Sale where he states that you have told him that you are unaware of your suspension from the party. 

As you will see from the original email below I used your google email address please let me know if you are no longer using this address.  I am also putting another hard copy in the post to you. I would be grateful if you could confim your receipt of this email or alternatively the hard copy

Yours sincerely

Kay Friend

Chairman of the Local Parties Committee

To Mr Max Harding,

Dear Mr Harding

 1.        I am writing to notify you that the Devon & Cornwall Regional Liberal Democrat Party is suspending your membership pending revocation because of behaviour likely to bring the Party into disrepute by copying to a London Solicitor a threatening e-mail to Karen Gillard, PPC for South East Cornwall and to Mr Schofield.

  2.         We have read the e-mails you sent to Karen Gillard on the 7th January 2010 and that of the 8th January 2010 to Dr Judy Evans our PPC for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport. We consider them at the very least heavy handed, at the worst possibly malicious in that they raise issues already dealt with in the past. However we observe that the e-mail to Ms Gillard and Mr Schofield was copied to a London solicitor who acts for a suspended member.  This suggests you were acting in concert with a suspended member. When asked to explain this by the Secretary of Devon & Cornwall Region, Mr D Browne, you did not reply. This is conduct which is likely to bring the Party into disrepute under sections 2.6 (b) of the English Party Constitution, which may justify membership revocation (or a lesser penalty) under the English Party Constitution and the Membership Rules.  The attached e-mails are the evidence giving rise to the complaint, why we believe you are involved and why Ms K Gillard, Mr J Schofield, Dr Judy Evans and Mr D I Browne are in a position to substantiate this complaint.

 3.         The Local Parties Committee of the Devon & Cornwall Region are conducting an investigation into these matters and the suspension of your membership will be for a maximum period of 14 weeks as allowed under sections 7.5 and 7.9 (i) of the Membership Rules.

 4.         When the investigation is completed there may be a disciplinary hearing under section 7.9 of the Membership Rules. It is your right to attend this hearing and we attach a copy of the disciplinary procedures (Section 7 of the Membership Rules). You will be notified of the date of the disciplinary hearing in due course. In the event that any of the charges are made out, the Disciplinary Hearing panel may impose sanctions as detailed under section 7.10 of the Membership Rules and a right of appeal is available under section 7.11.

5.         Whilst under suspension you will no longer hold any internal party offices or appointments that you have been elected to in or on behalf of the Party or attend any Party meetings. Therefore you must arrange to hand over all records, documents and property belonging to the Liberal Democrats to a representative of the Party (this person to be agreed with either the Chairman or Secretary of the Local Parties Committee) within 7 days of the date of this letter.

 

Yours sincerely,

Kay Friend

 Chairman of the Local Parties Committee & Vice Chairman of Devon & Cornwall Region

 cc         Membership Services,

 Acting Chair of City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats,

 Chair of the Devon & Cornwall Region  

Attachments:

 1. Copy of email to Dr Judy Evans

 2. Copy of email to Karen Gillard and Jay Schofield

 3. Section 7 of the Party’s Membership Rules

 

May 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm

The Electoral Commission was never informed about the missing money

“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 Electoral Commission takes seriously all allegations of financial impropriety in respect of PPERA seriously” [Note I never made any allegation, only forwarded copies of prior allegations made by the former Chairman]

Mr Max Harding Data Officer

 City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats

22 January 2010 Our

Ref:A-1144 

Dear Mr Harding,

City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats.

I am writing in response to your letter of 17 January 2010 on behalf of Peter Wardle, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission. The issues you raise in regards to Dr Judy Evans, the EARS data, and alleged breaches of the Data Protection Act 1998 are outside of the remit of the Electoral Commission. The Electoral Commission only has jurisdiction in respect of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). To be clear, we are only empowered to look into matters that fall within the scope of the regulatory framework within PPERA. 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 Electoral Commission takes seriously all allegations of financial impropriety in respect of PPERA seriously. A thorough review was conducted into the financial management of the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats for the period of 2007 to 2008 during which time a number of people held the post of treasurer. Relevant Party Officers were informed of the conclusions of the review.

We now consider this matter closed

Yours sincerely

Eleanor Pearch

Enforcement Team Case Worker

Party and Election Finance

020 7271 0581

The Electoral Commission Trevelyan House Great Peter Street London SW1P2HW Tel 020 7271 0500 Fax 020 7271 0505

May 2, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Information Commissioner’s letter to me (22nd April 2010 )

” your complaint does raise concerns over the security of personal data for which the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats are the data controler for. This is because it appears they do not hold or have access to the personal information which is in the possession of the PPC for which they are responsible for. The seventh data protection principle says that “Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.”

Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF T. 0303 123 1113 F. 01625 524510

Information Commissioner’s Office mail@iCO.gsi.gOV.uk WWW.iCO.QOV.uk 22nd April 2010

Case Reference Number ENQ0292957

Dear Mr Harding ‘ Thank you for your further correspondence concerning the processing of the personal information by a prospective parliamentary candidate (PPC). Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you, our office is currently dealing with large volumes of work. This has meant that we have been unable to deal with incoming correspondence as promptly as we would like. As I understand it, you are concerned that the PPC for the Liberal Democrat party is unlawfully holding personal data that the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats is the data controller of. You maintain that the PPC has ignored your requests for the data to be returned. I should perhaps explain that the data controller is defined in part I s.l of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as, “A person who (either alone or jointly or in common with other persons) determines the purposes for which and the manner in which any personal data are, or are to be processed”. Section 4(4) of the DPA further states that: “It shall be the duty of a data controller to comply with the Data Protection Act Principles in relation to all personal data with respect to which he is the data controller” A data controller must be a ‘legal person’, i.e. a legal entity. This term not only comprises individuals but also organisations such as companies and other unincorporated bodies of persons and is the entity responsible for the processing of personal data in a given situation. There is often confusion about the term data controller, and it is frequently assumed that the data controller is the person at an organisation who has responsibility for dealing with the DPA. This is not the case as it is the ‘legal entity’ of the organisation itself which is classed as the data controller for the purposes of the DPA. In summary a data controller is the legal entity which literally ‘controls’ (that is: decides on the uses and purposes of) personal data. The DPA has eight principles of’good information handling’. These give people specific rights in relation to their personal information and put certain obligations on those organisations that are responsible for processing it. From the information you have provided it appears the PPC is not the data controller for the data, they also appear to be acting as an individual in relation to the processing of the data. If this is the case, they will not be required to comply with the data protection principles. Concerns would be raised if the PPC had obtained the data through deceit or without the knowledge of the data controller. However I understand from your initial correspondence that it is “normal practice for candidates to have access and use of this sensitive data…”

I should explain that your complaint does raise concerns over the security of personal data for which the City of Plymouth Liberal Democrats are the data controler for. This is because it appears they do not hold or have access to the personal information which is in the possession of the PPC for which they are responsible for. The seventh data protection principle says that “Appropriate technical and organisational measures shall be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.”

Finally, I should explain that the recovery of personal data is not a data protection issue. In this case I would recommend seeking legal advice on retrieving the personal data.

hope you understand the reasons for my view. If we can be of any further assistance please contact our helpline on 0303 123 1113. You may also find some useful information on our website at www.ico.qov.uk.

Yours sincerely Joylon Stone Case Officer DP Case Reception Unit

May 2, 2010 at 7:11 pm

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