A unanimous verdict on all counts. Cue lots of tutting, head-shaking and eye-rolling across Thanet and east Kent. Cue many changes of underwear at TDC, as the police widen their enquiries…
Former Conservative Thanet council leader Sandy Ezekiel has been found
guilty of four counts of misconduct in public office.
Ezekiel, 59, has
been on trial at Maidstone Crown Court to answer charges of using
confidential information to buy a property for himself , trying to force
the owner of a neighbouring building to sell up by instigating
enforcement proceedings against him, failing to disclose his interest in
two Margate properties to Thanet council and misconduct in public
A jury brought back a unanimous verdict of guilty on all charges
this afternoon.Co-accused Philip Emanual, 64,of Margate has also been
found guilty of aiding and abetting Ezekiel by acting as a proxy buyer
for 12a King Street.
The offences took place between September 2009 and
February 2011. Ezekiel used inside council information on bids for a12B
King Street, Margate, to secure the property for himself.
He then got pal
Emanuel, who was best man at his wedding, to act as a proxy buyer for
the property, and used his position to ask for enforcement proceedings
be brought against Alan Douglas , owner of 12A King Street, to persuade
him to sell that property.
He failed to disclose his interest in 12B to
the council or Mr Douglas until after the sale had been agreed.
It is thought to be one of the first cases of a councillor being convicted of such a charge. Misconduct in public office is a rare offence but sentencing guidelines usually involve a custodial term.
Judge Andrew Nicol has retired to consider pre-sentence reports for the pair with sentencing due later this afternoon [1st March 2013].
thisiskent 1st March 2013
Thanet councillors and officials are under investigation in the wake of the trial of former leader Sandy Ezekiel.
Property deals and personal interests of politicians and public servants, past and present, are being probed by police after extensive research and interviews with figures past and present. Several former elected members could face further questioning for undeclared business connections to developers and council contracts.
A Kent Police detective confirmed that officers are gathering evidence on several cases of major planning applications where councillors or officers may have had an undeclared personal interest in a scheme. The council is under increasing pressure to disclose more information about high-profile developments and the expenditure of European Regional Development Fund money.
Separately, the independent Information Commissioner, responsible for openness in public life and data privacy, is investigating claims of a Thanet council cover-up, after the authority has repeatedly refused to comply with requests under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act. Most senior councillors conduct official business on personal e-mail accounts and therefore communication on matters in the public interest may have remained hidden from view.
A council spokesman said:
“Councillors carry out both TDC public duties, which are subject to FOI, and constituency business and surgeries, which may often be referred to as council business, but as private individuals they are not subject to FOI where any council inspection of these e-mails would be tantamount to hacking.”
FOI legislation is clear: information commissioner Christopher Graham said in his 2011 guidance to councils:
“It should not come as a surprise to public authorities to have the clarification that information in private e-mail can be subject to Freedom of Information law if it relates to official business. This has always been the case – the act covers all recorded information in any form.”
thisiskent 1st March 2013