New development in standards case against would-be deputy mayor of Milton Keynes

    A new allegation that a high profile councillor knows the independent person who was appointed to look into complaints against her is under investigation.

    A whistleblower who knows both Cllr Moriah Priestley (Lab, Central MK) and independent person Dr Vasco Fernandes was watching the YouTube broadcast of a committee that was set up to see if complaints should be investigated.

    Before the standards assessment sub committee switched off the YouTube broadcast to consider issues in private, the whistleblower, who is a senior member of the NHS in Milton Keynes, saw Dr Fernandes.

    And during the public part of the hearing, when members and officers are obliged to declare any personal interests, neither Cllr Priestley, nor Dr Fernandes made any statement.

    A council spokesperson confirmed on July 9 that knowing somebody would normally require a declaration of interest.

    The local democracy reporting service, which has been pressing the council for a statement since then was told yesterday (13/7) by a council spokesperson that it is “an unprecedented situation we’re currently working out the best way forward".

    The council was by today (14/7) meant to have given the reasons for the sub committee’s decision to launch an investigation into Cllr Priestley, but as of 11.20am it had not.

    Cllr Priestley, who intends to become the first black woman to hold the post of mayor in the city’s history said she was “aware of the independent advisor”.

    “I am aware of the independent advisor, as would the person who has made the complaint, due to the membership of the large African church and community networks in MK, but they are not a friend or close acquaintance.”

    She added: “I assume MK Council would have carried out all due diligence and procedural matters before the meeting, and that is a matter for the Monitoring Officer.”

    Cllr Priestley added: “My only wish is to have a fair hearing and to clear my name, which I intend to do.”

    Dr Fernandes, a retired consultant physician in the NHS,  was invited to comment by email on July 9. As of Monday, July 13, there had been no reply.

    Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton), who chairs the council’s standards committee, said: “This is being looked into."

    The person who first made allegations, is one of two people known to have made allegations against Cllr Priestley.

    She asked for her name to be withheld at this stage but called on the council to investigate all the allegations against Cllr Priestley, including allegations of fraud that Cllr Priestley has denied.

    “By refusing to hold the meeting in public and by refusing to redact information so that they could hold the meeting in public, has undermined confidence in the council,” she said.

    “The whole process seems to be biased in favour of Cllr Priestley and if they do not have the opportunity to put all the allegations to her, then people will not have any reason to trust the council on these matters.”

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