Argyll and Bute Council’s CEO, Sally Loudon, has just placed the following statement on the council website:
‘Two members of Council staff have been suspended pending an investigation. This investigation does not relate to any other investigation being undertaken by the Council.’
We had learned earlier tonight of the identities of the two staff suspended. We have since learned that one of these is said to have resigned in protest at the suspension of two colleagues.
This would mean that the two names we had initially been given are certainly no longer operational members of the communications team; but that there may be a third person – the second suspension, involved.
We do, however, believe that our earlier information was correct and that the supposed ‘resignation’ is a confusion with suspension.
What they appear to have done
We have also learned the nature of the ‘offence’ which has led to the two staff suspensions – and it seems entirely credible.
The council has a Lync system as part of its digital communications suite – think Skye or Facetime.
While they were working at some point, the two staff concerned were evidently exchanging some private jokes about executive staff – not scurrilous in any way but funny/silly – as you do.
It is being said that in the course of the Spygate investigation, with internal communications being scrutinised, these jokey messages came to light – and that this disrespectfulness is the reason for the suspension.
The two staff who have been identified to us (from three separate sources) are neither, it is fair to say, as loyal council employees, well disposed to For Argyll as the most persistent critic of this unable council administration and management.
But we regard both of these people as capable, experienced, honest and trustworthy staff who should never have been suspended for something like this.
That they have been – or that one of them has been - is yet more evidence of the inept management currently in place at the council.
The Communications Manager is already suspended while her admitted internet ‘spy’ activities are under investigation.
That has damaged the reputation of the council’s entire communications operation.
In these circumstances, wise management does not suspend further members of staff in that team unless they are potentially guilty of something equally serious – because, with the ‘Spygate’ investigation under way, this is inevitably the frame within which additional suspensions will be interpreted.
Yet this unthinking folly is exactly what appears to have been the case.
Even in normal times, all that the alleged activities of the suspended staff required was an uncomfortable obligation to explain themselves followed by contrite apologies.
This appears to have been ‘third form’ private jollity and emphatically not more illicit surveillance activity.
The council’s action in suspending these staff in these circumstances appears unjust, ill judged and has made an already bad situation infinitely worse.
Anyone wishing to make hay of this has now plenty of room to do so. In fairness to the staff involved and to their professionalism, we decided to make public what we have learned from a variety of sources, most of it corroborating.
If our information is correct, it looks as if wounded egos in senior executives have overborne common sense and management nous.
We are aware that there are already fears in other quarters of possible deliberate victimisation of these staff – a concern we read between the lines of Councillor McCuish’s statement above but a matter of which we have no first hand knowledge.