Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager

Yesterday, on Monday 20th August, Argyll and Bute Council dismissed its suspended Communications Manager for bringing the council into disrepute.

A disciplinary hearing at Kilmory last week saw Ms Jo Smith, supported by an NUJ representative, make a case for her retention which was not accepted.

There was no other possible outcome to this and For Argyll will have no further comment to make.

This is history. It is now and tomorrow that count.

We need a transparent, even handed and objective news operation at the council. Will we get it?

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75 Responses to Jo Smith dismissed as Council Communications Manager

  1. Perhaps you should add this from article you sourced this info and added a bit for effect. Just for context.

    NUJ Scottish organiser Paul Holleran told the Standard: “I am quite shocked to have been informed by Argyll and Bute Council that Jo Smith has been dismissed from her post as Communications Manager.

    “Jo is disappointed the council has decided that she gave the impression at a conference that it was engaged in a form of covert surveillance, even though its own investigation report (carried out at great expense) says it, ‘has not uncovered any form of any kind of spy accounts or covert surveillance tactics having been considered, or requested, or sanctioned, or adopted, or put in place, or carried out by Jo Smith’.

    “The council’s decision is based on the impression presented by an anonymous source in The Herald newspaper, which the council has so far been unable to identify as even attending the conference. The council has chosen to ignore witness statements from ten highly respected, named communications professionals who did attend the conference and who have said the article in The Herald was inaccurate and misleading.

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  2. Getting sacked is clearly very serous and certainly suggests there has been some grave wrongdoing – irrespective of whether the Spygate thing was ‘hogwash’ (as described in the other thread) or not. It is not a decision that people take lightly and there will be a route of appeal available to Jo Smith where the decision, and evidence to support is, is presented to a sub-group of elected members.

    I am assuming we don’t know as of yet whether she is planning to take the decision to appeal and it might be wise to refrain fro commenting on any specific detail (or speculated specific detail) until such time as that is established.

    This is just another in a long line of bad news stories for A&BC. It really has been captained poorly for the past number of years.

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    • It could certainly be said that the regime under which Ms Smith publicly described herself as running ‘spy accounts’ was pretty handy at bringing itself into disrepute.

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      • I really can’t see why the Newsroom continues to demonise Ms Smith when all the evidence of the enquiry and the people actually at this conference appears to point to her innocence. I think Newsroom you should be ashamed of yourself, the language you have used towards this poor woman, the accusations you have made which have turned out to be totally false. Regime? You make her sound like some kind of Middle Eastern despot. I happen to find it quite disgraceful and i am not the only one. It would appear to me that what she was guilty of was being a little over enthusiastic in her ambitions and her wish to impress her peer group and in trying to modernise the way the council communicates at too fast a pace. More due diligence in change management i think, you can’t just strap a jet engine to a biplane and expect it to be a modern aircraft, to use an analogy. The sad thing this whole farce could have been prevented had the execs given a little time to consider their actions or had Ms Smith gone over her presentation before the conference.

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        • We have never done other than persist in foregrounding the facts.

          These facts do not redound to Ms Smith’s credit.

          And before we lose sight of the reality, this ‘poor woman’ was directly instrumental in having a volunteer presenter removed from his job at Oban FM because his ongoing criticisms had become an inconvenient nuisance to the council and to some councillors. There is published documentation demonstrating this.

          It is highly misleading to present Ms Smith as an innocent or as naive. The evidence – not opinion – is to the contrary.

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          • “this ‘poor woman’ was directly instrumental in having a volunteer presenter removed from his job at Oban FM because his ongoing criticisms had become an inconvenient nuisance to the council and to some councillors. There is published documentation demonstrating this.”

            Could you please tell me where this documentation is published, as a relative newby “oaf” who posts “crap” (Robert & Keith) I find your Archives difficult to navigate and would hate to contribute to this thread without availing myself of all the details and facts like what they do!
            :)

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        • “… or had Ms Smith gone over her presentation before the conference.”

          Do you mean, edited what she had written for her fellow professionals?

          The fact she was able to produce 10 like-minded people to testify on her behalf does not mean establishing Spy accounts to combat public opinion in Argyll was an act of wisdom.

          Quite the converse.

          More worrying is the prospect of a management culture existing which made her feel this sort of nonsense was acceptable.
          Hopefully, the poor woman appeals against the decision. The act of appeal should illustrate exactly who is running A&BC to the detriment of its populace.

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  3. I’d still like to see the evidence that this decision was based on. Do they plan to publish the results of the investigation?

    I can’t help but feel the wrong person took the fall here.

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    • Three of the wrong people, arguably. An industrial tribunal case could bring ABC into even further disrepute. Clearly a tricky one for the elected members to handle as none of this is under their control.

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      • I think you could argue that quite strongly Justin. It looks to me as if Ms Smith has been a victim of a dirty tricks campaign and has been hung out to dry. The other two from what i have i think their behaviour was foolish and immature but not a sackable offence.

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    • You won’t see it. It is correctly confidential, as much for the protection of the person dismissed as for the people making the decision.

      Paula, whilst the evidence, as it is being presented by one side of the story, and provisionally what we have heard from the output of the investigation, might suggest ‘innocence’ (possibly just stupidity/naivety) in relation to the spying accusation there is still the fact that she has been dismissed which points towards someone who may well be far from innocent.

      As I stated earlier there is a route of appeal for her and it will be interesting to see the conclusion of that should she choose to go down that route.

      Whether or not she has taken the fall for certain other people is something we can only speculate about. If it does pan out that her dismissal has been somehow manipulated or that the decision has been made based on flimsy evidence then the appeal process will deal with this as it will be member lead rather than officer lead.

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      • Sorry to be pedantic – but it is very important to keep this incident on the rails by maintaining sight of the evidenced fact that no one made an ‘accusation’ of spying against Ms Smith.

        She herself applied this description to her own online initiatives.

        She did so in writing on a powerpoint slide (which was available on the Internet, has been published here and in The Herald) – and verbally in referring to this slide in a conference presentation she herself gave to an audience of public sector communications professionals.

        As a communications pro of significant experience, she can hardly claim to be ignorant of the meaning of words or of the potential mpact of spectacularly ill-chosen ones.

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        • Newsroom (aka soapbox) you just quoted the investigation report as saying it “has not uncovered any form of any kind of spy accounts or covert surveillance tactics having been considered, or requested, or sanctioned, or adopted, or put in place, or carried out by Jo Smith”.

          You then go on to comment “She herself applied this description [spying]to her own online initiatives”.

          So do you have evidence the investigation did not see or are you applying your own, no sitting on the fence, biased view?

          I think I can foresee the current Council forking out for an expensive unfair dismissal claim, and who knows perhaps there will be some libel cases as well.

          It would have been easy to accept the findings of the report and conclude the previous Council Administration had instigated the suspension as a precaution. For the new Administration to ignore its own report seems a bit reckless and certainly could bring the Council into disrepute if a claim is made and won.

          By the way Newsroom (aka soapbox) you still have not said if forArgyll is a company, or is run for or by a company or who your sponsors are have you?

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          • ferryman

            You make an assumption that it was elected members who decided to dismiss Jo Smith. I think it is much more likely it was Council Officers as members will then be the place of appeal.

            I am not 100% sure about that but am fairly confident.

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          • Ferryman,someone posted the no spy accounts comment, which was taken from a news website. FA never had any evidence apart from the seemingly fake anonymous source. She continues with the line that Smith admitted to carrying out covert activity, whereas ten people, yes ten people, named, out in the open, attendees of the conference say she said no such thing. Who would you believe?

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  4. Integrity: I don’t know anything about Council Procedure so you are probably correct. However don’t officials answer to the Council and in a high profile situation like this (even though it is employer/employee ) would the matter not be raised? Anyway I am sure it will all come out in the wash.

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    • ‘…don’t officials answer to the council…’ – in the not so distant past I got the impression that sometimes the council answered to officials. Perhaps I was dreaming.

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  5. Newsroom I for one remember viewing the power point presentation on-line.

    Is it still available?

    If so, I suggest you re-point readers to it. Only then can we see which sighted ‘posters’ remain blinded to the facts.

    Should bring a bit of balance, don’t you know.

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      • The slides you posted say “make sure the council connection is clear”. The word “spy” appears once and it is an unfortunate choice of word. However I would be very surprised if most large organisations do not now monitor facebook, twitter and blogs alongside the traditional media.

        When Ms Smith was suspended the BBC wrote “One of the local authority’s biggest online critics, For Argyll, said it was a ‘sacking issue’.”

        Nothing like a good public hanging, no need wasting time on a trial and finding somebody guilty first is there Newroom (aka soapbox)?

        Newsroom (aka soapbox) Another post suggests that you have been going through the blog removing comments you made about Ms Smith including some regarding her sexuality – is that correct?

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        • Interesting post Ferryman. I understand many organisations now look at peoples Facebook accounts when it comes to deciding who they will employ. There are also well documented accounts of people who have posted either negative comments about their bosses or saying that they have a hangover on Facebook, but call in ill to work being found out. I think you will find BBC Scotland said that ‘FA was a vociferous critic of AB council and called for the resignation of Ms Smith’ over this. Yes indeed, Spy is an unfortunate choice of word, emotive even. However i doubt that the council is watching anyone, don’t believe the paranoid.

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          • No according to the BBC ForArgyll did not call for MS smith to resign, they state:
            “For Argyll, said it was a ‘sacking issue’.”
            The BBC went onto say that forArgyll said Ms Smith was beyond public trust and sacking was imperative.

            I am not sure if these calls for Ms Smith to be sacked were made by an individual or a company since forArgyll is not saying if it is a company or acts on behalf of a company or sponsors.

            http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-glasgow-west-16991417

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      • ……There is published documentation demonstrating this.”

        oould you please trawl somemore and find location of above for me relating to Ms Smith’s involvement in GB’S removal Ta!

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        • You left the ? off there sokay after “this” From what i can gather Ms Smith had nothing to do with Berry going, it was more his incompetence. Whether McKay did is debatable. Either way now, its old news, both have gone and neither is missed.

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          • Cheers Michael I copy the full statement again
            “this ‘poor woman’ was directly instrumental in having a volunteer presenter removed from his job at Oban FM because his ongoing criticisms had become an inconvenient nuisance to the council and to some councillors. There is published documentation demonstrating this.” “directly instrumental” not two words I would use together but they make the accuser’s point. Volunteers do not have jobs, pedantic but true. To loose one’s job would suggest reduction in income!

            Am I now to believe that this is total fabrication on the part of “Newsie”? Would explain lack of response to my two requests as to the location of this published documentation EH? Is the reference to “an anonymous source in a media report” in the front page article in today’s Oban Times referring to For Argyll’s coverage of the story??

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  6. I certainly hope the lady appeals because it should be very interesting how the members handle the whole affair.As most people who have followed this story in its different parts will be well aware we have been waiting for all the pieces to come out in the public domain.
    If Jo Smith is sacked for bringing the council into disrepute,sorry thats a joke in itself, where does it leave the members who were involved in the silence when we asked for answers.This includes Roddy our new council leader.
    If she appeals how can they sit and judge her?
    We wanted answers from Jo Smith on her part in ex councillor MacKays attack on Big George but if she wants any of our information or for us to give our backing on what councillors told us then she just needs to get in touch.I don,t know the lady,s circumstances but if some of the beauties working in Kilmory are able to sack someone like this when there own performances as heads of service have produced nothing it needs to be investigated thoroughly.My advice would be to fight on and expose them.
    Oban Chord project awarded £6.9 million over 5 years ago.
    Projects brought forward “None”.
    Money spent so far on any development “NONE”
    The money just sits there gathering dust.
    Now in my mind that is bringing the council into disrepute.
    Will they sack the people in charge?
    Don,t hold your breath because the councillors are as much to blame as the directors and so called highly paid consultants.
    Sorry the lady was sacked all we wanted was the information to expose MacKay.That battle isn,t finished yet.
    Cheers Neil.

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  7. Anyone else relieved a discussion has started which does not include windfarm polution? Though there will be a lot of hot air which ignores the original ‘oops’ Power Point presentation as displayed on national media.

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  8. I personally hope she does take this to tribunal. I simply cannot believe she was operating these spy accounts without the knowledge and therefore permission of more senior staff.

    Unfortunately, she has been the only one to admit this publically.

    Transparency is key here and without full disclosure coming from the council, we have to ask ourselves, if things will actually change or not.

    If not, then prepare for the voters to strike back again. Grudges are not easily forgotten here and after the school closures mess, this council has a lot of damage to repair with its relations with its constituents.

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    • Well if @argyllandbute is a spy account i certainly hope the senior staff know about it. Personally i would have thought @jamesbond or @matahari would have been better names for spy accounts.

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      • Well Michael if we had the results of the investigation, we’d know if it was more than that @argyllandbute being used to spy, wouldn’t we?

        It could have been something so subtle as @sneddonssnipers or @sallybinloudon

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        • Lots of heat and not much light on this i think. Logic tells me that there really was no need for any spy accounts and they would surely be very labour intensive. I know, ABC and logic is a bit of an oxymoron.

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  9. As co-organiser of the event at which Jo Smith presented and for which was subsequently suspended and then sacked, I’m very disappointed at the outcome.

    I am still puzzled at why the council didn’t get the NUJ or CIPR to conduct the investigation into the misuse of social media (as official organisations to press & media they will be up to speed on this)

    I’m also surprised that the Herald hasn’t followed up on the story that it broke.

    I have never been approached by The Herald for a perspective on the story, not even after posting a comment on its Suspension article

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/council-chief-in-online-spy-accounts-row-is-suspended.16720638

    Jo Smith scored highest out or a roster of excellent speakers and many delegates identified her presentation as being of most interest and use during the day. This outcome certainly doesnt tally with the factual output from the day

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    • It does not speak well for this sort of thing if, as you say, “many delegates identified her presentation as being of most interest and use during the day.”

      This does not imply confidence in any professional approach of your delegates, given the content of the PowerPoint presentation.

      Surely more than one person had a ‘hold on a second’ moment when viewing something which suggested Spying on the people who pay their wages?

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  10. It would be pointless for Argyll & Bute Council to ask the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) to conduct an investigation into the misuse of social media when one of their union members is Ms Jo Smith. What do you think the outcome would be?

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  11. Considering the views of the press engraved on the minds of most of the public by their dicredited activities of recent years, this is one heck of a whooper own goal suggestion.

    The ‘mafia’ investigating the ‘mafia’ comes to mind.

    Do these people have absolutely no pride?

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  12. I am intrigued that Newsroom hasn’t picked up on the article in last week’s Oban Times, about the lack of interest elected councillors seem to have in the issue of poor mental health amongst its employees. Surely, such a lack of interest shows exactly how little they understand about the workload undertaken by staff and the pressures that are forced upon them.

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  13. If the NUJ are deemed not suitable then who of our esteemed councillors will lead the investigation into Jo Smith if she appeals.
    What about Louise Glen-Lee, she will not be standing for re-election so will not need to worry about keeping any secrets.As an ex journalist she also has experience of what Jo Smith would have had to do in her job.
    Cheers Neil.

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    • It isn’t an investigation as such. It is a committee on which some members sit, also present will probably be a legal representative of the Council (probably Charles Reppke), some council officers who are relevant to the person appealing (not 100% sure about that), the person appealing and also a representative of the person appealing (most likely a lawyer).

      The committee then has the power to overturn the original decision should they feel that appropriate based on the evidence presented and any other relevant factors. They can still impose a lesser punishment (for example the person might be kept on but in a reduced post).

      It is a standard procedure in councils and as it is member driven this is why members should have no involvement in the original decision (although with some members and senior managers it is hard to believe there is not some informal influence going on).

      The appeal committee members sitting at the next meeting are Cllrs Blair, Hall, Colville and Kinniburgh however I am not sure if they are the only ones who are on the committee. Some Councils will have as many as 9 or 10 who can sit on the committee but the number actually at each one tends to be a lot less than that. Not necessarily because a number don’t bother showing up but often because some councillors realise that it can be quite intimidating for a person to sit in front of too many people to state their case and therefore having a smaller number is more likely to result in a fairer hearing.

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  14. I have in the last wee while asked Newsroom to point me in the direction of “..the published documentation demonstrating this” the “this” being Ms Smith’s part in bringing down G.B. To date no response but using the link provided by CSB and Newsroom I found the thread with the part headline
    : Smith says it was like ‘a holiday account for your photos’
    Now here are two sentences which one is most closely represented by that headline?
    1} ‘ It was about trying to create a separate account different from your normal one that you have holiday photographs on’
    2} ‘ It was about trying to create a separate account that you have holiday photographs on different from your normal one’
    Sentence 2} most closely represents the headline . Sentence 1} was Ms Smith’s quote in the article. So the headline is a total misrepresentation and devoid of any veracity, Ms Smith did not say that!
    If this is the quality of your “published documentation demonstrations” I don’t think I’ll
    bother.

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    • Ummm, did you see the slides from the Powerpoint Presentation in that article? Slide 9 if I remember correctly, “Spy Accounts” – or are you saying Jo Smith didn’t make up the presentation and give it to the conference?

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      • No!I did not see or need to see it to generate my post. Read it again, it refers to Ms Smith’s attempt to explain the “Spy account” thing
        Your link took me to article headed
        ……”"Spygate – the return of The Herald: Smith says it was like ‘a holiday account for your photos’.”"
        posted 11th Feb by Newsroom (the owner of the article and it’s headline)
        contained the following childish attempt at ridicule
        ……Then, hilariously, that: ‘It was about trying to create a separate account different from your normal one that you have holiday photographs on.’ Funny. We thought that was called ‘flickr’. We never knew flickr had a strapline called ‘spy account’..
        This brought to my attention that what Ms Smith was quoted as saying in that ill construed paragraph was the opposite to the headline suggestion as to what she said, somebody taking liberties?? Strange CSB 8 even 9 other people got my drift cheers P.S. CSB? that’s a good old Argyll registration:)

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        • Sokay, you seem far from okay.

          I re-read your post and still get the same from it. You are obviously wanting only to find things to use in an assault of newsroom. Knock yourself out.

          However, as there has been much discussion on here as to who actually said what and you seem to be trying to cast doubt on what Jo Smith did/did not say, I pointed to the Powerpoint Presentation itself – re-read my posts, not the actual article, but somewhere to see what we know is absolute fact.

          “Spy Accounts” is the term used on Slide 9.

          Its a fact. Newsroom did not fabricate that, or get that wrong.

          I will however for the record state my position from comments made several times before. I have not and will not say if I believe Jo Smith should have been sacked. I want to know the outcome of the investigation.

          Just the facts. I don’t need people to tell me what my opinions should be and that includes newsroom and you.

          8 people liked your comment. You could have been changing your IP all afternoon to get that result. The thumbs aren’t entirely accurate and I bet I’m not the only one to have noticed that.

          CSB – good old Argyll registration? Notaclue on that one sorry.

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          • Fairy nuff CSB, but I never attempted to tell anyone what their opinions should be You make the suggestion …” re-read my posts, not the actual article, but somewhere to see what we know is absolute fact.” That to me would suggest that you agree with the innacuracy between the headline and the quote giving rise to same. I at no point suggested that “Spy accounts” were or were not mentioned and I don’t care. There is obvious manipulation of the truth by someone News room owned the article? OH! and…. “You are obviously wanting only to find things to use in an assault of newsroom.” these things are not lost to be found they are all over this site. SB were the first letters used for registration of motor vehicles (cars,lorries & vans etc.) in Argyll followed by ASB,BSB & CSB etc.Now rather than get all wound up in petty wars of attrition why not have nice cup of coco and get back to your book about grey paint. This playground will still be here on Sunday night night :) :)

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          • LMAO! Please retract the claws!

            Re: Painter’s guide to grey, how very assumptive of you and judgemental. I am actually re-reading all of Chris Kuzneski’s books just now. Action/Adventure stuff. However, regular readers will know I sometimes quote things like Sun Tzu’s Art of War and words of wisdom from Benjamin Franklin et al.

            Had no idea about the registration plates, but now I will be looking. Thank you for that info.

            You’re not by sheer coincidence related to Simon are you? or married to?

            I will however respect your right to your own opinion as well, even when it appears narrow-minded.

            Very few people know the whole story behind this debacle, I’m one of them. Until I have all the facts, I won’t come down on either side of the fence blaming anyone for anything.

            All these comments on this thread and the other one. Considering none of us know much on it, its quite disturbing the venom that seems to be up to our ankles now.

            Now I think I shall have a wee go on the swings – and that’s not a metaphor for something from the painter’s guide to grey.

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  15. “This is history. It is now and tomorrow that count”. (Newsroom)
    “ What’s past is prologue” (W.Shakespeare an English guy)
    “Show me a thing from the future, you can’t, Show me a thing from now, you can’t
    Show me a thing from the past, you can, so therefore what counts?” (P.Mahon Scottish philosopher ) :)

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    • Reply to CSB’s last post,26th 12:40, that’s better..”.how very assumptive of you and judgemental.” neither perhaps a bit of wishfull? anyway glad you took it as it was meant, a bit of fun. Not that I’ve looked very hard, but I find nothing in your many posts that I disagree with and I’m sure it’ll remain so. Apologise to Simon! All the best and keep posting cheers K!

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  16. If councillors were given papers at a Council meeting giving details of the investigation into Ms Smith’s offences, how can the councillors who make up the appeals committee possibly hear the case impartially? The appeal process is now fundamentally flawed, surely, and presents Ms Smith with good grounds for judicial review?

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    • I dont have all the facts but cant help feeling this is a storm in a teacup and Jo Smith has been terribly treated and the machinery is unlikely to reverse decision as it doesnt happen in councils. That is my instinctive impression of this apparent witchunt been driven from one or two specific quarters.

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      • Phill,

        It actually isn’t all that unusual for an appeals committee to ‘reverse’ a decision. I put reverse in inverted commas because it is unlikely to be a total reversal (i.e. you did nothing wrong, go back to work and try and pretend none of this happened) but it can often be ‘you did do some wrong but dismissal was an excessive punishment, here is what we are going to impose’.

        There are a number of times where dismissal has been reduced to something like being demoted into a lesser post.

        I don’t buy into the argument that Jo Smith has been a total victim of scapegoating. Even the likes of A&B CMT are aware enough that any attempt to manipulate a dismissal will not stand up to a thorough legal challenge and could result in them being hauled over the coals. My guess is there is sufficient wrongdoing on her part to warrant disciplinary action, the only argument is whether the punishment fits the crime.

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  17. integrity good insight into how council should work and arnie on the reality. smith charged with bringing council into disrepute but top management have done much more damage and still employed. no strong characters on appeals panel so loudon and macuish will succeed in burying this. can newsie put up all of smith’s presentation? any witnesses come forward to put smith’s talk in proper context? why is public council paper not available?

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  18. Newsie – ya ould hypocrite you.

    “We need a transparent, even handed and objective news operation” – ever considered you might need exactly the same at FA as well??

    You should be ashamed (but you won’t be) of the part you played in this sorry episode. You could also so easily entitled this article ‘Ould Witch Leads Sucessful On-Line Witch-Hunt’.

    Journalist Pffft…..

    ps Crazy/Michael- just because anyone on here objects to the biased, hypocritical, amatuer, word-smith that is Newsie -doesn’t mean they are becoming me or are married to me.

    Have a nice day. :)

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    • Simon would appear to be the expert on witch hunts. Since his first appearance he has been conducting one against “Newsie”. Never misses a chance. A one man vendetta, but to what end?

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      • If you actually read the posts, Simon can come across as quite reasonable, and often gets my vote for not following the herd like many contributors.
        Also, let’s not forget, FA isn’t a credible news source, as it really is only a blog providing opinions on topics designed to generate debate.

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        • This is simply silly.
          We are as credible as our substantial broadsheet audience demonstrates.
          Our record of continuing serious researched analysis on a wide range of topics is unmatched in Argyll – and often by the national media who seem increasingly trivialised.
          A significant proportion of our audience read us for that reason.
          We are glad that you see us as generating debate – and we work hard to inform such debate at a level of serious research and argument – while publishing even the most vacuous and unevidenced insults to demonstrate our genuine openness.

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  19. You really do post the most convulted prose Newsie – “We are as credible as our substantial broadsheet audience demonstrates” – actually that is not even English – well certainly not as we know it.

    And of course self-praise is no praise Newsie…

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  20. Its just another hatched job by ABC to cover up total mismanagement of the worst council in Scotland , it needs to gut out the higher levels of core employees who have been their contributing to bad practice for years if you are one the boys or girls then you are fine , if not your out. I think we know who all the people are that need to go

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