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Oakes: pay-off deal had to be revealed

PUBLISHED: 17:38 05 November 2009 | UPDATED: 16:32 07 September 2010

By Charlotte Newton SUSPENDED Haringey councillor John Oakes leaked details about a six figure pay-off to a council officer because he believed it was his duty to expose the deal, we can reveal. The Liberal Democrat councillor was suspended from his civic

By Charlotte Newton

SUSPENDED Haringey councillor John Oakes leaked details about a six figure pay-off to a council officer because he believed it was his duty to expose the deal, we can reveal.

The Liberal Democrat councillor was suspended from his civic duties last week by the council's standards board, who said he broke their code of conduct by providing confidential information to journalists.

The Ham&High has learnt that the journalists were investigating an employment tribunal action brought on age discrimination grounds by a senior manager at the council.

It is understood that by awarding a six figure out-of-court settlement, the council avoided a potentially embarrassing industrial tribunal.

Cllr Oakes has refused to discuss details of the case following his suspension, but a transcript of an interview between him and council officers in May shows that Cllr Oakes obtained the confidential report from his colleague, Crouch End councillor Ron Aitken, and emailed it to the journalists that same day.

In the recorded interview he said that because of his long association with Cllr Aitken, there was no discussion as to why he wanted the document. The same standards board has cleared Cllr Aitken of any wrongdoing.

Explaining why he decided to send the confidential information to newspapers, Cllr Oakes stated: "Councillors are supposed to be leaders. They are supposed to point out unpopular truths so that injustices or irregularities and illegalities can be rectified.

"In view of the large amounts of money which have already been expanded on this case because of Haringey's then habit of giving people extended gardening leave... I decided there was an overriding public interest with this situation, it deserved to be known about, so that it could be rectified."

Cllr Oakes, who lives in Shepherd's Hill, and is a ward councillor for Bounds Green, went on to claim: "There was a secondary matter of public interest in that it was widely rumoured that a councillor was involved in this whole thing on a personal level."

He later identified the councillor as Charles Adje. "I think the case never came to tribunal because Haringey did not want to risk the embarrassment of Cllr Adje's revelation," he said.

But Cllr Oakes has refused to detail what that alleged 'revelation' was.

Cllr Charles Adje who was formerly council leader and cabinet member for finances told Broadway: "This is news to me. I have absolutely no idea what Cllr Oakes is talking about. I would ask that you ask him what he meant by that because he said it.

"I have no personal problems with anyone on the council.''

Cllr Oakes, himself a former journalist, was caught out when he sent the emails to journalists at the Evening Standard and Mail On Sunday from his own council account and they were intercepted by Haringey's internet security department.

Cllr Lorna Reith was acting leader at the time following George Meehan's resignation over the Baby Peter case, and it was she who reported Cllr Oakes to the standards board.

On Tuesday, she said: "I was acting leader and I felt there was a clear breach of the rules so I reported it. It's important that council staff are able to trust the procedures that we have in place and not find their details in the national press.

"I believe there were other ways Cllr Oakes could have raised his concerns if he had genuinely wanted to find out more about this case."

Cllr Oakes has been suspended until December 31 but this week the Broadway has received numerous letters and calls calling for his reinstatement.

A Haringey Council spokeswoman said: "The decision of the standards board is public information. We don't comment on staffing issues.

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