Whistle-blower escapes penalty in Porter case

The right of council whistle-blowers to release secret documents to
the press which are in the public interest has been upheld after a
decision by the Adjudication Panel for England.

Councillor Paul
Dimoldenberg, Westminster Council Labour leader, escaped without
penalty after passing confidential documents to the BBC Radio 4’s Today
Programme two years ago.

These drew attention to the fact that
Conservative Westminster Council had failed to collect any of a £27m
surcharge from homes-for-votes scandal council leader Dame Shirley
Porter.

Although Dimoldenberg escaped censure, he was judged to
have committed a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct by passing
secret High Court documents to Today journalist Andrew Hosken.

He
told Press Gazette: “I do believe this is good news for both local
councillors and for journalists – particularly when trying to uncover
and expose wrongdoing.

“It’s exactly the approach we took back in
1989 when colleagues and I worked with the BBC Panorama programme to
expose the homes-for-votes scandal.

“I hope the code of conduct
for councillors will now be reviewed so that releasing confidential
information in the public interest will be acceptable. The law needs to be clarified.

“No action has been taken against me but I have still been judged to have broken the code of conduct.”

Cllr
Dimoldenberg claimed that the 2003 Today Programme report directly
influenced Westminster Council to renew its bid to recover the missing
millions from Dame Porter.

He said: “Before the Today Programme,
the council had all but given up. The documents that I gave the council
enabled it to take immediate court action, leading to the freezing of
over £30m of Dame Porter’s assets.”

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