Top Barnet Tory tries to gag Times Series over £10,000 legal bill

Denial: Brian Coleman tried to bully this paper into dropping the story

Denial: Brian Coleman tried to bully this paper into dropping the story

First published in News by

A SENIOR Tory politician tried to gag the Times Series to stop it reporting a standards committee investigation into his conduct.

Barnet councillor and assembly member Brian Coleman, due to be sworn in as borough mayor on Tuesday, has been awarded up to £10,000 of taxpayers' money to cover his legal fees after a resident alleged he had breached the members’ code of conduct.

He rejected the law firm chosen by the council's insurers in favour of Beachcroft LLP – one of the largest and most expensive commercial law firms in the UK.

But when the story was reported yesterday, the cabinet member for community safety claimed falsely he was not the councillor involved and threatened this paper with criminal proceedings if his name was published.

Speaking to The Times Series, he said: “This investigation has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor."

An email from his solicitors, Beachcroft, then demanded the story be removed from the website or they would "refer the matter to the appropriate authorities for action".

“This investigation has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor.

Brian Coleman

The council refused to confirm if the lawyers were acting for Mr Coleman in a private or public capacity.

Beachcroft said the Local Government Act 2000 prevented the disclosure of information obtained in a standards committee investigation.

Publishing Mr Coleman’s name would therefore a breach of confidentiality and could result in a two-year jail term or fine.

But The Times Series legal team disputed this claim, arguing that Mr Coleman's identity was not a confidential part of the officers' investigation.

They also pointed out that Mr Coleman's name had already been confirmed by council leader Mike Freer and was therefore a matter of public record.

Mr Freer approved the £10,000 indemnity for his cabinet colleague on Monday.

The payment will not be reviewed by the Overview and Scrutiny Committee because Mr Freer marked the matter "urgent", bypassing normal procedures.

The leader said he approved the decision because the company was London-based and had "considerable experience" of standards board issues in the capital.

He added: "Being able to see a local specialist could be more cost-effective than having to pay a Cardiff-based solicitor its hourly rate to travel to London.

"We took out the insurance on the understanding we would have access to local specialists.

"The urgency was because the standards board had already started their enquiries and Councillor Coleman was being asked for statements and to attend interviews before the issue with the insurers had been resolved."

The Barnet Standards Committee launched the investigation against Mr Coleman on March 24 following an allegation from a member of the public.

Mr Coleman has also attracted criticism as chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, who claimed in March that he was "too confrontational" and "lacked interest" in them.

The council said it could not reveal details of the allegation until a decision has been reached for legal reasons.

Comments (5)

Please log in to enable comment sorting

1:15pm Sat 16 May 09

godwin39 says...

He is one of our more loathsome and repulsive politicians who was well known in the past to have made excessive Taxi Fare claims despite possessing free public transport passes.
He is one of our more loathsome and repulsive politicians who was well known in the past to have made excessive Taxi Fare claims despite possessing free public transport passes. godwin39
  • Score: 0

2:57pm Sat 16 May 09

Ricky ii says...

Another bullying hog politician - roll on june 4th where we can vote against the main 3 lib/lab/con bullying politicians who did their upmost to stop their fiddles from being in the public domain!
Another bullying hog politician - roll on june 4th where we can vote against the main 3 lib/lab/con bullying politicians who did their upmost to stop their fiddles from being in the public domain! Ricky ii
  • Score: 0

1:44pm Mon 18 May 09

Joe Robb says...

Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go!:

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.
com/group.php?gid=24
061317432

MySpace:
http://www.myspace.c
om/mr_toad_has_got_t
o_go
Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go!: Facebook: http://www.facebook. com/group.php?gid=24 061317432 MySpace: http://www.myspace.c om/mr_toad_has_got_t o_go Joe Robb
  • Score: 0

1:00am Tue 19 May 09

jmc5212 says...

“This investigation has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor.It really is rather a shame that your own paper had this insidious idiot writing a column for so many years. He is a shameful embarrassment to every person in the borough and should never have been allowed to attend the GLA or become Mayor. Why did our representatives select this idiot & more to the point why did the Times allow him to publish his prejudicial rubbish for so many years?
“This investigation has absolutely nothing to do with me, nothing whatsoever, and if you say otherwise you will be hearing from my solicitor.It really is rather a shame that your own paper had this insidious idiot writing a column for so many years. He is a shameful embarrassment to every person in the borough and should never have been allowed to attend the GLA or become Mayor. Why did our representatives select this idiot & more to the point why did the Times allow him to publish his prejudicial rubbish for so many years? jmc5212
  • Score: 0

12:19pm Tue 19 May 09

Joe Robb says...

Coleman to be sworn in as new (night)Mayor tonight

While he's stuffing free canapes in the town hall, Barnet residents will be outside protesting about Barnet council's plans to cut the wardens from sheltered housing schemes. Let them eat cake eh Brian?
____________________

Lobby Barnet council AGM, including swearing in of Brian Coleman as mayor.
Assemble from 6pm, Tuesday 19 May, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, London NW4.
More details from: wardens@barnettuc.or
g.uk
http://vickim57.blog
spot.com/
____________________
Coleman to be sworn in as new (night)Mayor tonight While he's stuffing free canapes in the town hall, Barnet residents will be outside protesting about Barnet council's plans to cut the wardens from sheltered housing schemes. Let them eat cake eh Brian? ____________________ Lobby Barnet council AGM, including swearing in of Brian Coleman as mayor. Assemble from 6pm, Tuesday 19 May, Hendon Town Hall, The Burroughs, London NW4. More details from: wardens@barnettuc.or g.uk http://vickim57.blog spot.com/ ____________________ Joe Robb
  • Score: 0

Comments are closed on this article.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree