Last month you mentioned in passing (3rd July, "The Dame Has Erred”) that Sue Harris was “…..the idiot who gave the green light for the Carrabino piano legal fiasco”.
If Sue Harris was “the idiot” she was not the only one, and this was no ordinary legal dispute.
The piano fiasco story goes beyond Ms Harris’s pay grade and includes councillor involvement, officer impropriety, hiding of evidence, cronyism, favours for friends etc. RBKC continues to strenuously hide the truth and to protect the councillors and officers involved. Cllr Elizabeth Campbell’s promises of transparency are hollow.
254 email accounts were involved in the dispute, but only one name on that list has been disclosed - former councillor Tim Ahern. Cllr Ahern wrote (in the one unredacted email disclosed in response to a FOI request) that he had his “fingers crossed” RBKC would triumph in the High Court appeal proceedings, an appeal intended to ensure that the Carrabino children’s right to play the piano at home would be severely curtailed, and that Mr and Mrs Carrabino would be subjected to potentially ruinous legal costs to defend the original court judgment. It seems a strange position to take for a councillor who is elected by residents to serve residents, not the council, and whose duty it is to be impartial in neighbour disputes.
But Cllr Ahern was not alone - other councillors, names redacted, were also involved. Their names and the other names of the remaining 253 email accounts are vigorously being kept secret by RBKC. It seems almost certain that these 253 email accounts extend beyond RBKC and that RBKC is protecting somebody, or several people. The complainant in the dispute, Mr Baptista, was on the Board of Trustees of the V&A Museum at the time of the dispute, with former Cllr Coleridge’s brother, Nicholas Coleridge, holding the Chair. The enthusiasm with which RBKC leadership embraced Mr Baptista’s side in the dispute looks very much like mobilisation of “the old boys’ network”. Even rumours that swirl around the borough of Tory councillors’ membership of the secretive Freemasons don’t seem so far-fetched when looking at the zeal with which RBKC involved itself in this dispute on the well-connected Mr Baptista’s behalf. And just as quickly they dropped it following the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Meanwhile, lower down the RBKC totem pole the "piano fiasco" also exposed a stench of something rotten within the environmental health department.
It is a well-known fact that environmental health officers destroyed acoustic recordings they had taken of the piano playing. What has only recently been disclosed is that senior officers also ignored and then hid other evidence that would have undermined their case in the litigation proceedings. This evidence from other RBKC noise nuisance officers was kept secret until March this year. It is now known that these other officers said explicitly the piano playing was not a nuisance. So why did Tim Davis and his team ignore, and then hide, this evidence? Why did they want so badly to prosecute this unwinnable case?
Or were these senior officers under some pressure from above?
And RBKC did not want to stop after they lost in the Magistrates’ Court. The senior noise nuisance officer, Keith Mehaffy, was so devoted to the cause alongside Mr and Mrs Baptista, he paid them a private undocumented visit at the time RBKC appointed a high-priced QC to lead an appeal to the High Court on the Baptistas’ behalf, at taxpayer expense. RBKC has no official record or logs of Mr Mehaffy’s visit, but Mr Mehaffy was witnessed and recorded by a resident and so when he was asked about this visit he acknowledged it took place. His explanation was that he had been collecting acoustic recording evidence for the High Court appeal, although a FOI request disclosed that none of the RBKC acoustic recording devices was logged as being in the Baptistas’ home at the time. (Also, the appeal was by way of case stated, ie. on points of law only so new evidence would not have been relevant).
And it has only recently been disclosed that Cllr Tim Ahern had his fingers crossed for RBKC acting as agent for the Baptistas!
It remains a mystery what lay behind the three-year-long dispute on one resident’s behalf, what mobilised RBKC at its highest levels and possibly beyond and their willingness to squander a reported £250,000 on one unyielding resident’s behalf. Idiocy alone does not explain the full story. Information requests continue to be vigorously fought, none more intriguing at the moment than the request for information about the remaining 253 email accounts involved in the dispute.
Other elected officials were involved in this and RBKC’s refusal to disclose their names is untenable.