After Leanne had asked Dafydd Trystan to intervene in order to make sure that disciplinary procedures were properly followed and that everyone was treated properly and fairly, I received a flurry of emails and a small mountain of information. I'll publish all of this in the next post.
The most important piece of information I was given was the investigation report. But before I publish it, there are some things which I need to make clear.
I've taken the decision to make what has happened public in order to highlight the hypocrisy and double-standards of the people involved in these disciplinary proceedings. As is already clear from the correspondence with Chris Franks, he was determined to press ahead irrespective of the rules set out in Standing Orders, and ignored nearly all of the questions I asked and the warnings I gave him about it. Because of this wall of silence, I had no way of knowing exactly what was happening behind the scenes. I'm sure that I still don't know everything, but I now know an awful lot more than I did at the time.
The investigation and the Investigating Officer's report are key parts of Plaid Cymru's new disciplinary procedure that did not exist before. The investigation is crucially important because it forms the basis on which the Hearing Panel must decide whether there is a case to answer, and it is also an important piece of evidence in its own right at the disciplinary hearing. In normal circumstances (see Clause 4.2 of Standing Orders) the investigation would be carried out by Plaid Cymru's Chief Executive, Rhuanedd Richards. But she, entirely properly, declined this role because she had worked with Rhun ap Iorwerth for a number of years at the BBC, and therefore might have been seen to have a conflict of interest. The responsibility was therefore passed to Shaughan Feakes.
In a previous comment, I described Shaughan as a "senior member of staff" at Plaid Cymru's head office in Cardiff. I have been taken to task for using that description, because it might be taken to imply that he was one of those included in my phrase "people in positions of power". I did not mean to give that impression. By senior, I only meant that he was rather older than most of the other people who work in Ty Gwynfor.
I don't want to embarrass him in any way by giving a few personal details, but he is semi-retired and works for Plaid on a part-time basis. He is one of many people who give their time and effort to the party out of commitment and dedication, and without these people the party simply couldn't function. I've spoken to him on the phone a few times in the past about other things, and he has always been helpful and courteous to me.
Chris told me in his email of 16 September that Shaughan would contact me "to go into the detail of the complaint and receive [my] comments in a comprehensive manner". This never happened, and I specifically told Chris, twice, that I was waiting for him to contact me. I copied Shaughan in on my email correspondence with Chris, and expected him to email me. I didn't see how it would be possible for him to "go into the detail of the complaint" without sending me a copy of it, though I could perhaps understand that some parts of the complaint might need to be redacted. The idea that he would read it out to me over the phone was, to me at least, unthinkable.
As will become clear, the investigation was conducted and concluded without me being asked a single question. I therefore made some very harsh criticisms of Shaughan, both for not getting in touch with me, and for what he wrote in the report because it presented a completely one-sided picture. Yet even at the time, I realized that he had been put in an awkward, if not impossible, situation. This is what I said in an email on 11 December:
Shaughan conducted his so-called investigation without contacting me or asking me a single question, in direct contravention of Clause 4.2. This was despite him being copied in on all correspondence, in which I specifically noted on more than one occasion that I was still waiting to hear from him. He was also instructed to contact me to "go into the detail of the complaint", but did not do so. I was kept entirely in the dark about the complaint, only receiving a copy of it five weeks after his so-called investigation had been completed and the report written.
By attaching his name to this joke of a document, he must bear personal responsibility for it and fully deserves to be reprimanded. However I would not want to be overly critical of his behaviour. As someone who works in Ty Gwynfor, he was severely compromised and probably put into an impossible position, and it is only fair that these mitigating circumstances are taken into account.
Nevertheless, the end result is that Plaid Cymru staff resources have been improperly used to prepare and present evidence in favour of one member of the party, while deliberately and completely ignoring the right of another member of the party to receive the same consideration. I had every right to expect that an equivalent amount of time and effort should have been given to investigating and presenting evidence that would show that what I said about Rhun's untruthfulness was justified.
Yet even this was premature. For as I was later to discover (on 20 January to be precise) Shaughan did in fact try to contact me by phone, but didn't get through because he was using old contact details. At the same time I also discovered that Plaid Cymru's lawyers had given him specific legal advice to conduct the investigation by phone rather than by email or letter. This puts things in a completely different light.
It is now clear that Shaughan was not to blame for failing to contact me. From my point of view, I can't see what would have prevented him from sending me a short email to say that he had tried to get in touch with me, but there is probably a good explanation for this too. Shaughan would in all probability have discussed the matter with Chris, and therefore believed that it was Chris's responsibility to tell me this. I don't know for sure, but I think it is quite possible that Chris might even have instructed him to ignore what I said in the emails I copied to him and not contact me by email at all, for he specifically went so far as to tell the other members of the Hearing Panel (Lisa Turnbull and Farida Aslam) that if they received any emails from me they should delete them.
In short, while I still have some criticisms of Shaughan, I have to say that with hindsight they are minor and completely outweighed by the mitigating circumstances of the impossible position he was put into. So I want to take this opportunity to apologize to Shaughan for the harshness of my criticism. Others are far, far more to blame for what happened than he was. I think it is important to say this now, before I publish the report, rather than wait for it to become apparent later.