Greenwich Council bullying: Was there a probe into ‘thick skull’ voicemail whistleblower?

Update, 26 March: Greenwich Council has denied the leak referred to in this story was about the leaked Chris Roberts voicemail. See the end of the second video in this story.

Greenwich Council leader and bully Chris RobertsGreenwich Council used public resources to track down the whistleblower who leaked ex-leader Chris Roberts’ abusive voicemail to a cabinet member to the media, it has been suggested.

The council is said to have launched the investigation after a voicemail of Roberts abusing John Fahy was made public, according to a report on answers given to a freedom of information request made by journalism trade website Press Gazette.

Roberts can be heard threatening Labour colleague Fahy with the removal of his cabinet position, telling him to “get it through your fucking thick skull”. The voicemail’s existence was first revealed on this website, after which it was published by the News Shopper. The investigation was into who leaked the voicemail to the Shopper.

Roberts was angry because Fahy was challenging his assumption that he would decide whether or not the Run to the Beat half-marathon, which benefited a charity that Roberts chaired, should take place in 2014.

It’s worth noting here that Greenwich Council refused to reveal details of the investigation to Press Gazette, only saying the leaker was identified. Instead, it said the information was already in the public domain – and the “thick skull” voicemail was by far the most high profile story leaked out of the council in recent years.

It is certainly known that the council was planning a investigation of the voicemail leak at the time, in addition to investigations by the Labour party, and the council’s standards board met to discuss the matter in December 2013.

Roberts left the council last summer, with the council mired in accusations over a bullying culture that led to two Labour councillors stepping down. He was let off any council punishment over the voicemail, but did get a written warning from the party.

However, Fahy – the victim of the voicemail – was punished twice by Greenwich Labour group chief whip over the incident. He was given a verbal warning over the leak of the voicemail, and while selections were taking place for the 2014 elections, he was given a written warning for not saying who the message had been leaked to – something that could have put his candidacy at risk.

Mary Ney, the chief executive who oversaw the investigation, also left the council last year after refusing to release a dossier about bullying submitted by a councillor, claiming it was solely a Labour party matter.

She is now working as a commissioner at scandal-hit Rotherham council, itself criticised for a bullying culture in an official report.

Chief whip Ray Walker, who oversaw the party’s disciplinary process against Fahy, was deposed by new councillor Stephen Brain last year.

When BBC London investigated the bullying at Greenwich Council in December 2013, shadow London minister Sadiq Khan promised to investigate complaints – but the complaints were ignored by the party.

Last night, the Tooting MP appeared at a comedy fundraiser in Greenwich called Stand Up For Labour – something he failed to do for his party’s own councillors in the borough.

2.10pm update: I’ve made a few tweaks to the story in light of information received just after it was published to stress it’s not fully certain whether the investigation was into the Fahy voicemail, although that is the only major leak story to have involved Greenwich in recent years.

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