Saturday, September 01, 2012

Letter to The Evening Standard

Dear Sir
Having been on holiday for the last 2 weeks I missed Alison Roberts’s interview with Alderman Simon Walsh following his acquittal on various sex charges.
I was surprised however at Simon’s version of events concerning his sacking from the Fire Authority, of which I was Chairman, by the Mayor of London.
Alderman Walsh had been appointed in 2008 by Boris Johnson on my strong recommendation and served diligently as Chairman of the Audit Committee and was a loyal and hard working Authority member. However to my knowledge he never met Boris Johnson on Fire Brigade business and Boris had little idea who he was, so to suggest he had some sort of “City Hall career” is fantasy. When his term expired in 2012 it was highly unlikely he would have been reappointed. 
In the summer of 2011 I, as Chairman, other Authority members and Officers became concerned that Alderman Walsh was missing meetings without explanation, was not replying to e mails and phone messages and was looking extremely unwell and we were genuinely concerned about his welfare. However it was only in September 2011 five months after his arrest that as a result of City of London Corporation gossip I heard that he had been arrested and was in a position to ring him and ask if the gossip was true. He had not undertaken any of the usual courtesies of Local Government when a member gets into “difficulties” of explaining privately the circumstances and asking for understanding from colleagues at a difficult time .Neither I was told had he approached the Town Clerk of the City Corporation or the Senior Alderman.
I was sympathetic, not least as a fellow Gay Man, to Alderman Walsh’s position but specifically asked him if any of the allegations he was facing involved children (not least as the Fire Authority works closely with young people through it’s “LIFE” programme) and he categorically stated they did not. This was the position I explained when I met Boris Johnson and Deputy Mayor Sir Edward Lister. The Mayor (who has appointed more Gay men to senior positions in his Administration than any other British Politician I can think of) would not countenance any talk of Simon’s dismissal on the grounds of Innocence until proven guilty and that whilst the pornography in question might not be to his taste what someone viewed through the privacy of their own key board was their affair. Whilst the City of London Corporation was rushing round desperate to avoid embarrassment (with Officers talking about withdrawing Alderman Walsh’s Dinner invitations!), the Fire Authority and the Mayor ’s Office were firmly supportive,
However when six weeks later the “Sunday Mirror” reported that one charge did involve an alleged under age boy and Simon on the phone confirmed this was the case the Mayor ’s office decided that we had to ask for Simon’s resignation. When Simon declined to resign the Mayor removed him from office on the grounds that Alderman Walsh had failed to be open, transparent and straightforward about his situation, never mind that his Fire Authority duties would no doubt suffer whilst he was giving his attention to clearing his name.
I personally am delighted that Simon has been cleared of all charges and wish him well in his future career but I know that sadly his departure from the Fire Authority was of his own making and not through any prejudice from me or the Mayor ’s Office
Yours Faithfully
Councillor Brian Coleman 
(Chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Authority 2008 to 2012)


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