Ex-aide ac­cuses First Min­is­ter of ig­nor­ing ‘toxic bul­ly­ing’

South Wales Echo - - NEWS -

PRES­SURE on Car­wyn Jones fol­low­ing the ap­par­ent sui­cide of sacked Min­is­ter Carl Sargeant has in­ten­si­fied af­ter one of his for­mer key aides ac­cused the First Min­is­ter of hav­ing been “un­will­ing or un­able” to ad­dress a toxic bul­ly­ing cul­ture in his pri­vate of­fice.

Steve Jones, who worked as the First Min­is­ter’s me­dia spe­cial ad­viser from 2009 un­til 2014, claimed the at­mos­phere was “pure poi­son” and that Min­is­ters in­clud­ing Mr Sargeant were per­sis­tently un­der­mined by se­nior ad­vis­ers play­ing power games.

The Welsh Con­ser­va­tives claimed ev­i­dence was build­ing that Car­wyn Jones had him­self bro­ken the Min­is­te­rial Code.

Mr Sargeant was found dead in his home at Con­nah’s Quay last Tues­day, four days af­ter be­ing re­moved from his post as Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary for Com­mu­ni­ties and Chil­dren be­cause of un­spec­i­fied al­le­ga­tions of sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

Af­ter agree­ing to step down pend­ing an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Labour Party into the al­le­ga­tions, Mr Sargeant, who was also sus­pended from the Labour Party, is­sued a state­ment say­ing he hoped for a quick in­quiry so he could clear his name and re­turn to gov­ern­ment. But at the time of his death he had only been told that the al­le­ga­tions fell into the gen­eral cat­e­gory of “un­wanted at­ten­tion, in­ap­pro­pri­ate touch­ing or grop­ing”.

Mr Sargeant’s so­lic­i­tor ex­pressed con­cern about the im­pact of the al­le­ga­tions on the politi­cian’s phys­i­cal and men­tal health, and asked the Labour Party for swift dis­clo­sure of the spe­cific de­tails of the al­le­ga­tions made against him. The party pro­posed a po­ten­tial hear­ing date in mid-Jan­uary.

It is un­der­stood there were com­plaints from three women, none of which have been re­ferred to the po­lice.

An as yet un­named QC is to in­ves­ti­gate the First Min­is­ter’s ac­tions in re­la­tion to Mr Sargeant.

The Welsh Con­ser­va­tives have called for an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into al­le­ga­tions of bul­ly­ing at the heart of the Welsh Gov­ern­ment made by for­mer Pub­lic Ser­vices Min­is­ter Leighton An­drews.

Last week Pro­fes­sor An­drews wrote in a blog post­ing about an en­vi­ron­ment within Welsh Gov­ern­ment where “mi­nor bul­ly­ing, mind games, power games, favouritism, in­con­sis­tency of treat­ment to dif­fer­ent min­is­ters and de­lib­er­ate per­sonal un­der­min­ing” were al­lowed to flour­ish unchecked.

Steve Jones said: “I agree en­tirely with Leighton An­drews’ de­scrip­tion of the tox­i­c­ity that ex­isted at top of Welsh Gov­ern­ment. Soon af­ter I ar­rived to work for Car­wyn af­ter his elec­tion as First Min­is­ter in 2009, it was clear that I was en­ter­ing a toxic en­vi­ron­ment. The at­mos­phere that ex­isted on the fifth floor and the First Min­is­ter’s Of­fice was one of fear and loathing.”

A Welsh Gov­ern­ment spokesman re­sponded: “We do not recog­nise these com­ments. Com­plaints re­gard­ing staff and spe­cial ad­viser con­duct are taken se­ri­ously and dealt with ac­cord­ingly.”

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