Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bertha Joseph faces further misconduct claims

Boris Johnson's former fire chief Bertha Joseph is facing further misconduct claims after a complaint was made about her association with a convicted fraudster.

Documents seen by this blog reveal that Bertha recommended the late Aloysius "Rocky" Fernandez for an honour despite his previous conviction for fraud.

The recommendation was typed on headed paper from "The Worshipful the Mayor of the London Borough of Brent."

In the letter she recommended Fernandez as an "unsung hero" who "is always ready to go 'beyond the call of duty' and never asks for anything in return."

Fernandez was dismissed from Brent Council's social services department in 1997 for housing benefit fraud.

He would later plead guilty at Harrow Crown Court.

In a statement released by the council at the time a spokesperson said:

"Fraudsters deprive those in genuine need and reduce the amount the Council can spend on services. It is doubly bad when one of our own officers is committing fraud against us."

Joseph claims that she was not aware of Fernandez's conviction until much later.

She told me yesterday:

"Brent Council employs a lot of people, I couldn't be expected to know about every disciplinary action taken"

However, the conviction was widely known and Joseph was a close associate of Fernandez.

At one point she was involved in a legal dispute between him and two of his clients.

Lorraine Moss and Richard Byrne claim they paid Fernandez £10,000 for legal representation, which he failed to provide.

After refusing a refund, Fernandez turned up at their house with the police and Bertha Joseph by his side.

Moss claims that Fernandez tried to force his way into their home before serving them with a "non-molestation" injunction.

A judge would later lift the injunction stating that there were "considerable mysteries" about how it had been obtained.

Lorraine Moss believes that Bertha gave Fernandez the credibility he needed and greatly added to their difficulties.

After the incident Moss wrote to senior Conservatives with her concerns and has now made an official complaint to Brent Council.

Asked about this incident, Ms Joseph claimed that she did not know why Fernandez had taken her along to Moss's home:

"Rocky and I were members of the same charity committee and we were going somewhere else and he said that he needed to deliver some papers first. I had no idea what he was going to do before we got there. I do not remember exactly what happened."

Within months of the incident Joseph and Fernandez fell out spectacularly.

The cause is unclear, but Fernandez would later submit a number of complaints against her to Brent Council, one of which led to her suspension.

Bertha Joseph said yesterday:

"Rocky was a good man but like lots of people he switched. He made lots of other complaints against me but they were all thrown out. He wasn't a well person."

Ms. Joseph also denied reports that Boris Johnson sacked her from the London Fire Authority last week.

She said that she had taken the decision to stand down herself, so that she would no longer be a "distraction" to her party.

"It was very painful but I didn't want to be a distraction to the good work being done by Boris and the Conservative Party."

She said that that the claims against her had been a "smear campaign" and that she had never tried to conceal the donations used to buy ball gowns:

"There was never any attempt to conceal. This whole episode is a smear campaign by the Labour party because when you consider what has happened in the house of commons I am not a cab for hire, I didn't claim for pornographic films... I was raising money for charity."

She said that she was "guilty as charged" of failing to declare this money but denied any dishonesty.

Asked whether she would stand for re-election she said:

"Well you never know do you? I think that it is an exciting time for the Conservative party and there is a general election coming, so you never know."

Bertha Joseph remains suspended from Brent Council. They will now consider the new complaint made by Lorraine Moss.

The Metropolitan Police are also looking into a separate allegation of theft made against her.

-Update- Brent Council have now confirmed that they will investigate the complaint by Lorraine Moss before the elections.

Evening Standard: More Trouble for Bertha


Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Ah! - she is not a cab for hire? That must be why Brian Coleman let her go.

AdamB said...

The thing is, Brian got exactly what he needed from this particular councillor for hire - a majority on LFEPA. It was only once she delivered this that he let her go.

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...

Some people, (less kind than you or I), might conclude that Brian Coleman and Boris Johnson have put political expediency above moral duty.

AdamB said...

Perish the thought!

Don't Call Me Dave said...

Like Ken never did?

AdamB said...

Perish the thought!

Brian Coleman aka Mr Toad has GOT to go said...