Mahboob Hussain: Misconduct hearing goes ahead despite ex-deputy leader's last ditch adjournment bid
A misconduct hearing into a former deputy leader of Sandwell Council has gone ahead in his absence after ethics bosses said they had 'no confidence' of him ever turning up.
Councillor Mahboob Hussain was summoned to appear before the authority's standards committee this morning to answer claims that he had breached of the council's code of conduct.
A letter from his barrister requested an adjournment on his behalf on medical grounds.
But after deliberating for more than three and a half hours the committee ruled to press on on with the hearing, which was initially supposed to go ahead in August 2016 and has already been postponed on five occasions.
The council's legal officer James Cornwell said the panel had 'noted the absence of any clear prognosis' as to when Mr Hussain was likely to be fit to face the committee.
"We have no confidence that he will be able to attend the hearing in the near future," he said, before announcing the start of the proceedings.
The allegations were investigated as part of the explosive Wragge report and concern Mr Hussain's alleged involvement in the sale of council owned toilet blocks and the quashing of parking tickets for family members.
The facts of the case are being outlined by James Goudie QC, who will guide the committee through hundreds of pages of evidence, including witness statements.
It is claimed that Oldbury councillor Mr Hussain ‘agreed to ignore’ a £130,000 valuation for three public toilet blocks, which were subsequently sold as a job lot for £35,000 to one of Mr Hussain’s associates in 2012.
Mr Goudie said Mr Hussain clearly had an interest in 'pushing the sale through' from the onset.
Mr Hussain had argued that he barely knew the buyer and was not related to him, an argument that Mr Goudie said was 'stretching things'.
Sandwell Council chief executive Jan Britton, who is due to give evidence at the hearing, said he had been 'misled' by Mr Hussain over the sale of the toilets and accused him of failing in his duties as a councillor.
Mr Hussain was initially due to appear before the committee in August 2016 and then in March 2017, but both hearings were cancelled following legal challenges.
Subsequent hearings were adjourned on medical grounds.
In June this year he was ordered to pay £55,000 in legal costs after his argument that the council should not have published the Wragge report was thrown out by a High Court judge.
Mr Hussain argued that its publication had violated his family’s human rights, but Mr Justice Green ruled there was ‘a powerful public interest’ in a ‘thorough and fair’ investigation.
In January, separate allegations of fraud and misconduct against him relating to a Compulsory Purchase Order scheme were referred to police.
If the committee rules that Mr Hussain has breached the authority's code of conduct it can put him on a training course and withdraw council facilities.
It has no power to suspend or disqualify a councillor.
Mr Hussain has always denied any wrongdoing and claims he is the victim of a 'political witchhunt'.
The hearing continues.