Legal Complaints CEO Rosemary Agnew is ‘front runner’ for Scottish Information Commissioner role. DOCUMENTS published in response to FOI requests after an investigation by Diary of Injustice today reveal ROSEMARY AGNEW, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission (SLCC) who is tipped to be the Scottish Parliament’s choice as the new Scottish Information Commissioner, replacing the highly successful Kevin Dunion, has been forced to declare multiple receipts of hospitality from law firms, the Law Society of Scotland, and from politicians such as the Scottish Parliament’s very own Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick MSP, who also chaired the selection panel of seven msps who interviewed Ms Agnew as a candidate to serve as Scotland’s Information Commissioner for the next EIGHT YEARS.
The SLCC was forced to publish its “Gifts & Hospitality Register” in response to Freedom of Information requests from Diary of Injustice after this journalist began investigating rumours of multiple gifts, hospitality & undeclared contact with law firms, staff & key figures from the Law Society of Scotland including former Law Society Presidents, clandestine no-notes-taken meetings in posh Edinburgh hotels between SLCC Chiefs & shady organisations such as the Legal Defence Union, insurers such as Royal Sun Alliance PLC & Marsh UK, and MSPs & their staff.
Some of the entries in the SLCC’s Gifts & Hospitality Register, which does not appear to have been kept up to date with current events, show a range of Hospitality gifts by way of dinners & occasions attended by Ms Agnew which raise questions over the closeness of contact between key staff at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and the legal profession, which the SLCC are supposed to be regulating.
30/09/10 Rosemary Agnew Patricia Goldie Scott Moncrieff – Internal Auditors Business Lunch
6/12/10 Rosemary Agnew Law Society of Scotland Law Society of Scotland Invitation to Christmas drinks party at their offices. Accepted
13/01/11 Rosemary Agnew Law Society of Scotland Law Society of Scotland Invitation to LSS Dinner with charity raffle 11th March 2011. Accepted
21/02/11 Rosemary Agnew Scott-Moncrieff SLCC’s Internal Auditors Informal Business Lunch at offices – accepted.
24/02/11 Rosemary Agnew Ayr Faculty Law Book token for delivering presentation, donated to the Office Charity
25/05/11 Rosemary Agnew Jamie Millar, President Law Society of Scotland Reception for the CEO of the Law Society of Malawi. Accepted
26.7.11 Rosemary Agnew National Museum of Scotland Museum Accepted. Invitation to reopening of the Museum.
Hospitality offered by Presiding Officer & Chair of selection panel during meetings to decide new Info Commissioner 12.07.11 Rosemary Agnew Tricia Marwick MSP MSP Declined. Invitation to launch reception of 2011 Festival of Politics and the World Press Photo Exhibition in Parliament’s main hall. In one entry, dated July of 2011, the SLCC’s Chief Executive Rosemary Agnew also received an invitation from the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick, to attend a reception at the Scottish Parliament. While the hospitality from Ms Marwick was declined, it appears to have come at the same time Ms Agnew was considering her position in relation to applications & interviews held at the Scottish Parliament for the role of Freedom of Information Tsar after the current Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, finished his second & final term as Scotland’s Freedom of Information guardian. of Information Commissioner in which msps were speaking to candidates who were interested in taking on the
However it now transpires from an investigation, the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick who offered hospitality to Ms Agnew also sat on the all women msp selection panel which conducted the highly secret interviews of the five candidates seeking the post of Information Commissioner. The panel is rumoured in the media and by insiders to have made Ms Agnew their choice to replace Mr Dunion.
A Scottish Parliament official confirmed the identities of the cross party panel, which was made up of the following Members : Presiding Officer, Tricia Marwick MSP – Chair, Margaret Burgess MSP, Helen Eadie MSP, Christine Grahame MSP, Alison McInnes MSP, Mary Scanlon MSP, Maureen Watt MSP.
While Mr Dunion is set to leave office in a matter of days, there is still no official announcement from the Scottish Parliament on who is to succeed him as the new Information Commissioner. On being quizzed about an announcement regarding the identity of who is to be Scotland’s new Information Commissioner a Scottish Parliament spokesman said: “A seven member, cross-party selection panel followed an open recruitment process with candidates assessed against a number of criteria. We expect to be in a position to confirm the nominee to Parliament, ahead of Kevin Dunion’s departure in February.”
However, amid claims msps have been looking for “a less enthusiastic candidate for the key FOI role” than Mr Dunion, who is generally regarded as being pro information disclosure, the Scottish Parliament have REFUSED to release any details about who was interviewed for the post and what information particularly concerning the candidate’s backgrounds was considered.
A solicitor from a well known law firm who have used FOI on a number of occasions spoke to to Diary of Injustice today on the subject, saying : “Given the position of Information Commissioner is of significant public interest I would have thought we are entitled to open hearings at the Scottish Parliament with the candidates appearing in front of Committees to be questioned about their attitude towards Freedom of Information rather than this secret interview process which appears to have descended into a version of the old pals act.”
He went onto say : “It seems rather suspicious to me that our msps are waiting until the last few days to announce Mr Dunion’s replacement when the position is of such importance to the public. What does the Scottish Parliament have to hide about who is taking up the role ?”
Earlier this week, in the wake of reports in the media regarding Ms Agnew’s apparent position as ‘front runner’ to replace Kevin Dunion, a key player in the recruitment process has approached Diary of Injustice for more information on Ms Agnew’s position at the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and her history of dealing with Freedom of Information disclosures after it was reported Ms Agnew has been slapped down at least FIVE times by the current Information Commissioner over significant failures in releasing information to the public & media.
Diary of Injustice asked the Information Commissioner’s office if it have been informed of who is to replace Mr Dunion in the role of Information Commissioner. A spokesperson said : “I can confirm that we have not received any notification or confirmation from the Scottish Parliamentary Corporate Body regarding who Kevin Dunion’s successor might be. As such it would be inappropriate for us to comment on the speculation that has surfaced in the press.”
The Scottish Legal Complaints Commission and Ms Agnew have not made any comment on the situation, and so far, the SLCC have not made any public moves to advertise Ms Agnew’s job as Chief Executive, which she has held for a little over a year after replacing the controversial former SLCC CEO Eileen Masterman, who resigned after a bitter exchange with Cabinet Secretary for Finance John Swinney over issues involving meetings the SLCC held in connection with the Master Policy and claims of “ill health” which led to a secret & substantial pay-off, personally signed off by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill. Diary of Injustice reported on the secret Masterman pay-off scandal in an earlier article here : HUSH & MONEY : Former SLCC law complaints Chief Executive Eileen Masterman received secret Scottish Government approved payoff in deal with lawyers
If Ms Agnew is appointed to replace Kevin Dunion as Scotland’s Information Commissioner, the SLCC will be forced to recruit its third Chief Executive in three years, leading to concerns from consumer groups, clients, and even the legal profession that there is little continuity at the anti-client law complaints quango which has achieved little since being created in 2008 by the Scottish Government as an ‘independent’ regulator to deal with complaints against Scottish lawyers
Ms Agnew’s position as front runner to be the new Scottish Information Commissioner was reported in an earlier article, here : SHHH Happens : SLCC Legal Complaints CEO Rosemary Agnew tipped for FOI Commissioner role after 5 FOI ‘rebukes’ & refusals to monitor Master Policy
The Daily Record newspaper featured further comment :
TIP FORCED TO DISCLOSE Jan 9 2012 Exclusive by Chris Musson
A WOMAN tipped to be Scotland’s new anti-secrecy tsar has had a string of rulings made against her by the man she could replace.
Rosemary Agnew, who heads the Scottish Legal Complaints Commission, is one of six people interviewed to be the next Information Commissioner. But Kevin Dunion has slapped down the SLCC eight times – five since Agnew took over as Chief Executive in October 2010.
Legal Reform campaigner Peter Cherbi, who had several requests knocked back by the SLCC, cast doubt over her suitability. He said : “How someone like that could be put in charge of openness is beyond me, unless they want to shut down openness and accountability.”
Agnew did not respond to requests for a comment.
HOSPITALITY FREE FOR ALL AT THE SCOTTISH LEGAL COMPLAINTS COMMISSION
The Hospitality Club : More gifts than complaints findings at Scotland’s law complaints quango. The SLCC’s registers of gifts & hospitality contains items such as invitations to dinners, drinks parties, lectures events and other gifts offered by several personalities from Scotland’s legal world including past Law Society Presidents Ian Smart & Jamie Millar, law firms such as Pagan Osborne, Shepherd & Wedderburn, Anderson Strathern, Beveridge & Kellas SSC, auditors KPMG & Deloitte, consumer organisations Consumer Focus Scotland & Which?, the Law Society of Scotland, Faculty of Advocates, the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland, the Medical Protection Society, the Administrative Justice & Tribunals Council Scottish Committee (AJTC), Scottish Government & others. While some members of staff are identified, others apparently are not, leaving a degree of suspicion over who attended some of the events such as law lectures at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.