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Earl's conflict of interest?

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There's an email doing the rounds that KEIOC have uncovered, one that Knowsley Borough Council sought to suppress on the grounds of "commercial sensitivity". Turns out it was between KMBC CEO Sheena Ramsey and a "potential investor" in Destination Kirkby. They even sought legal council to see if they could overrule the Information Commissioner to prevent the contents of the email from being made public and thereby unmasking the "investor" in question.

That "potential investor" was Robert Earl and the email in question describes a telephone conversation between Earl and Ms Ramsey from May 2008 in which she stresses the importance of getting Bill Kenwright, in his capacity as Chairman, to commit Everton FC to the scheme even though there was "a high chance" that the scheme could get called in by the Government.

From: Ramsey, Sheena CEO
Sent: 23 May 2008 13:08
Subject: Kirkby Development

Dear Robert, thank you for ringing yesterday, I really appreciate the reassurance as this feels like a very tense time at the moment. The issue we are faced with at the moment, as I said yesterday is doing everything we can to ensure the project can go ahead with the minimum of risk to any of the partners and in particular the people of Kirkby. We are however, being advised by our planning QC that there is still a high chance, despite everyone?s best efforts that the application will get called in. If this is the case we need to be absolutely certain that Everton will be standing with us at that enquiry hence my concern about having a note to confirm commitment. I have been advised here that it must come from the Chairman, of the club and I have a call into Bill?s office and a draft to send him I should know in the next hour or so how that has gone and will hopefully be able to send you a copy of what I am requesting. The key issue for us at the moment is ensuring we have everything in place to enable the Planning Committee to fully assess the application on Monday 9th June so time is of the essence as the report will have to go to our Members Thursday of next week.
I hope you are well and enjoying glorious sunshine and blue skies, it is not entirely like that here but I have your island on my ?favourites? on the Internet so can look at that to capture that feeling back here in Knowsley!

Best regards

On its face, not all that significant until you consider that KMBC went to such great lengths to protect the anonymity of a third party "investor" who had, in the words of the Information Commissioner's judgement, "never been publicly acknowledged to be involved in the scheme"... except of course that Robert Earl was already very much involved in the scheme as a Board member of Everton FC.

Did Earl acting as an Everton director on the one hand and an unnamed third party pushing the retail and leisure side of the scheme on the other represent a clear conflict of interest? Was he looking after EFC's best interests in making sure the club stayed part of the scheme because it couldn't go ahead without a sporting and recreational component?

Roger McLean, Bootle     Posted 05/03/2011 at 07:10:45

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Stephen Kenny
1   Posted 05/03/2011 at 07:59:53

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"If this is the case, we need to be absolutely certain that Everton will be standing with us at that enquiry, hence my concern about having a note to confirm commitment. I have been advised here that it must come from the Chairman."

If you read between the lines with this particular comment, it is quite revealing. This confirms to me that Bill was not the man making the decisions on DK and probably had no say in the matter.

Liar's Out!!!
Andy Morden
2   Posted 05/03/2011 at 08:34:26

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Wahey! Toffeeleaks!
Michael Neely
3   Posted 05/03/2011 at 08:42:53

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No matter how you read this, there's nothing in it. It merely proves that Robert Earl called Sheena Ramsey and, she sent him an e-mail.

He's an EFC board member and she's the CEO of a concern we were doing business with. Judging by the content of the e-mail, nothing would have been made of it if it had been brought up at the inquiry.

To find anything sinister or underlying in it really is clutching at straws, and if anyone can read anything between the lines, I would suggest they become a medium.

Dennis Stevens
4   Posted 05/03/2011 at 11:25:57

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Odd that KMBC seem to view Everton's [i.e. Kenwright's] commitment to the scheme to be a little flakey, perhaps an indicator of the club's [i.e. Kenwright's] credibility post-KD after LCC had been strung along & then let down. I wonder if there's another mail, asking the club to confirm that the necessary funds for the stadium construction are 'ring-fenced'!
Gavin Ramejkis
5   Posted 05/03/2011 at 11:34:26

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Michael (#3), this is a complete nonsense. If Earl was acting on behalf of Everton FC, it would have not caused such a furore and blatant blank from KMBC to block his 'mystery man' status: however ? and this is most certainly not reading between the lines as the various links on the attached show ? KMBC saw this individual as a separate entity in the entire process, which would imply they have hopes to retain that entity for future business, which would point to the retail development irrespective of whether or not the stadium is part of the development.,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=332&cntnt01returnid=15

KMBC's stance (despite their own QC's advice that the project had every likelihood of being called in) highlighted their desire as a driver, with Everton a mere passenger. Can I also remind you that KMBC is not a private company, it's a regional council, that's Civil Service, naively there for the benefit of it's region and residents ? not itself.
Nick Entwistle
6   Posted 05/03/2011 at 12:57:30

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There was an article in a recent edition of The Spectator which said Earl's Kirkby project was up against another supermarket project in the battle to gain backing from the council. A two-horse race, the winner takes all.

Turns out, with Everton moving to Kirkby to make his project viable, they gained preference from the council over the other bid who were to build a development in... Walton.
Michael Neely
7   Posted 05/03/2011 at 14:57:52

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Gavin (#5), nothing in any document or article I have read indicates to me that Robert Earl was acting as anything but an EFC board member. Can I also point out that, had the development gone ahead, it would have had the effect of turning Kirkby into a true "town", benefitting its residents by providing jobs and facilities. A good bit of business.

I didn't sggest that KMBC was a company, I said they were a concern, capable of doing business.

Karl Masters
8   Posted 05/03/2011 at 18:05:53

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Nick 6

I'm confused!

How was one council deciding on the location of this 'winner takes all' retail development?

Walton is Liverpool City Council and Kirkby is Knowsley Council so no one Council was going to decide anything I would have thought.

As for the main article, the e-mail doesn't really say too much, other than they knew it was on shaky ground and that, maybe surprisingly, BK was having some doubts and needed 'firming up.'

That said, the efforts to cover it up do hint at perhaps other e-mails they (KMBC and Earl) would rather stayed buried.
Gavin Ramejkis
9   Posted 05/03/2011 at 19:51:40

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Michael, everyone and his dog knew Everton were involved... how ? other than as a separate entity doing business besides retail/pleasure ? would KMBC wish to hide the name of Earl? It has for decades spent its efforts on all other towns in Knowsley besides Kirkby, then suddenly bends over backwards for Tesco, ensuring swathes of the town centre are sold cheaply to them and in the knowledge their own QC had serious doubts over the validity of the application.

Sometimes it doesn't take a weatherman to tell you it's raining outside, you look and see for yourself. Kirkby has been run down for decades and at the present time is an absolute shambles and ghost town ? that's not down to this development failure, as KMBC have ran it for as long as they have existed.

Christine Foster
10   Posted 06/03/2011 at 06:40:52

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Roger, it certainly doesn't "feel" like KMBC just wanted Earl to put pressure on Kenwright to sign a note saying Everton were committed to the project, it really does appear that KMBC contacted Earl because it was quite clear that he had more too lose than just acting as a director of EFC.

As such, to me, KMBC applied pressure to him because he did have a foot in two camps, the overall worth of the project being damaged should EFC not be allowed to build there. Which of course was deemed as a problem not just for the club but also for the retail development, in which he supposedly had an interest.

It's called using leverage, but is it a conflict of interest? Difficult... but probably not, more of priority of interest: which was more important to Earl? the retail development or the club?

Howard Don
11   Posted 06/03/2011 at 10:48:31

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Conspiracy theorists unite, you have nothing to lose but your paranoia!
Chris Leyland
12   Posted 06/03/2011 at 19:37:03

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"Robert Earl in shock plan to try and make money for himself" ? and there was me thinking he joined the board of Everton because, as an LA resident and entrepreneur, he had a natural affinity to L8.
Michael Kenrick
13   Posted 06/03/2011 at 23:47:42

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What, like Toxteth?
Chris Leyland
14   Posted 07/03/2011 at 00:28:40

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Yep, Michael, because, believe it or not, we don't all live down Gladwys Street and nip out of our house 5 mins before kick-off like Dixie used to do. As you will be aware from the many ramblings on the subject on this very site, we belong to the City of Liverpool and not the outpost of Knowsley, which this Robert Earl character seems to have been trying to move us to - as evidenced by this super-incriminating email, and the City of Liverpool does indeed include L8 last time I looked. However, it may well be a little conjested tomorrow as I understand that there is an open top bus tour as Liverpool Football Club won a cup final earlier today.

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