The National Assembly’s Standards Commissioner, Sir Roderick Evans, has resigned after secret recordings were made of conversations involving him, his staff and a complainant by Independent AM Neil McEvoy.
Sir Roderick, who was Standards Commissioner for three years, is a retired High Court judge and Pro Chancellor of Swansea University.
His responsibility was to investigate complaints made about AMs.
Mr McEvoy, who represents South Wales Central and is also a Cardiff councillor, was the subject of a number of complaints made to Sir Roderick.
The AM decided to record conversations involving Sir Roderick after an official tape of one of the complaint hearings was passed to him by the Standards Commissioner’s office. Unintentionally, a damaging remark about Mr McEvoy made by Sir Roderick when the AM was out of the room was included in the tape that was sent to him.
Mr McEvoy subsequently made covert recordings of the Commissioner, his staff and a complainant against him during breaks when he was out of the room.
Having taken legal advice, Mr McEvoy compiled a report about what was said by Sir Roderick and others, and passed it to WalesOnline on Monday.
The report included critical comments made by Sir Roderick about Mr McEvoy and other AMs, comments made by Sir Roderick to a complainant as well as information about the relationship between the Commissioner’s office and the Assembly Commission.
We forwarded Mr McEvoy’s report to the Commissioner’s office, to the Assembly Commission and to two other AMs whose names were mentioned by the Commissioner.
Hours later Sir Roderick, who is out of the country, resigned. In a letter to Presiding Officer Elin Jones, Sir Roderick said: “It has come to my attention that conversations with my staff about a variety of highly confidential and sensitive matters have been secretly, and possibly illegally, recorded over a period of what seems to be several months and in what seems to be a number of different locations by an Assembly Member.
“These have included highly confidential conversations with my staff including references to cases brought by members of the public.
“When considering and investigating complaints it is necessary for me and my staff to have open and frank discussions about the complaints, the appropriate approach to them, and their implications.
“Much of what has been shared with the media has been taken out of context and is misleading. That a Member of our National Assembly could behave in this way is wholly unacceptable. It undermines the integrity of the complaints procedure and brings our democratic process into disrepute.
“I’m not prepared to continue in my role as Standards Commissioner. I thank my staff for their support during the last three years, but I therefore ask you to accept my resignation.”
Presiding Officer Elin Jones said: “On behalf of the Assembly, I have accepted the Standards Commissioner’s resignation.
“We will now begin the process of appointing an acting Commissioner to undertake the Standards Commissioner’s work in relation to Assembly Members’ conduct, and begin the process of appointing a successor.
“Covert recording of private conversations is a serious matter and we will be asking South Wales Police to investigate how such recordings were obtained.
“Arrangements have been made for a sweep of the Senedd estate to locate any unauthorised electronic surveillance devices.”
Mr McEvoy said: “I welcome the Commissioner’s resignation.
“I decided to make recordings of what he was saying about me after his office disclosed to me a recording of one of the hearings that took place into a complaint made about me.
“The recording covered a period when I was not in the room. Sir Roderick made a damaging comment about me to his staff and the complainant which destroyed any faith that I was getting a fair hearing.
“I therefore decided to record what was said by him and his staff at future meetings when I was out of the room.
“I was shocked by the content of the recordings and believe I have acted in the public interest by passing details of what was said to WalesOnline.”