Confidential or embarrassing? You decide

THERE is something rather unsatisfactory about the outcome of the code of conduct complaint lodged against Education Committee member Andy Cameron by the rest of the committee.

The findings of the panel hearing the matter quite properly held that the concerns raised were effectively a technical breach of confidentiality, and that he had not attempted to mislead or do anything to undermine public confidence in the States.

Instead, the unease islanders will feel about this weaponised use of the code against Deputy Cameron is that it comes across as a disproportionate attempt to muzzle a colleague who was trying to get relevant information out into the public domain.

‘All the teaching professionals think our proposals are brilliant,’ said ESC. Ah, hold on, Grammar School teachers believe they’re little short of a disaster, according to the committee’s own notes.

Which ‘crime’ is worse, trying to dupe the public over already-controversial education reforms, or revealing that sleight of hand?

Islanders will have their own views, but given the limited scope of the standards watchdog, there is no definitive answer. Deputy Cameron’s actions are scrutinised because ESC demanded they should be to make his life uncomfortable – its own conduct escapes similar challenge unless or until that too becomes subject to a code complaint.

The more significant issue here, however, is how the States – not just Education – classify ‘confidential’ material. Basically, it is anything a committee says should remain secret.

Notes of a meeting with teachers hardly raise issues of sensitivity, other than it was embarrassing for the committee to be caught out in public saying one thing when meeting minutes say otherwise.

Is that a proper definition of confidential? Or one we can have any respect for? The code deputies operate under is quite specific: ‘They shall… restrict information only when the wider public interest, or statutory provision, clearly demand.’

Pursuing Deputy Cameron therefore begs a bigger question – by what possible criteria can a note of a meeting with teachers be deemed confidential, other than to spare ESC’s red faces?

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