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Satish Mistry: His GBC Career Summarised

Published on: 15 Nov, 2016
Updated on: 15 Nov, 2016

satish-01The unexpected departure of Satish Mistry the deputy managing director at Guildford Borough Council (GBC) has been the subject of some speculation among those who follow local council affairs.

Here is a synopsis of his career, based on his published LinkedIn page and The Dragon archive, and some of the issues that in his roles as legal adviser, monitoring officer and returning officer, he had to deal with:

1993-2008 – previous experience as a lawyer with Havering, Brent and Waltham Forest councils.

Named as Public Sector “Lawyer of the Year 2006/7” by the Lawyer Magazine.

2008-2012 – worked as a consultant for various authorities, including: Windsor and Maidenhead and the City of London Corporation (but not, despite some rumours, by Tower Hamlets).

2012 Satish Mistry was recruited as a consultant by GBC in the wake of the effective legal challenge by the Guildford Vision Group over the Local Plan and following Stephen Mansbridge’s successful coup to oust Tony Rooth as council leader. The council wanted someone with experience to help steady the ship and ensure council processes were legally compliant.

Chief Executive David Hill’s departure. A tricky HR situation was one of the first challenges faced by Satish Mistry. Mr Hill was paid off with a £160,000 severance, lower than some other chief exec pay-offs at other councils. His departure truncated the investigation into a grievance complaint that had been made against him by a council employee.

Monika Juneja investigation. A complaint, that lead councillor (at the time) Monika Juneja had been improperly using the title “Barrister”, led to an investigation, some thought poorly conducted by an external consultant, which found that there had been no wrongdoing despite a letter sent from the director of the Bar Standards Board to Mistry stating that it appeared a crime had been committed.

The letter concluded: “Now that I have set out the correct position for you it will be clear that there are implications for the investigation report but those, of course, are a matter for you.” Within weeks the police started their own investigation, culminating in Ms Juneja being convicted at the Old Bailey for forgery, deception and pretending to be a barrister.

In May 2015 Mistry was appointed director of corporate services and monitoring officer. This made him a council employee, ending his consultant status.

Oversaw the review of the council’s constitution which had remained unchanged since 2000. Changes accepted, review deemed a success and constitution now well regarded.

Review of Mayoralty which concluded that traditions should be retained whilst using mayoral role to support council’s strategic aims. Mistry also had to adjudicate disagreements between some councillors and Hon Aldermen who were making public comments on political topics, an issue that does not appear to have been completely resolved.

Opinion Logo 2Petition activity on election day. Days before her Old Bailey trial, on the day of the general and local elections in May 2015, councillors and former colleagues reported Monika Juneja (still at that stage a councillor) to Satish Mistry, as monitoring officer, for asking voters to sign a petition demanding a referendum on whether Guildford should have an elected mayor. The council leader, Stephen Mansbridge’s involvement in the petition was not known at the time. Mistry adjudged that Juneja had done nothing improper so long as the activity was not within close confines of a polling station, a conclusion most accepted.

Communications reviews. Two independent reviews of GBC’s external communications were conducted in 2015, it is believed at Mistry’s behest, to encourage a more open approach to communications to external bodies, including the media. Unfortunately, few subsequent changes have been apparent as a result.

Adjudicating council debates. Several debates, during the time Mistry was in post, supporting mayors chairing council meeting, became heated and some statements made by councillors seemed to breach the councillors’ code. Although business was completed some opined Mistry should have been firmer with those who appeared to have “crossed the line”, including council leaders.

In September 2015 he was promoted to deputy managing director.

Council governance model changes. Following a review the adoption of a new hybrid governance model, intended to make scrutiny and backbencher involvement more effective, has been generally well received.

2016 “Lexcel” accreditation achieved. This is the Law Society’s legal practice quality mark for excellence in legal practice management and excellence in client care awarded to GBC’s legal department.

“Bloody rabble” complaint. In April 2016 Cllr Marsha Moseley (Con, Ash Vale) was heard to say, at the conclusion of a planning meeting that she had chaired: “It’s like dealing with a bloody rabble isn’t it?”. A complaint was made and an investigation conducted which recommended that Cllr Moseley should make a public apology. Mistry is believed to have agreed with the recommendation but, so far, no apology has been made.

Elected mayor referendum. Satish Mistry was responsible for overseeing the time consuming and careful verification of the five attempts to present a petition calling for GBC to hold a referendum on whether an elected mayor form of governance should be adopted for the Borough of Guildford. Eventually sufficient verified signatures were obtained and a referendum held in October 2016.

EU referendum (June 2016). As the returning officer for Guildford, Mistry was responsible for the counts during all the elections since 2012. Guildford was one of the last to declare the local referendum count and some criticism was aired privately by councillors present.

October 2016 Satish Mistry leaves GBC. It is understood that Sandra Herbert will take over the monitoring officer duties until further notice.

See also: Opinion – What Has Happened to Mr Mistry, Second in Command at GBC?

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