Mark King has been a Conservative Councillor in Torbay, Devon for 4 years. A serving councillor who was disciplined for misconduct and fled 7,000 miles to the Philippines, he claims he fears for his safety if he returns. King was accused of multiple breaches of the code of conduct by a woman he developed a personal relationship with. He fled to Manila in October and claims his family have been victims of online bullying and harassment and that there are councillors and council officers who are after him. Here, Mark King speaks to Country Squire Magazine’s Nick Pearce:
NP: Mark, why should we believe a word you say? You are up on charges of breaching the council code of conduct and no wonder you’re willing to talk to us. You’ll be wanting to say anything won’t you?
MK: Torbay Council commissioned an Independent Investigator to look into allegations against me by the complainant. The cost of this was £8000. The final report cleared me of all charges. The Standards Committee made up of 2 Conservatives and 1 Independent (I use the term Independent very loosely) decided to ignore the findings and find me guilty of some of the offences in spite of there being no evidence. This was a political decision purely to settle old scores.
NP: Are you guilty of anything dodgy? It seems there’s plenty of dodgy behaviour in Torbay?
MK: The Standards Committee also asked to look into the behaviour of another Councillor, Cllr. Excell, over his dealings with the same woman. They also asked to look into procurement of Bus services, Planning matters, Event Contracts and Community services. These are all matters decided by senior council officers. I played no part in these decisions. I did not hold the power to do so.
NP: What would you say to those good people of Torbay planning to stand as councillors in May?
MK: I would say the best of luck because you are going to need it. The goings on in the town hall will be a real eye opener. If you are elected as a Conservative, you will have to abide by the Party whip or be disciplined. The council constitution expressly forbids the use of a political whip, but the Tories ignore this and the Council Officers do nothing about it. I complained on more than one occasion, but nothing ever happened. The Liberal Democrats do not operate a whip, there are currently no Labour members and the independents as you would expect vote as they choose. Don’t expect any power as an individual member. You can’t click your fingers and expect something to happen. Council red tape and in some cases obstruction will thwart even your best attempts. Council officers will always give you reasons why something can’t be done.
NP: How deep does the corruption in Torbay go?
MK: I will be careful here as I know a full investigation is underway and I would not want to jeopardise any future legal matters. My suspicion is that it goes right to the top of the organisation.
NP: You worked on the planning committee. There are plenty of complaints about Torbay’s planners. Smoke without fire?
MK: I was the Cabinet Member for planning for just over 2 years. As I previously mentioned, I held no decision-making power. As a cabinet member, I could not sit on the Planning Committee and I rarely attended the meetings. The Conservatives held the balance of power on the planning committee and I suspect the whip was used on more than one occasion to push things through. I know of councillors that have attempted to lean on officers to make them recommend certain applications and refuse others, “predetermined”. Again, this is one for the investigation and it will leave no stone unturned.
NP: The Council seems to be ignoring the Neighbourhood Plan designed by residents to protect the Great British Countryside and other local heritage? Even stopping signs going up promoting the referendum on the Neighbourhood Plan. Why are the Council so scared of that?
MK: The council officers initially recommended to the mayor’s cabinet that this should be rejected. We had to pause the meeting in order that we could find a motion that was workable. Fortunately, by the time the plan went to full council, it was accepted unanimously. It shocks me that these posters and signs are being stopped and taken down by the council. You ignore the will of the people at your peril, as other politicians are fast finding out.
NP: What on earth are you doing in Manila?
MK: Manila is the capital of a beautiful country with good people. I’m running my online travel business from here and educating the locals with some western cooking when I get the chance to do so at a local restaurant.
NP: What do you fear so much in Torbay that you fled all that way to the Philippines?
MK: Ever since the complaint about my conduct was made to the Council, I have been the target of an online hate campaign. This has been extended to my family. This has involved fake news, personal photos of me when I was really ill being published. I have also received death threats and been falsely arrested on trumped up accusations. One of the perpetrators also posted a Facebook live video from my parents’ house. They were scared, they are both in their 80’s. They have been forced to sell up and move out of the area. The Council gave little or no support during this period. I was judged guilty by them way before the hearing. I think I know too much about the council and councillor dealings, so I have been pushed out of the way. The Mayor removed me from the cabinet position as soon as the complaint was received.
NP: Did you report this to the Police as this looks on the face of it, harassment?
MK: Yes, I had a long interview and supplied them with pages and pages of evidence. They decided to take no action. I am now in the process of liaising with a competent police force.
NP: What is your message to the world if something untoward should happen to you?
MK: Think very carefully about who you get involved with, who you deal with. Politics is a very dirty game, and anything can happen to you. My experience at Torbay Council made me ill to within an inch of my life.
NP: What would you like to be done about Torbay Council?
MK: I trust the thorough investigation will bring the culprits to justice.
NP: What is your message to Torbay Council?
MK: Thank you for the worst 4 years of my life. But karma will be a great feeling when it happens, and it will happen. You can’t stop it. Brighton ’57.
NP: What is your message to the people who you feel have done you wrong?
MK: The truth will come out in the end, it always does
NP: Where will you be in 5 years’ time, Mark?
MK: Unfortunately I do not possess a crystal ball. I hope to be able to return to the UK when it is safe for me to do so. Before that happens, certain people will have to face justice. And oh boy will they face justice!
NP: Thanks very much for talking to us, Mark.