Bonum Certa Men Certa

St. Germain’s “Système Lamy” and Its EPO Clone - Part 2: Misinformation and Silencing of Dissent

Express coverSummary: The suppression of information and dissemination of misinformation as a cornerstone of “Système Lamy” in St. Germain-en-Laye and “Système Battistelli” at the EPO

In Part 1 we looked at some of the striking similarities between the “Système Lamy” in St. Germain-en-Laye and its EPO clone.



In Part 2 we continue our comparative study by considering further aspects common to both systems.

Controlling and manipulating the flow of information



"In St. Germain-en-Laye Lamy achieved a certain notoriety for his refusal to disclose important administrative documents to opposition groups frequently invoking the pretext of “confidentiality”."A key element in the political methodology of Lamy and Battistelli is the control and manipulation of the flow of information to their own advantage and with the aim of preventing or hindering any effective external scrutiny of their actions.

Suppression of documents

In St. Germain-en-Laye Lamy achieved a certain notoriety for his refusal to disclose important administrative documents to opposition groups frequently invoking the pretext of “confidentiality”.

During a municipal council meeting in July 2013, Emmanuel Fruchard from the opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement criticised Lamy’s obsessively secretive methods and his refusal to release relevant administrative documents to opposition groups.

Fruchard noted that, despite Lamy’s persistent efforts to withhold documents relating to SIDRU and its “toxic loans”, the competent French Commission for Freedom of Information (CADA - Commission for Access to Administrative Documents) had repeatedly approved the disclosure of these documents.

"During a municipal council meeting in July 2013, Emmanuel Fruchard from the opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement criticised Lamy’s obsessively secretive methods and his refusal to release relevant administrative documents to opposition groups."“During the municipal council of last July 11... Emmanuel Fruchard insisted on the very surprising nature of the closed meeting requested by Emmanuel Lamy, also president of SIDRU, during the intermunicipal union's public meetings. And likewise on the fact that the latter refused to communicate the interest rate negotiated with the Natixis bank to secure one of the two toxic loans of the SIDRU, while the CADA (Commission for access to administrative documents), to which the elected socialist had applied, gave a favourable opinion to his request for a copy! It may also be noted that the CADA, to which the Socialist Party has applied on numerous occasions, has systematically ruled in favour of Emmanuel Fruchard.”

EPO insiders could cite a whole litany of cases where Battistelli has suppressed the disclosure of relevant documents or otherwise blocked access to relevant information.

Unfortunately for staff at the EPO they do not have any access to an independent “freedom of information” oversight body comparable to national Freedom of Information Commissioners. A motion for disclosure can only be pursued - if at all - via the painfully slow internal appeal and ILOAT procedures which are from the very outset “loaded” against staff. By the time that the requested documents are disclosed - if that ever happens - it will probably be too late to provide any effective assistance or remedy to those affected.

Dissemination of disinformation

"The SIDRU “toxic loan” affair in St. Germain provides an excellent illustrative example of the ongoing strategic dissemination of “disinformation” in order to obstruct or derail a meaningful and objective public discussion of the underlying problems."The political “machines” of Lamy and Battistelli not only rely on the suppression or withholding of relevant documents but they additionally appear to adopt a strategy of actively disseminating disinformation or “spin” designed to mislead or confuse the public.

The SIDRU “toxic loan” affair in St. Germain provides an excellent illustrative example of the ongoing strategic dissemination of “disinformation” in order to obstruct or derail a meaningful and objective public discussion of the underlying problems.

In 2007 when the Saint-Germain Autrement group first began to raise concerns about the financial risks inherent in SIDRU’s “structured debt contracts” and the long-term “latent” losses, Lamy’s response in issue no. 512 of the Journal de Saint-Germain in July 2007 was that everything was in order and that the prudent management of SIDRU’s debt had so far resulted in tax savings of the order of € 3 million.

JSG-512-6-7-2007

In November 2009, in a puff-piece editorial [PDF] published in issue no. 556 of the JSG, Lamy treated his readers to a self-serving hymn of praise about the fiscal prudence of his UMP-led municipal council in comparison to neighbouring left-wing dominated councils. This time he boasted of tax savings of the order of € 7 million due to the prudent management of SIDRU’s debt.

JSG-556-6-11-2009

Taxes: good and bad students

You have seen it on your local tax sheet: no increase in municipal tax rates in 2009, as in previous years, in Saint-Germain.

And for 2010, there shouldn't be any rate increases either!

This fiscal moderation distinguishes us from most of our neighbours who do not hesitate, at the beginning of this municipal mandate, to increase their taxes.

Your local tax sheet also shows you how much other communities are costing you.

...

And thanks to the skills it has mobilized to properly manage its debt SIDRU, the association that disposes of our garbage, has achieved tax savings of 7.2 million.

Your tax sheet proves it: not all elected officials are as rigorous when it comes to public spending and there will be always good and bad students!


Lamy’s claims about prudent debt management carefully concealed the fact that at this point in time the “honeymoon period” for SIDRU’s loans was drawing to a close.

The crushing long-term liabilities which ultimately dwarfed the initial benefits only started to materialise when the applicable interest rates began to rocket after the initial fixed interest rate on the DEPFA loan expired on 15 December 2009.

As the financial situation at SIDRU worsened over the following years the Saint-Germain Autrement group continued to monitor and comment on the case despite the best efforts of Lamy to obfuscate and continue pretending that everything was in order.

"Lamy’s claims about prudent debt management carefully concealed the fact that at this point in time the “honeymoon period” for SIDRU’s loans was drawing to a close."A complete listing of the group’s postings about SIDRU and its “toxic loans” from 2007 onwards (66 postings in total) can be found here.

For example, in November 2012 the group published a blog post complaining about Lamy’s continuing policy of “opacity and disinformation” in relation to SIDRU.

During the eight years of Battistelli’s reign staff at the EPO have become accustomed to a similar policy of obfuscation and “opacity and disinformation” as part of their daily diet.

Restricting the expression of dissenting opinions

Another notable feature of the methodology employed by Lamy and Battistelli to control the flow of information is the use of measures to restrict the expression of dissenting opinions.

"Another notable feature of the methodology employed by Lamy and Battistelli to control the flow of information is the use of measures to restrict the expression of dissenting opinions."The main propaganda organ relied on by Lamy was the Journal de St. Germain which is financed by local taxes. Although it is supposed to be a newspaper for all the residents of St. Germain it is under the editorial control of the majority UMP group on the municipal council and its content is carefully filtered based on political considerations.

The Saint-Germain Autrement group has often referred to the JSG as “our local Pravda” and has frequently criticised the biased and misleading nature of its reporting on local matters which is always carefully slanted towards the interests of the majority UMP group.

Opposition groups are restricted to posting short political statements representing their point of view in a small “open forum” section buried among the back pages of the JSG. These statements are only permitted to be published in plain text without any accompanying pictures or graphics as explained by the Saint-Germain Autrement group.

"The Saint-Germain Autrement group has often referred to the JSG as “our local Pravda” and has frequently criticised the biased and misleading nature of its reporting on local matters which is always carefully slanted towards the interests of the majority UMP group."“We are unfortunately familiar with the manipulation of many articles in the so-called ‘Journal’ of Saint-Germain, on all kinds of subjects. It is not journalism but institutional communication, 98% of which is controlled by the municipal majority. The opposition, let us not forget, is only entitled to an insert located in the least read postition [i.e. buried in the back pages], without any photo or illustration, without colours, without italics and without bold type (except in the title and signature line). This has nothing to do with technical constraints, it is a political decision of the Mayor.”

Lamy was also well-known for his frequent efforts to hinder or obstruct the expression of dissenting opinions during meetings of the municipal council.

For example, during a budgetary debate in July 2008 Lamy blocked the opposition group Saint-Germain Autrement from presenting a graphic illustrating the estimated effect of SIDRU’s “toxic loans” on the consolidated debt of the municipality.

St-Germain-consolidated-debt-1999-2007

Lamy apparently claimed that the document was “non-existent” despite the fact that the opposition group had distributed copies to the other council members in advance of the meeting.

"As a further channel for “institutional communication” within the EPO Battistelli has at his disposal the EPO Intranet whose contents are carefully monitored and controlled and -according to EPO insiders - subject to rigorous censorship by his faithful Principal Director of Human Resources, Madame Bergot, and her superior, Vice-President Željko Topić."At the EPO, Battistelli has established a channel of “institutional communication” comparable to the JSG in the form of the in-house EPO Gazette which is nowadays mainly devoted to publishing photos and “puff pieces” about the Sun-King’s daring exploits in the world of IP including his travels and adventures in foreign lands.

As a further channel for “institutional communication” within the EPO Battistelli has at his disposal the EPO Intranet whose contents are carefully monitored and controlled and -according to EPO insiders - subject to rigorous censorship by his faithful Principal Director of Human Resources, Madame Bergot, and her superior, Vice-President Željko Topić.

The communication restrictions imposed on staff representatives and the staff unions under Battistelli’s régime are a matter of public record as they formed the subject of a much-discussed judgment delivered by the Hague Court of Appeal in February 2015.

The Hague Court of Appeal found amongst other things that the communication restrictions imposed on the staff unions were in breach of fundamental legal principles including the principle of freedom of association. The EPO was ordered to grant the staff union unhindered access to EPO's e-mail system, and in particular to make sure that e-mails originating from '@suepo.org' were no longer blocked, that the use of group mail for staff union purposes was no longer blocked and that staff union representatives sending general communications via their personal work e-mail address to EPO employees in connection with staff union related subjects were no longer threatened with disciplinary measures.

Although the Court of Appeal judgment was subsequently subject to cessation by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands, the judgment was set aside on purely formal grounds because the Supreme Court considered that the Court of Appeal had not been competent to hear the case.

"Battistelli also appears to exert total control over the content of the EPO’s Official Journal as can be seen in the case of three decisions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal relating to proceedings under Article 23 of the European Patent Convention."The substantive findings of the Court of Appeal were not reviewed by the Supreme Court and as such remain valid. In particular, the factual situation concerning the communication restrictions imposed on the staff unions has never been in dispute. The position taken by Battistelli is that he is entitled to impose such restrictions and that Dutch courts have no jurisdiction in the matter.

Battistelli also appears to exert total control over the content of the EPO’s Official Journal as can be seen in the case of three decisions of the Enlarged Board of Appeal relating to proceedings under Article 23 of the European Patent Convention.

Although copies of these decisions have turned up on various websites, including Wikipedia, the decisions have never been officially published in the Official Journal despite the fact that the Enlarged Board ordered their publication.

When one of these decisions (Art. 23 1/15 of 17 September 2015) appeared in electronic format on the EPO’s official website on or around 10 December 2015, it mysteriously disappeared soon afterwards under circumstances which have never been explained.

"It seems that as far as Battistelli is concerned these “undesirable” Enlarged Board decisions will never see the light of day in any official EPO channel of communication as long as he is President of the Office."EPO insiders suspect that the rapid suppression of the electronic publication of the decision was carried out on the direct orders of Battistelli who had apparently been infuriated by the Enlarged Board’s temerity in daring to issue a judgment that did not comply with his personal wishes.

It seems that as far as Battistelli is concerned these “undesirable” Enlarged Board decisions will never see the light of day in any official EPO channel of communication as long as he is President of the Office.

In Part 3 we will continue and conclude our comparative study of “Système Lamy” and its EPO clone.

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