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Agenda item

Update on the Handling of Complaints of possible Breaches of the Code of Conduct for Members

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the a report presented by Stuart Fletcher, Service Manager, which provided an update on the handling of complaints relating to breaches to the Code of Conduct and the subsequent steps taken, which included:-

 

·             A complaint was received that a Borough Councillor had not followed appropriate procedures in a Council meeting, by not passing a resolution excluding press and public from the meeting. The complainant alleged that the member had thereby breached the Code of Conduct by bringing the officer of Councillor or the Council into disrepute.

 

Representations were received by the member in question and relevant documentary evidence was examined.

 

The views of the Independent Person were taken. He felt that on the balance of probabilities the appropriate resolution was passed. The Monitoring Officer considered these views and concurred with this conclusion and taking all of the circumstances of the complaint into account, decided that the complaint should not be investigated further. The complainant and member have been informed of this decision.

 

·             A complaint was received that a Parish Councillor made a derogatory comment that Standards Committee proceedings which he had been subject to were "a shambles" and a "kangaroo court".

 

The matter was referred to the Independent Person for his views who felt that there was little doubt that the words had been said, but that the Parish Councillor was acting in his personal capacity at the time and therefore the Code of Conduct was not invoked.

 

The Monitoring Officer concurred with this view and, therefore, the Complainant and Parish Councillor were written to informing them of this decision.

 

·             A complaint was received from a member of the public that a Parish Councillor was rude and threatening to him in a Parish Council meeting. The views of the Independent Person were requested and after reviewing the relevant evidence, which included listening to a recording of the relevant Parish Council meeting, he concluded that there had been provocation of the Parish Councillor by the Complainant and that the remarks were made under duress.

 

As such the Independent Person felt that due to the circumstances of the case there should be no further investigation.

 

The Monitoring Officer concurred with this view and complainant and the Parish Councillor were written to informing them of this decision. The complainant had subsequently submitted further information in relation to this matter and asked that the issue be reviewed. Further the complainant had submitted a further complaint in relation to the same Parish Councillor and the Monitoring Officer was liaising with the complainant to try to fully establish the relevant issues in that matter. A further update on these matters would be provided at the next meeting.

 

·             A complaint had been received that a Parish Councillor called a member of the public corrupt in the presence of a number of other Parish Councillors and members of the public.

 

The views of the relevant Parish Councillor have been sought, but none have been provided as yet. The details of the complaints have been forwarded to the Independent Person for his views as to whether further investigation of this matter is appropriate. A further update would be provided to the Committee at the next meeting.

 

·             A complaint had been received that a Councillor made inappropriate comments on a social network.

 

The views of the member were obtained and he stated that his comments were an error of judgement and that he was prepared to apologise to the complainant.

 

A letter of apology was sent by the member to the complainant. The issues concerning the complaint were discussed by the Monitoring Officer with the relevant member and the importance of the principles stated within the Code of Conduct reiterated.

 

As such the Monitoring Officer considers this matter to be concluded and the relevant Member and complainant have been informed of this decision.

 

Discussion ensued on the nature of some of the complaints and comments passed on the contempt and little regard to the Code of Conduct by some, the offensive nature of some of the remarks, when it was deemed someone was acting as an elected representative, expectation and reasonableness of behaviour and the credibility of the recommendations by Standards Hearing Panels.

 

The Committee noted the actions taken by a Parish Council following recommendations by a Standards Hearing Panel and expressed some concerns about precedents being set.  However, it was noted that should further complaints be received, each would be considered on individual merits and Standards Hearing Panels convened when deemed necessary.

 

Resolved:-  (1)  That the steps taken to resolve the complaints be noted.

 

(2)  That the resolution of the complaints which have now been concluded be noted.

 

(During the course of this item Councillor Beck vacated the meeting for a dental appointment and Councillor Hughes assumed the chair)

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