The Ombudsman’s report considered by the Adjudication Panel for Wales (‘APW’) concerned three complaints about the Former Councillor investigated recently by the office.
In a hearing yesterday, the APW found that Former Councillor Dowson had breached the Pembrokeshire County Council’s Code of Conduct and had brought his office as a councillor and Pembrokeshire County Council into disrepute by:
The APW decided that the Former Councillor should be disqualified for 3 years from being or becoming a member of Pembrokeshire County Council or of any other relevant authority. The Former Councillor has the right to seek the leave of the High Court to appeal that decision.
“We welcome the outcome of the hearing. These were all extremely serious complaints. The false allegations and statements made by Former Councillor Dowson were potentially harmful and reputationally damaging to the individuals concerned and to the Council.
The decision to disqualify the Member from holding office for 3 years reflects the seriousness of his conduct. Our investigation and the APW’s decision demonstrate that the ethical standards regime in local government in Wales is effective in ensuring that those who breach the standards expected of them are held to account in order to maintain trust and confidence in local democracy.
This is the second outcome of a hearing into the conduct of Former Councillor Dowson in as many months, as in June the Pembrokeshire County Council decided to censure that Member for his comments on social media about the Black Lives Matter movement. We believe that it is important to draw public attention to the outcomes of these hearings, so that lessons are learnt and the local constituents are fully aware that their elected representatives will be held to account if they breach the Code of Conduct.”
The Local Government Act 2000 provides us with the statutory powers to investigate allegations that members of local authorities in Wales have breached their Code of Conduct. The Code of Conduct for elected members is intended to maintain high standards in public life and includes the requirement that elected members should not bring their authority or their office as a councillor into disrepute.
Where our investigation finds that the evidence suggests that a member has breached the Code of Conduct and further action is required in the public interest, we may refer the matter to either the Adjudication Panel for Wales or a local standards committee for consideration.
Where the Adjudication Panel for Wales decides that a member has breached the Code of Conduct it may suspend a member from office for up to 12 months or disqualify the member from holding office for up to 5 years.
Where a standards committee decides that a member has breached the Code of Conduct it may suspend a member from office for up to 6 months or issue the member with a censure. Where a member subject to a referral to a standards committee no longer holds office as a member the standards committee may only censure the member.