CODE : Disclosure & registration of interest
CODE - No Action Necessary
Tiers Cross Community Council
The Ombudsman received a complaint from a member of the public (“the complainant”) that a member (“the Member”) of Tiers Cross Community Council (“the Council”) had failed to declare an interest in an environmental/planning matter, had disclosed confidential information, and had emailed the complainant’s employer in an attempt to discredit her.
The Ombudsman considered that the Member had a personal and prejudicial interest in the environmental/planning matter, as the person involved was also the Member’s landlord and a relative by marriage. The Ombudsman found that the Member had failed to declare the interest at a Council meeting held in August 2020, suggestive of a breach of paragraph 11(1) of the Code of Conduct (“the Code”). The Member declared an interest at video meetings held in March and April 2021 but did not leave the meetings when the matter was discussed, which was suggestive of a breach of paragraph 14(1)(a)(ii) of the Code.
The Ombudsman found that the Member had shared information he had received as a Council Member with his landlord, which was suggestive of a breach of paragraph 5(a) of the Code. The Member also sent several emails about the matter to fellow Members of the Council, despite having an interest. The emails were critical of the complainant and supportive of the person involved in the matters. The emails were therefore prejudicial and suggestive of a breach of paragraphs 7(a) and 14(1)(d) of the Code.
The Member also sent a factually inaccurate email of complaint about the complainant to her employer. The Member withdrew his complaint when he was advised of the inaccuracies, however, his behaviour in sending the complaint was suggestive of a further breach of paragraphs 7(a) and 14(1)(d) of the Code.
The overall behaviour of the Member did not appear to have had any wider implications for the Council and was not therefore suggestive of a breach of paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code.
The Ombudsman took into account that the Member had apologised and withdrawn his complaint, and that there appeared to be a lack of understanding about personal and prejudicial interests within the Council as a whole. Furthermore, as the Member did not stand for election in May 2022, and was no longer a Member of any Council, the Ombudsman determined that it was not in the public interest to refer her report to Pembrokeshire County Council’s Standards Committee for consideration.
Had the Member stood for election and/or been re-elected then it is likely that further action would have been considered.
In view of the issues which have arisen in this case, the Ombudsman recommended that training be arranged for the Members of the Council in relation to both personal and prejudicial interests and their obligations under the Code.