CODE - Integrity
CODE - No evidence of breach
Pembrokeshire County Council
It was alleged that a Councillor (“the Member”) posted videos on the social media platform, TikTok, which brought their office as a councillor and Pembrokeshire County Council (“the Council”) into disrepute.
The Ombudsman commenced an investigation into whether the Member may have breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct, that members must not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or authority into disrepute.
The investigation found that the Member posted a series of videos, some of which included TikTok sounds which contained expletives. The Member, who had been appointed to a school governing body, was suspended from the governing body while the matter was investigated by the Council. A number of witnesses were interviewed. Some considered the videos to be distasteful. The Council’s investigation found that the videos did not impact on the Member’s role as a governor.
The investigation found the Member was acting in his private capacity when he posted the videos. Relevant caselaw has established that for a breach of the “disrepute” provision to be found, a member’s conduct must impact upon their Council’s reputation and/or the role of elected member and go beyond affecting their personal reputation. While the nature of the videos may be considered distasteful by some, TikTok sounds are widely and easily available on TikTok and are often widely reproduced by TikTok users in large quantities. TikTok is a social media platform in which users are required to be 13 years old and content of the type posted by the Member is widely and freely available without censorship. The videos were clearly intended to be humorous and to make people laugh. The videos were not directed at anyone and do not display any intent to cause harm or upset.
The Ombudsman found that there was no evidence of any failure to comply with the Code of Conduct of the relevant authority concerned.