CODE : Promotion of equality and respect
Bishton Community Council
The Ombudsman received a complaint that a Former Member (“the Member”) of Bishton Community Council (“the Community Council”) had breached the Code of Conduct). It was alleged that the Member had been rude to the Clerk in a Council meeting, had ignored a request not to contact the Clerk and in doing so had bullied and harassed him. It was also alleged that the Member had failed to declare an interest in a settlement proposal.
The investigation considered the following paragraphs of the Code of Conduct:
4(b) – members must show respect and consideration for others
4(c) – members must not use bullying behaviour or harass any person
11 – disclosure of personal interests
14 – disclosure of prejudicial interests
During the course of the investigation, information from the Community Council was considered and witnesses were interviewed. The Member stood down from his role and did not participate in the investigation.
The investigation found that the Member had raised his voice to the Clerk at a meeting and offered a limited apology for his behaviour. It found that the Member did send an email to the Clerk but that this was a reply all email and at the time it was sent, a process was in place that all correspondence to the Clerk was being forwarded to the Chair. The investigation also found that the Member participated in the settlement proposal and agreement for the Clerk.
The Ombudsman considered that the Member’s behaviour at the meeting and in an email was suggestive of a breach of paragraph 4(b) of the Code of Conduct but was not sufficiently serious that it would warrant any interference with his right to raise concerns about the Council’s administration or that it was likely a sanction would be imposed upon him. The Ombudsman did not consider the behaviour was sufficiently serious that it was suggestive of a breach of paragraph 4(c) of the Code of Conduct.
The Ombudsman considered that, in respect of the settlement, the Member’s actions were suggestive of a breach of paragraphs 11 and 14 of the Code of Conduct. However, the settlement was the outcome desired by the Clerk and as such did not disadvantage him. The vote to approve the settlement would still have been carried as it was agreed unopposed. As the Member was no longer in post and relationships in the Community Council have improved the Ombudsman did not consider that it was in the public interest to take any further action in respect of that matter.
The Ombudsman found that under Section 69(4)(b) of the Local Government Act 2000, no action needed to be taken in respect of the matters investigated.