CODE : Promotion of equality & respect
CODE - No action necessary
The Ombudsman received a complaint that a Member (“the Member”) of Gwynedd Council (“the Council”) had breached the Code of Conduct (“the Code”).
It was alleged that the Member posted a homophobic comment on Facebook. The Member was not acting in his official role as a member when he posted the comment, therefore, the investigation considered whether the Member breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code, which says that members must not conduct themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing their office or authority into disrepute.
The information gathered during the investigation showed that in October 2020, the complainant’s newly appointed employee posted on Facebook, “think I work for the best boss” and tagged the complainant. The Member, posting from his personal Facebook account, replied, “do you suck for a living?”.
The employee was contacted as part of the Ombudsman’s investigation, however, he did not provide the Ombudsman with a completed witness statement. The evidence gathered was put to the Member and he was interviewed as part of the investigation. During interview, he said that there was no homophobic intent behind his comment and, whilst he accepted in hindsight that his comment could be perceived as homophobic, he said that his intention was to point out his view that the employee was “creeping up” to his employer.
Whilst the Ombudsman appreciated why the complainant and others had interpreted the comment as homophobic, he did not consider the Member’s explanation to be wholly implausible given that “sucking up” is a term commonly used to describe sycophantic behaviour.
The Member said that he regretted his actions and that faced with the same circumstances again, he would not have commented on the Facebook post. He also said that he was willing to apologise to the complainant and his employee for the offence that he had caused, which the Ombudsman encouraged him to do.
The Ombudsman did not consider it in the public interest to take any further action in relation to this matter