CODE : Promotion of equality & respect
CODE - No Action Necessary
Carmarthenshire County Council
The Ombudsman received a self-referred complaint from a Member (“the Member”) of Carmarthenshire County Council (“the Council”) that they may have breached the Code of Conduct. The Member said that during a council training session other members of the Council heard him “swearing”.
The Ombudsman’s investigation considered whether the Member’s conduct may have breached paragraphs 4(b) and 6(1)(a) of the Council’s Code of Conduct. Information was obtained from the Council, including a link to a recording of the Council training session. Witnesses were interviewed.
In comments to the Ombudsman, the Member said that he attended the Council’s training session via Zoom and was heard “swearing”. The Member explained that he was in the office of his private business whilst attending the Council training session, he had not realised his microphone was not on mute and during the session, he had an exchange with a sub‑contractor and used a “few swearing words”. The Member said that the comments were to his sub-contractor and were not aimed at any member of the Council. He apologised for the incident and offered to apologise to the full Council.
The Ombudsman found that the Member’s explanation for his comments appeared to be credible. Whilst the language he used following his private exchange with his sub-contractor was disrespectful, the evidence gathered suggested that it was a private exchange, and she was therefore not persuaded that there was sufficient evidence suggestive of a breach of paragraph 4(b) of the Code.
However, the Ombudsman found that the Member’s wholly inappropriate comments were heard by members of the Council, officers of the Council delivering the training and also attracted significant media interest and were widely reported in the press. The Ombudsman determined that as a result of the adverse publicity which reported on the Member’s conduct during a council training session, the Member’s comments were such that could reasonably be regarded as having brought the Council and the Member’ office into disrepute. In view of this, the Ombudsman found that the Member’s the comments were suggestive of a breach of paragraph 6(1)(a).
In view of the Member’s recognition of the inappropriateness of his actions and contrition, his prompt self-referral to the Ombudsman and his willingness and eagerness to offer an apology to the Council, the Ombudsman considered that that it was not in the public interest for any further action to be taken. However, the Ombudsman noted that but for the member’s action and apology, conduct of this kind would have met the Ombudsman’s threshold for a referral to the Standards Committee. The Member was informed that he should make a public apology to the Council at the next meeting of the Council.
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.