Agenda and minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1, Shire Hall
Contact: Caroline Marshall, democratic services officer
To receive apologies for absence.
There were no apologies for absence.
To receive any details of panel members nominated to attend the meeting in place of a member of the panel.
There were no named substitutes.
Declarations of Interest
To receive declarations of interests in respect of Schedule 1, Schedule 2 or Other Interests from members of the committee in respect of items on the agenda.
The following declarations of interests were made:
Councillor Richard Gething: on appendix 9, the complainant mentioned a name which was known to him but there was no close personal association.
Councillor Nigel Shaw: on appendices 3, 7, 9, 10 and 11, the complainant was known but they were not close personal associates.
Councillor Dave Boulter: on appendix 4 the complainant was known and on appendices 9 and 11 the subject member was known but none were close personal associates.
Councillor Peter Jinman: on appendix 4 both the complainant and subject member were known but were not close personal associates.
Exclusion of press and public
In the opinion of the Proper Officer, the following item will not be, or is likely not to be, open to the public and press at the time it is considered.
RECOMMENDATION: that under section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Schedule 12(A) of the Act, as indicated below and it is considered that the public interest in maintaining the exemption outweighs the public interest in disclosing the information.
2 Information which is likely to reveal the identity of an individual.
The panel discussed whether the meeting should be held in public or private. During the course of the discussion, the following points were made:
· The meeting should be held in public as much as possible.
· If there were any complaints which would need to be discussed in more detail which would mean identifying the complainant or subject member, those complaints should be clustered together and discussed in private session at the end of the meeting.
· It was the process of dealing with code of conduct complaints which was being discussed so the meeting should be held in public to provide openness and transparency.
the meeting of the standards panel held on 18 December 2019 be held in public.
To review a sample of monitoring officer resolution decisions between 1 May 2019 and 31 October 2019.
The chairperson invited the monitoring officer to take the panel through each appendix to see if there were any trends or lessons to be learned.
Appendix 2 - this was a complaint by a clerk in relation to a Facebook post by a councillor. The complaint had been rejected as it was not in the public interest to investigate as the subject member was no longer a councillor. It was noted that the complaint had not been automatically rejected but a public interest test had been undertaken before it was rejected.
It was noted that there was an important lesson in how social medial is used.
The monitoring officer confirmed that there was no written criteria with regard to a public interest test as it was based on judgement and the factors of the case. The independent persons were given public interest criteria when complaints were sent to them for their comments. If the email which had been shared had been marked confidential, then there would have been other factors to take into account. It was noted that the independent persons now commented on complaints without the views of the monitoring officer.
Appendix 3 – the complaint was in relation to the complainant being challenged in a meeting. The subject member had made a reasonable endeavour to apologise at the meeting. When the complaint came in, it was rejected on the basis that the subject member had already apologised.
Appendix 4 – the complaint was in relation to an allegation of bribery and had been dealt with under Other Course of Action. In this case, it had been sent to South West Audit Partnership (SWAP) for investigation under the anti-fraud and corruption strategy.
The complaint was in connection with an incident many years go and there was guidance on whether it would be pursued given the length of time which had elapsed. As a guide if an incident takes place more than a year ago then it would not be investigation but if the allegation was serious and significant, then the monitoring officer will investigate.
It was noted that the complaint had not been sent to the police but in this case it would have been a referral by SWAP, if that was the course of action to be taken. It was further noted that the monitoring officer had an agreed protocol with the police in connection with referring code of conduct complaints to them where there was evidence of criminal behaviour.
Appendix 5 – this complaint was part of a cluster of complaints and the allegation was one of bullying. The description of the events indicated that it was one person’s word against another but it had been a lively discussion at the council meeting so it was difficult to determine whether bullying took place. The outcome had been a finding of no breach of the code.
It was noted that the arrangements for dealing with code of conduct complaints had been updated and a bullying definition had been ... view the full minutes text for item 18.