Standards (Hearings) Sub-Committee Minutes

Standards (Hearings) Sub-Committee Minutes

Date:
Wednesday 20 February 2013
Time:
2:00 p.m.
Place:
Oberhausen Room,Town Hall, Middlesbrough
 

Attendance Details

Present:
Rostron (Chair); Councillors Brunton, Cox, C Hobson, Hussain
Observers:
Councillors Hudson, Junier, Loughborough, P Khan, McPartland
Invitees:
Councillor J McTigue
Officers:
B Carr, C Davies and R Long
Apologies for absence:
No apologies for absence were received for this meeting.
Declarations of interest:

There were no declarations of interest made at this point of the meeting.

Item Number Item/Resolution
PUBLIC
12/1 APPOINTMENT OF CHAIR

Nominations were sought for the appointment of Chair of the Standards (Hearings) Sub Committee for the Municipal Year 2012/2013.

 

ORDERED that Councillor Rostron be appointed as the Chair of the Standards (Hearings) Sub Committee for the Municipal Year 2012/2013.
 

12/2 EXCLUSION OF PRESS AND PUBLIC.

As notification had not been received prior to the meeting from any of the relevant parties that the matter should be considered in private, the Chair sought the views of Sub-Committee Members, the complainant, the Member concerned and the Investigating Officer as to whether the meeting should be held in private or open session. As there were no objections, it was determined that the meeting be held in public.

 

ORDERED that the meeting be held in open session.

EXEMPT
12/3 STANDARDS COMPLAINT REF: MSC007/2012

  • Report of the Monitoring Officer (32K/bytes)
  • |
    Appendix A - Report of the Investigating Officer (98K/bytes)
  • |
    Appendix B - Terms of Reference and Procedure (28K/bytes)
  • |
    Appendix C - Code of Conduct (38K/bytes)

A report of the Director of Legal and Democratic Services was presented a copy of which had been circulated prior to the meeting, regarding an investigation which had been undertaken in accordance with the prevailing legislation and guidance in relation to an allegation by a member of the public that Councillor McTigue had breached the Council’s Code of Conduct, thereby bringing the Council or her role as a Councillor into disrepute.

The allegation was that at a site visit held on 21 June 2012 at 52/54 Belle Vue, Councillor McTigue had behaved in an aggressive manner toward the complainant and failed to treat him with respect.

The complaint, considered at the meeting of the Standards (Initial Assessment) Sub-Committee on 27 June 2012, had been referred for local investigation. The Investigating Officer’s report together with various appendices was attached at Appendix A to the report. The report concluded that Councillor McTigue had breached the Code of Conduct.

Members were advised that the legislation relating to the standards of conduct required of elected Members had changed on 1 July 2012. Those parts of the Localism Act 2011 that amended the Standards regime came into effect on 1 July 2012. Prior to that date, the Standards regime as set down by the Local Government Act 2000 was still in force. At the time of the incident that led to the complaint, all elected Members of the Council were subject to the requirements of the Local Government Act 2000, Code of Conduct that had been approved by the Council, and which was based on the model Code of Conduct as approved by Parliament.

 

The Investigating Officer presented his report outlining the substance of the complaint and the alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct. The relevant sections of the Code of Conduct were:

 

Section 3(1) You must treat others with respect;

Section 5 You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be
regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute;

Paragraph 2 of the Code of Conduct also stated that:

2(1) Subject to sub-paragraphs (2) to (5), you must comply with this Code whenever you -

 

(a) conduct the business of your authority (which, in this Code, includes the business of the office to which you are elected or appointed); or

 

(b) act, claim to act or give the impression you are acting as a representative of your authority, and references to your official capacity are construed accordingly.

 

2(2) Subject to sub-paragraphs (3) and (4), this Code does not have effect in relation to your conduct other than where it is in your official capacity.

The Investigating Officer advised that he had invited the complainant to attend an interview to outline his complaint. The Investigating Officer subsequently interviewed the Council Officer who was present at the site visit when the incident subject to the complaint had occurred. As both accounts of the incident were broadly similar, the Investigating Officer concluded that there was no requirement to interview the complainant’s other two witnesses to the incident.

 

Councillor McTigue was invited to attend an interview to respond to the allegations and present her side of the case to the Investigating Officer so that the Committee could consider her response however, she declined to be interviewed. The Investigating Officer concluded the investigation and found that Councillor McTigue had failed to comply with the requirements of the Code of Conduct and as a consequence, Councillor McTigue had acted in a manner that brought her office into disrepute. The Investigating Officer concluded however, that her behaviour had not brought the Authority into disrepute.

 

Councillor McTigue presented her statement of case, a copy of which had been circulated prior to the meeting. Copies of photographs of the site at 52/54 Belle Vue taken on 15 February 2013 were circulated to Members of the Committee. Councillor McTigue advised Members that the reason why she had declined to be interviewed was because she did not think there was any substance to the complaint. However, when Councillor McTigue received the Committee papers, she indicated that she had decided to attend the Committee to defend herself.

 

Having considered the Investigating Officer’s report, the supporting documentation, Councillor McTigue’s evidence and further questioning, the Chair adjourned the meeting to enable the Sub-Committee to consider the findings of fact and, based on those findings, whether Councillor McTigue had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct.

On reconvening the Chair summarised the issues and reported the decision of the Sub-Committee.

1. In regard to the allegation of bringing a Members’ office or the authority into disrepute - paragraph 5 of the Code, the Committee determined that there had been a breach of the Code of Conduct but only in respect of bringing Councillor McTigue’s office into disrepute.

2. In regard to the allegation of not treating others with respect - Code paragraph 3(1), the Committee determined that there had been a breach of the Code of Conduct.

Prior to a further adjournment the Chair sought the views of the Investigating Officer and the complainant in regard to the level of sanction to be imposed (Councillor McTigue had already left the meeting at this point). The Investigating Officer advised that Members could consider whether Councillor McTigue should apologise to the complainant as an appropriate sanction. The complainant advised that he could not comment on the level of sanction as he was not au fait with what sanctions were available.

The Chair adjourned the meeting for a second time to enable the Sub-Committee to consider the penalty to be imposed.

On reconvening the Sub-Committee:

ORDERED that having regard to the evidence presented the Sub-Committee determined that Councillor McTigue had breached the Council’s Code of Conduct in relation to bringing a Members’ office into disrepute - paragraph 5 of the Code and not treating others with respect - Code paragraph 3(1).

The Sub-Committee therefore formally censured Councillor McTigue and determined that she formally apologise to the complainant for her behaviour.

 

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