Standards Sub-Committee – 6 March 2009
Hearing date: 6 March 2009
RE: Reference concerning possible failure to follow the code of conduct
Respondent: Councillor John Berry
Relevant Authority: North Lincolnshire Council
Sub committee members:
Mr Paul Kelly (Independent member) (Chair)
Mr Wyne Harvie (Independent member)
Mr David Cuckson (Independent member)
1. The Referral from the Standards Board
1.1 The Sub Committee considered a matter referred to the council by the Standards Board for England (reference SBE 20880.8). Miss Sarah Monaghan Assistant Solicitor had investigated the complaint and produced a report.
1.2 The Respondent had been provided with a copy of the investigating officer’s report and had been given the opportunity to respond.
Miss Monaghan attended and presented her report
The sub committee was advised by the Monitoring Officer Mr M Wood
The respondent had indicated by letter that he would not be attending and was content with the investigating officer’s report.
3. The Complaint
3.1 A complaint had been received that the Respondent had approached the complainant on 12 December 2007 and said “p** off, you a*******, p*** off” followed by “you are just an a*******, now p*** off”. It was alleged that the Respondent had failed to comply with the Members’ Code of Conduct as regards treating others with respect, bullying and bringing his office into disrepute.
4. Investigating Officer’s Report
Arising out of the investigation a report had been prepared. It concluded that there had been no breach of the Code.
5. Submission by the Respondent
The Respondent by way of letter had asked that the hearing be held in private. The Sub Committee decided that the public interest in transparent decision making outweighed the Respondent’s interest in limiting publicity.
6. Submission by the Investigating Officer
6.1 The Investigating Officer had submitted a detailed account of the investigation and conclusion which she summarised at the hearing. She also made reference to comments by the complainant following the draft report, the steps she had taken in response and the complainant’s rebuttal of remarks attributed to him by the Respondent.
7. Findings of Fact
7.1 The Sub Committee found the following:-
7.1.1 The words complained of had been said. The Respondent had admitted this.
7.1.2 In the sub committee’s view the Respondent had attended the meeting of South Ferriby Parish Council on 12 December 2007 in an official capacity.
7.1.3 That at the time the words complained of were said the meeting had concluded.
8. Whether the Material Facts disclose failure to comply with the Code of Conduct
8.1 As the hearing had concluded that at the relevant time the meeting of the parish council had ended it followed that the Respondent was acting in a private capacity and accordingly was not subject to the requirements of the Members Code of Conduct.(Ken Livingstone v Adjudication Panel for England 2006).
The Sub committee reached the following decision having considered written and oral contributions and the submission of the investigating officer.
9.1.1 That the Respondent did not breach the Members Code of Conduct in respect of the allegations of failing to treat the Complaint with respect, bullying and bringing his office into disrepute as at the relevant time he was not acting in his official capacity.