Standards Sub-Committee – 9 April 2010
Chair: Mr W Harvie
Venue: Function Room 1, Pittwood House, Ashby Road, Scunthorpe
Time: 1.30 pm.
Please note: The sub-committee may consider any applications submitted for the exclusion of the public under 1(i) below, and then may decide to exclude the public from the meeting for consideration of the following item on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in appropriate paragraphs of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as amended).
- To conduct a hearing into allegations that Councillor C Sherwood of North Lincolnshire Council failed to comply with and breached the council’s Code of Conduct.
Papers attached :
- Procedure at hearings
- Legal Advisor’s summary
- Complaint from Mr P Savage
- Report of Sarah Monaghan – Investigating Officer
- Response from the complainant
- Code of conduct.
Note: Any responses from Councillor Sherwood will be reported at the meeting.
Hearing date: 9 April 2010
Re: Reference concerning possible failure to follow the Code of Conduct
Respondent: Councillor Carl Sherwood
Relevant authority: North Lincolnshire Council
Mr Wayne Harvie (Independent Member) (Chair)
Mr Paul Kelly (Independent Member)
Mr David Cuckson (Independent Member)
Councillor Richard Nixon (Parish Member)
Councillor Neil Poole (Member)
1. The Referral
1.1. The Sub Committee considered a matter which had been referred for investigation by an Assessment Sub Committee (reference 2008-9/22). Sarah Monaghan (Legal Services) 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 an opportunity to respond. He had indicated that he had no comments to make.
Sarah Monaghan attended and presented the report.
The sub-committee was advised by the Monitoring Officer, Mr Mike Wood.
Councillor Carl Sherwood attended.
3. The Complaint
3.1 A complaint had been received that the Respondent had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to treat the complainant with respect, bringing the council into disrepute and improper use of resources.
3.2 The complaint had been made by Mr Paul Savage, an employee of North Lincolnshire Council who attended the hearing. A copy of his comments on the investigating officer’s report had been submitted to the sub committee.
4. Submission by the Respondent
4.1 There was no submission for excluding the press and public.
4.2 Councillor Carl Sherwood attended and was given the opportunity to comment and address the sub committee throughout the hearing. He indicated that the comments had not been made maliciously, were not personally directed and he was willing to apologise.
5. Submission by the Investigating Officer
5.1 The Investigating officer submitted an account of the investigation, the interviews which had been undertaken together with her findings and conclusions.
6. Findings/Failure to comply with the Code
6.1 On 19 November 2008 the Respondent had included the following comments in his blog site “I apologise in advance to the public for such a waste of time and money and I suggest the Labour Group look at the integrity and competence of their political assistant who obviously instigated this investigation”.
6.2 The Respondent was acting in his capacity as a councillor when he posted this blog.
6.3 The Complainant was employed by North Lincolnshire Council as the political assistant to the Labour Group and so although unnamed was clearly the subject of the comment.
6.4 The Complainant although an employee of the council held a post which did not carry with it a requirement to be politically unbiased.
6.5 A number of press releases had been issued by the Labour Group critical of Conservative councillors including the Respondent which had included the complainant’s contact details.
6.6 The Appeals Tribunal had expressed the view that members should be able to comment in robust terms criticism of the way in which an officer had acted.
6.7 The Respondent maintained that he genuinely believed the role of political assistant would involve the activities mentioned in the blog.
6.8 The Complaint denied he had “instigated” the investigation.
The sub committee reached the following decision having taken into account all written and oral representations.
7.1 While the inclusion of the words in question in the blog of 19 November 2008 could be regarded as ill judged on balance and in all the circumstances the Respondent had not breached the Code.
7.2 That the Respondent take immediate steps to remove the words.