4 Monitoring Officer's Report Regarding Complaint Alleging Breach Of The Members' Code Of Conduct
A procedural motion was moved and seconded that the Sub-Committee go ahead with the hearing in the absence of the complainant, Councillor Luke Ives. Councillor Ives had been invited to attend if he wished, although it was not a requirement for him to do so. On being put to the vote, the procedural motion was carried unanimously.
The Monitoring Officer introduced his report regarding the complaint alleging breach of the Members' Code of Conduct.
Councillor John Clark had been allowed to speak at the Sub-Committee at the discretion of the Chairman. Councillor Clark addressed the Sub-Committee and answered a question on his statement. A copy of his statement had been provided to the Sub-Committee and the interested parties present at the meeting.
The investigating officer then presented the findings of his investigation and answered questions from the Sub-Committee. This presentation was taken in three stages:
1. Facts stage – relating to the finding of facts and providing a summary of agreed facts including any documentary evidence or other material;
2. Code stage – relating to the issue of whether or not there is a breach of the Members' Code of Conduct;
3. Sanction Stage - relating to the issue of recommended sanctions.
The issue of whether or not voting twice at a Council meeting was a criminal offence had been considered. The Monitoring Officer had taken independent legal advice and discussed the matter with the Police. Having looked into the matter, the Police did not consider that it reached the threshold for Police involvement and would not be looking into it any further. They suggested that the Council's Member disciplinary procedures would be sufficient.
Councillor John Raper addressed the Sub-Committee as the subject of the complaint.
The Independent Person was invited to provide her views on the complaint before the Sub-Committee. The Independent Person's views were:
(i) That there had been a thorough and proper investigation indicating that the Council was taking the matter seriously;
(ii) That Councillor Raper had in her opinion been in breach of the Code of Conduct by voting twice;
(iii) That the breach was serious because the principle of one Member one vote was essential for proper democratic decision making at Council meetings;
(iv) That the recommendations on sanctions to Council including a censure motion were, given the gravity of the breach, appropriate. The Independent Person was pleased to see the recommendations to safeguard the proper use of electronic voting;
(v) The Independent Person also expressed concern that Council meetings were being held so late in the evening. The Independent Person had many years experience of meetings and she considered late evening meetings to be bad practice. This was because many Councillors work during the day and the inevitable tiredness of Councillors in long evening meetings is not conducive to effective and proper decision making at Council meetings.
The Sub-Committee then adjourned to deliberate. On reconvening the meeting, the following was agreed: