Agenda and draft minutes
Venue: Committee Room 1 - Wallasey Town Hall. View directions
Contact: Shirley Hudspeth
Appointment of Chair
To Appoint a Chair for the meeting.
Note: The Chair of the Standards Panel must not be a member of the same political group as the subject Member.
That Councillor Phil Gilchrist be elected Chair for this meeting of the Panel.
Members' Code of Conduct - Declarations of Interest
Members of the Panel are asked to consider whether they have any disclosable pecuniary and/or any other relevant interest, in connection with any of the items on this agenda and, if so, to declare it and state the nature of the interest.
Councillor Moira McLaughlin informed that at some time in the past, she had held a conversation with one of the Complainants in the presence of the Assistant Director: Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer. The Assistant Director’s advice on this was that it did not preclude her from taking part in this meeting.
The following documents are included with the agenda for Members’ information:
(a) Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution which relates to The Standards and Constitutional Oversight Committee;
(b) The Members’ Code of Conduct; and
(c) The Protocol on arrangements for investigating and making decisions in relation to allegations made under the Members’ Code of Conduct.
The Panel considered a copy of Article 9 of the Council’s Constitution along with copies of The Members’ Code of Conduct and the Protocol which detailed the arrangements for Investigating and Making Decisions in relation to allegations made under The Members’ Code of Conduct.
(1) the contents of the documents provided be noted: and
(2) the Panel will be guided by the documents provided during the course of its decision making in respect of the complaints to be considered.
Exempt Information - Exclusion of the Press and Public
The following items contain exempt information.
RECOMMENDATION: That, under section 100 (A) (4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following items of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by Paragraph 1 (information relating to an individual(s)) of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act. The Public Interest test has been applied and favours exclusion.
Under the Protocol the Panel is required to determine whether the exemption is to be moved or lifted.
The Panel gave consideration to whether its proceedings should be held in the presence or in the absence of the press and public. The Assistant Director: Law and Governance and Monitoring Officer advised Members to consider whether the meeting should be fully open, open in part or in closed session. He informed that the Investigator’s report had been mostly anonymised but the 12 Appendices which were attached to it had not been redacted and contained personal information. The Assistant Director informed that, in the light of the information contained in the report and appendices his advice was to hear the complaint in private session. He also advised the Panel to consider this in the light of the public interest.
Members deliberated and the view was expressed that the Investigator’s report should be placed in the public domain at the appropriate time, possibly with some redactions and that frank discussions may be difficult if the press and public where in attendance at the meeting.
However, Councillor Chris Blakeley disagreed with this view. He informed that this meeting had generated a lot of public interest and the complaint should be considdered in public. He considered that the Investigator’s report should be made public and its twelve appendices, once redacted should also be placed in the public domain.
The Chair informed that he was anxious to ensure that, as much as possible, would be open. However, this was a fraught and difficult matter and he considered that Members would be able to probe thoroughly, if the proceedings were held in private. On a majority vote with Councillor Chris Blakeley voting against, it was
(1) under section 100 (A) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting during consideration of the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined by paragraph 1 of Part I of Schedule 12A (as amended) to that Act in that it contains commercially sensitive information. The Public Interest test has been applied and favours exclusion.
(2) as soon as practically possible after this meeting the Panel’s decision, a redacted version (if necessary) of the Investigator’s report and its twelve appendices (redacted as necessary) be placed in the public domain. (The twelve appendices to be published by Friday, 30 June 2017.)
In accordance with the decision of the Panel (minute 4(2)), the Investigator’s report has now been made public and can be viewed here.
To consider the Investigator’s Report and its 12 Appendices (attached).
To deal with the complaint in accordance with the attached Procedure.
Also in attendance at the meeting was the Subject Councillor, Councillor Louise Reecejones, the Complainants and the Investigator, who introduced her report. The Panel considered the Investigator’s report and listened to all the representations made, the questions asked and the answers provided by the parties in attendance at the meeting. Panel Members also asked a number of questions of the parties which were answered as appropriate.
Councillor Reecejones, the Complainants, the Independent Person and the Investigator then left the meeting whilst the Panel reached its decision.
The Panel gave careful consideration to the Investigator’s Report, all relevant documentary evidence and the representations made by all the parties to this matter.
Panel was satisfied that a satisfactory investigation and report had been undertaken and produced in relation to all of the complaints. The Investigator had appropriately considered the evidence and afforded all the parties the opportunity to participate and adduce all relevant information and evidence for consideration.
The Panel examined in detail all the matters and issues arising from the complaints during the hearing and was satisfied that all the parties had been afforded a fair opportunity to clarify any specific points and ensure the Panel understood their respective positions and responses.
The Panel will provide its full decision within the next seven days; however, will deliver its decision in respect of the complaints made this evening.
The Panel has noted there are a number of aggravating and mitigating factors arising in this matter which it has examined and considered in reaching its decision. Those factors will be set out in the full decision.
The Panel considered the representations of the Independent Person in reaching its decision. The Independent Person was satisfied that a thorough investigation was undertaken; and agreed with the findings and conclusions reached as detailed within the Investigator’s Report.
On balance, the Panel found all the complainants and their evidence credible; whereas the Panel found the evidence of Councillor Louise Reecejones to be inconsistent, vague and misleading. The Panel did not therefore find Councillor Reecejones to be credible.
Accordingly the Panel:
1. accepted the Investigator’s Report;
2. agreed with all the conclusions of the Investigator as set out at paragraph 10.1 of the Investigator’s Report, namely:
a. in respect of complainant 1, Tamsin Coates, the Panel found Councillor Reecejones to be in breach of the Code of Conduct in making an unjustified complaint to Tamsin Coates’ employer and pursuing her own personal agenda in her capacity as a councillor.
Councillor Reecejones failed to treat Tamsin Coates with respect and conducted herself contrary to the council's duty to promote and maintain high standards of conduct.
b. in respect of complainant 2, Jessica Smyth, the Panel found Councillor Reecejones to be in breach of the Code of Conduct in making an unjustified complaint to the organisation for which Jessica Smyth volunteers and alleging that Jessica Smyth’s tweets and conduct amounted to harassment/stalking.
Councillor Reecejones failed to treat Jessica Smyth with respect and conducted herself contrary to the council's duty ... view the full minutes text for item 5.