Venue: Virtual Meeting - Zoom
Contact: Eirian Roberts 01286 679018
To receive any apologies for absence.
No apologies for absence were received.
DECLARATION OF PERSONAL INTEREST
To receive any declaration of personal interest.
No declarations of personal interest were received.
To consider the report of the Senior Solicitor (Corporate)
· In relation to the allegations of a breach of the code, the committee resolved that the member has failed to comply with Tywyn Town Council's Code of Conduct in the following way as he breached the following provisions:
4(a) You must carry out your duties with due regard
to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people
regardless of gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion.
4(b) Treat others with respect and consideration.
4(c) You must not bully or harass anyone, including other members, council officers or members of the public.
With regard to Article Ten of the European Convention
on Human Rights, the Standards Committee resolved that the comments go beyond
political comments that would be protected by Article 10.
The Committee also concluded that the conduct was
serious enough to breach Paragraph 6(1)(A) of the code, namely that no-one
should behave in a way that could reasonably be regarded as bringing the office
or the Authority into disrepute.
· Having considered the seriousness of the conduct in question and having considered the relevant mitigating and aggravating factors, the Committee resolved that the Member should be censured, as this is the maximum sanction that the Committee can impose following the Member’s resignation from the Council.
· The Committee nevertheless wished to put on record that, except for his resignation from the Council, it was likely to have suspended the Member from the Council and to have done so for the maximum possible period.
· The Committee also asks the Member to consider and reflect on his conduct, in particular the way he speaks and corresponds with others in any other current or future public role. The Committee also encourages him to take advantage of any training opportunities available in relation to the Code of Conduct for Members
The Chair welcomed everyone to the hearing and the Ombudsman’s officers introduced themselves to members.
The Chair then explained the nature / format of the hearing.
1. The Committee considered a report from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales (“the Ombudsman”) into a complaint from the Chair of the Personnel Committee of Tywyn Town Council (“the Council”), Councillor John Pughe, that Councillor George Michael Stevens (“the Member”) had failed to observe the Council’s Code of Conduct for Members.
2. It was alleged that the Member had been disrespectful to the Clerk of the Council (“the Clerk”) and had repeatedly undermined her. The complaint related to correspondence sent by the Member to the Clerk and correspondence sent by the Member about the Clerk.
3. The Ombudsman concluded that the Member’s correspondence included derogatory personal comments which were disrespectful and that comments about the Clerk’s experience were intended to undermine the Clerk. The Member also used gendered language when commenting on the Clerk.
4. The Ombudsman determined that the Member may have breached the Council’s Code of Conduct, in particular, paragraphs 4(a), 4(b) and 4(c), which provide:
“4. You must —
(a) carry out your duties and responsibilities with due regard to the principle that there should be equality of opportunity for all people, regardless of their gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, age or religion;
(b) show respect and consideration for others;
(c) not use bullying behaviour or harass any person;”
The Ombudsman also found that the Member’s actions could reasonably be regarded as behaviour which might have breached paragraph 6(1)(a) of the Code of Conduct:
6.—(1) You must — (a) not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute;
5. The Ombudsman referred his investigation report to the Monitoring Officer of Gwynedd Council for consideration by its Standards Committee.
6. The Senior Solicitor (Corporate) (Gwynedd Council's Deputy Monitoring Officer, who advised the Committee) presented his report at the commencement of the hearing. He explained that the Member had resigned as a member of Tywyn Town Council on 4 December 2021, and that the Member had confirmed that he did not intend to attend the hearing. He explained that the resignation of the Member did not alter the fact that the Committee was required to consider and decide on the Ombudsman's report. However, the sanction of suspension was no longer available to the Committee, should it conclude that the Member had breached the Code.
7. The Committee resolved to proceed with the hearing and considered the Ombudsman’s written report together with the further documents submitted by the Member and the Ombudsman in accordance with the Committee's pre-hearing procedure. The Committee also considered oral submissions from Katrin Shaw, Chief Legal Adviser and Director of Investigations of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales and from Leigh McAndrew, the Ombudsman's Investigating Officer.
8.The Committee first considered any finding of fact that it needed to make. The complaint concerned correspondence from ... view the full minutes text for item 3.