Councillor Brown Lewennick Parish Council Assessment Decision

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ASSESSMENT DECISION NOTICE
NO BREACH OF THE CODE
Reference:
CCN040/13
Complainant:
Mr Gordon Scott
Subject Member:
Councillor Adrian Brown, Lewannick Parish Council
Person conducting
the Assessment:
Simon Mansell – Principal Legal Officer, Corporate
Governance
Date of Assessment:
18 November 2013
Complaint
On 18 November 2013 the Monitoring Officer considered a complaint from Mr Gordon
Scott concerning the alleged conduct of Councillor Adrian Brown of Lewannick Parish
Council. A general summary of the complaint is set out below.
The Complainant has alleged that when his planning application PA13/0670 was
considered at an Extraordinary Meeting of Lewannick Parish Council on 22 August
2013 his application was treated differently form others, Councillor Brown failed to
respond to his complaints and that Councillor Brown may be friends with neighbours
of the Complainant who object to his application.
Potential breaches of the Code of Conduct are;




failure to treat others with respect
using your position to gain an advantage or disadvantage
conducting yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as
bringing your office or authority into disrepute
participating, or participating further, in any discussions, participating in any
vote, or further vote failing to remove yourself from the meeting while any
discussion or vote takes place on a matter in which you have a disclosable
pecuniary or non registerable interest.
Decision
I find that there is a no breach of the Code of Conduct in relation to all elements of
the allegation, as follows:




failure to treat others with respect
using your position to gain an advantage or disadvantage
conducting yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as
bringing your office or authority into disrepute
participating, or participating further, in any discussions, participating in any
vote, or further vote failing to remove yourself from the meeting while any
discussion or vote takes place on a matter in which you have a disclosable
pecuniary or non registerable interest.
Reasons for the Decision
Sufficient information has been obtained to enable this complaint to be assessed and
determined without the need to refer the complaint for investigation and the
undertaking of interviews. In assessing this complaint I have had regard to;



the complaint as submitted by the Complainant;
the response to the complaint submitted by Councillor Brown; and
the views of the Independent Person assigned to this matter.
Firstly in assessing this matter the way in which the meeting on 22 August 2013 was
called has been considered. In calling a formal meeting of the council three clear days
notice has to be given of the intention to meet. Any summons for a meeting of the
Council has to be sent by the Proper Officer to the Council, who is the Clerk, whose
job it also is to administer the procedures and ensure the meetings are correctly
conducted. This responsibility does not rest with the Chairman.
Therefore in the case of the meeting held on 22 August 2013 there can be no fault
apportioned to Councillor Brown for the fact that the Complainant did not receive
notice of the meeting. However it is noted in conducting this assessment that the
Clerk had attempted to inform the Complainant of the meeting, something which the
Council is not obliged to do; however, the email was incorrectly addressed.
The Complainant then complained to Councillor Brown who tried to deal with the
matter in good faith before stepping back due to being advised that the Complainant
had contacted legal services at Cornwall Council. In the interim the Complainant has
stated that Councillor Brown was fabricating his responses to the Complainant.
In dealing with the complaint made to the Parish Council, Councillor Brown was
correct in stepping back from this matter once he was advised Cornwall Council legal
were involved. While it is appreciated that Councillor Brown did initially try to deal
with this in good faith it is considered that the complaint should have been sent to the
Clerk and it should have been left to the Clerk, as the Proper Officer to the Council, to
deal with it.
I have considered if the actions of Councillor Brown, in attempting to deal with this
matter, is a breach of the Code of Conduct; and do not consider this to be the case.
While I note the concerns of the Complainant regarding the way he considers he was
treated, were the Code extended in this matter to cover such actions it would deter
other Councillors from trying to assist in a similar manner. Therefore I find no breach
of the Code of Conduct in the way Councillor Brown has sought to assist the
Complainant.
In looking at the allegations of an interest arising, the Complainant has stated that, ‘I
am unsure whether (objectors to the Complainants applications) are good friends with
Mr [Councillor] Brown’. This allegation is not further supported by the Complainant.
Councillor Brown has stated he is not good friends with the named third party as is
claimed by the Complainant and there is nothing further to substantiate the general
allegation as made. Therefore this part of the allegation is not considered further.
It is noted that the Complainant has stated that he is still waiting for answers to the
way in which his application was dealt with by the Parish Council. This falls outside of
the Code of Conduct regime which has no jurisdiction to investigate complaints about
Town and Parish Councils. If the Complainant remains aggrieved by the actions of the
Council he should submit a complaint in writing to the Clerk.
It should also be noted that while in this case no breach of the Code has been found
had the outcome found a breach of the Code this would not have affected the
planning process as there are no powers to interject or overturn a planning decision
via the ethical standards regime.
As a result of the above I find no breach of the Code of Conduct by Councillor Brown
in relation to the allegations as made by the Complainant.
What happens now?
This decision notice is sent to the complainant, the member against whom the
allegation has been made and the Clerk to Lewannick Parish Council.
Right of review
At the written request of the complainant, the Monitoring Officer can review and is
able to change a decision not to refer an allegation for investigation or other action.
To ensure impartiality in the conduct of the review different officers to those involved
in the original decision will undertake the review.
We must receive a written request from the complainant to review this decision within
15 working days from the date of this notice, explaining in detail on what grounds the
decision should be reviewed.
If we receive a request for a review, we will write to all the parties mentioned above,
notifying them of the request to review the decision.
Additional help
If you need additional support in relation to this or future contact with us, please let
us know as soon as possible. If you have difficulty reading this notice we can make
reasonable adjustments to assist you, in line with the requirements of the Disability
Discrimination Act 2000.
We can also help if English is not your first language.
SJR Mansell MBE
Principal Legal Officer
On behalf of the Monitoring Officer
Date: 27 November 2013
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