To carry out a hearing in relation to an appeal against a Monitoring Officer decision on a councillor complaint.
A report on the complaint will follow.
The Committee received the report of the Monitoring Officer in relation to an appeal against the Monitoring Officer decision on a complaint received from Councillor Laban, Leader of the Opposition, against four councillors. (Report No: 128)
1. The Monitoring Officer presented the report to the Committee highlighting the following:
· The original complaint from Councillor Laban concerned six individual councillors alleged failure to declare interests at the Annual Council meeting on 23 May 2018. Two of the complaints had been resolved and were not part of these proceedings.
· The appeal was in relation to the Monitoring Officer decision on the complaints against Councillors Elif Erbil, Susan Erbil, Huseyn Akpinar and Guney Dogan and their alleged failure to declare that they were related to the Mayor.
· Sarah Jewell had only been involved at the start of the proceedings when she advised the Monitoring Officer that she felt that there was a case to investigate. It was therefore agreed that she could advise the committee during their deliberations on the appeal.
· As the complaint concerned both the Leader of the Council and the Leader of the Opposition, the Monitoring Officer thought that it would be inappropriate to ask officers to investigate and decided to appoint Wilkin Chapman, a solicitor’s firm with expertise in this area, to carry out an investigation.
· Wilkin Chapman investigated the complaints and found that all four councillors had no family relation with the Mayor and therefore concluded that the four councillors had not been in breach of the code of conduct.
· Councillor Laban had then appealed these findings, but had submitted no further evidence to back her complaint.
· There was a typo on page 26 of the first pack and 46 of the second pack of “to follow” papers. This should have read “Our conclusion is that there had not been a breach of the code of conduct of the authority concerned by Councillor Dogan” instead of “Our conclusion is that there had been a breach of the code of conduct of the authority concerned by Councillor Dogan”.
2. The members of the Committee discussed the report as follows:
· Members questioned what kind of evidence was provided and how it had been established that the Councillors had no relationship with the Mayor.
· In response the Monitoring Officer advised that the code required that the complaint was dealt with on the evidence provided, on the balance of probabilities and that evidence was taken at face value. The councillors had asserted that they had no family relationship with the Mayor.
· The investigators indicated that the receipt of an SRA was not a disclosable pecuniary interest. Paragraph 26 of the code provided details of the interests which would have constituted a pecuniary interest. This covered employment, office, trade, profession or vocation but not a responsibility allowance.
· Members felt that the code of conduct could be clearer on what was meant by a family member. The Monitoring Officer advised that the Code was due to be reviewed.
Jeremy Chambers and Councillor Aramaz left the meeting at this point.
3. The Committee reviewed and discussed the information received above.
· The Chair felt that it was unhealthy that a complaint could be made based upon a press article, hearsay and rumour which was entirely unfounded. Hard evidence should be required when complaints were made.
· After discussion the committee agreed unanimously to uphold the findings of the Investigation report, as agreed by the Monitoring Officer.
· Sarah Jewell, Independent Person agreed that in her opinion there had been no breach of the code.
AGREED that there was no evidence for the complaints against the four members. There had been no breach of the code of conduct and therefore the appeal be dismissed.