A tale of two councillors

3 Jan

Councillor 1:  landowner, planning consultant, chairman of East devon Business Forum caught in a Daily Telegraph sting saying If I can’t get you planning permission, nobody can, but I don’t come cheap”.  Monitoring Officer action: drags heels but eventually sends information to the “Action Fraud” website, which is a database of scams which takes no action.  Only when members of the public (particularly the East Devon Alliance) complain police somewhat reluctantly get involved.   EDDC says it can’t comment further as the matter is “sub judice”.  Not true: no charges have yet been made, the matter is not therefore “sub judice”.  (Perhaps officers need a refresher course on legal matters).

Councillor 2: concerned that a town council is meeting developers in secret in a meeting without agenda or minutes.  Very concerned that the local district and county councillor has not been told about this and tells her.  Dragged into a kangaroo court where he is judged guilty of revealing confidential matters.  Found guilty.  Punishment suggested: to be excluded from the Planning Committee for 6 months.  Censure voted on: censure not to be enforced, decision made by the same people who found him guilty

This time, the Monitoring Officer jumps into action immediately as this press statement shows

“The monitoring officer has offered to assist the town council to find its way through the complex network of rules, codes of conduct and general guidance so it can operate more effectively and manage its affairs with probity and dignity. “The preference is to find common ground and identify a diplomatic solution to their differences.

“The monitoring officer considers the main problem to be a question mark over the interpretation of procedural rules, plus various assumptions that have led to disagreements. “For this reason, she will be holding a meeting with all those involved with a view to find common ground. “It is hoped that in future everyone can co-operate in a dignified way and avoid misunderstandings and mistrust that are not in the best interests of the town council or the community as a whole.”

Read more: http://www.exeterexpressandecho.co.uk/East-Devon-District-Council-investigates-Ottery/story-20396992-detail/story.html#ixzz2pLPcAnhU

Question: Why the big difference in how these two councillors were treated? Why was the “community as a whole” less important in case 1 than case 2?

3 Responses to “A tale of two councillors”

  1. Media Mandy January 3, 2014 at 2:27 pm #

    In my opinion, if these people met without an agenda and with no formal meeting convened or advertised they could not be said to be acting as a town council but simply as a group of people who by coincidence were town councillors. Therefore, the Monitoring Officer would have no jurisdiction whatsoever as they would be acting as private citizens, albeit in a complex personal situation. If the people at such an irregular meeting wanted to take action against one of their number they would therefore need to take a civil action against him, but finding a reason for such action would be very difficult. They would also have to pay their own legal costs.

    You cannot have it both ways: a legal meeting confers legal benefits, an irregular meeting has no such benefits. The meeting was not an official town council meeting – end if story.

  2. Tim January 3, 2014 at 3:11 pm #

    They may not have been acting lawfully as a town council- but there is little doubt that had they not been councillors, they would not have been invited to any such meeting.It is naive in the extreme to assume they were simply interested members of the public who just happened to be councillors. They have a duty, moral if not legal, to act in a way that is, and is seen to be above board.

  3. Vexed January 4, 2014 at 3:42 pm #

    Consider also Councillor #3: opposes a proposed development on AONB and BMV land, forged during meetings (held in private with no publicly-available minutes, of course) between parish councillors and landowner. The development is doggedly promoted at every opportunity by a handful of councillors and their hangers-on, regardless of public opinion, or indeed the majority opinion of the council. During meetings, this councillor voices his opinion and queries why this particular development has seemingly been given preferential treatment. Reported to the police for supposedly having a DPI, then later dragged into a kangaroo court at a parish council meeting and reported to the Monitoring Officer, accused of bullying and revealing confidential information, amongst other things. The Monitoring Officer is immediately all over it, asking the council’s independent person to investigate. Note that no such investigations have arisen from numerous complaints to the Monitoring Officer from the public about the actions of this council.

    It seems that one or two members of this council take exception to anyone holding an opposing view to the one that they have unilaterally decided is best for the parish – this situation follows on from a downright embarrassing and offensive email sent by one councillor, supposedly on behalf of the whole parish council, to the County Councillor when she similarly did not conform to his personal opinion.

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