To determine a complaint against a Parish Councillor and consider the Monitoring Officers report.
The Code of Conduct Panel met to consider a complaint which had been brought against Councillor Richard Price, a Crowthorne Parish Councillor and to determine whether Councillor Price had breached Crowthorne Parish Council’s Code of Conduct For Members And Co-Opted Members.
The Panel considered the reports from the Monitoring Officer and Investigating Officer, as well as oral submissions given by the Investigating Officer’s Witness, Mrs Melanie Saville, and Councillor Price.
Councillor Price had accepted one of the breaches of the Code that had been found against him within the report, and had apologised for this incident, but felt that he was not at fault for the other incidents raised.
Prior to the Panel’s deliberations on whether Councillor Price had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct, the Independent Person, Dr Louis Lee expressed his view that based on the facts presented to the Panel, Councillor Price had breached the Code of Conduct.
After consideration of all that had been presented to it, both orally and in writing, The Code of Conduct Panel determined, on balance, that Councillor Price had breached the Parish Council’s Conduct of Conduct and also its Equality and Fair Treatment Policy on the occasions and to the extent as had been set out in the Investigator’s Report.
In agreeing with the findings of the Investigator’s Report, the Code of Conduct Panel determined that in respect of the seven incidents of complaint that had been investigated, thirteen counts of breach of paragraph 3 of the Code of Conduct and including 6 counts of breach of paragraphs 1, 2 and 5 of its Equality and Fair Treatment Policy were proved and upheld, namely;
· Bringing the Parish Council or the Office of Councillor into disrepute (Upheld on 1 Count)
· Bullying the Complainant or others (Upheld on 6 Counts)
· Failing to treat the Complainant or others with respect (Upheld on 6 Counts)
The Code of Conduct Panel agreed with the Investigator’s findings that there had, however, been no incident or element of discrimination of others by Councillor Price.
The Code of Conduct Panel determined that Councillor Price had breached the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct in respect to six of the seven incidents in 2020 as set out in the Investigator’s report as the Panel considered that his behaviour towards Mrs Melanie Saville, the Clerk of Crowthorne Parish Council on those occasions had been unacceptable. The Panel felt that Councillor Price’s offer of a revised apology from him along with Code of Conduct training was not a reasonable sanction.
The Panel noted Councillor’s Price’s submission that he had not intended to bully the Complainant or anyone else during the incidents complained of and also noted Councillor Price’s willingness to accept that those incidents described may have been construed by the recipient as bullying even though that was not his intention at the time. However, the Panel considered that Councillor Price’s acknowledgment did not go far enough. The Panel considered that Councillor Price failed to accept that his behaviour towards the Complainant and others could be construed by the recipient as bullying behaviour, even if that had not been Councillor Price’s intention when conducting himself.
As such, the Panel recommended a number of sanctions including that Councillor Price be removed from his 'Finance Champion role’,and be prevented from acting as chair of any Crowthorne Parish Council Committees or groups for at least one year.
The Panel determined these necessary and proportionate sanctions when considering both the nature and seriousness of the complaint and the need to uphold the public accountability of elected Councillors and to help ensure that such incidents are not repeated
A full list of the recommended sanctions were detailed in the Decision Notice which would be sent to the complainant, Cllr Price and the Chairman of Crowthorne Parish Council.
The Panel wished to thank and commend the Complainant, Mrs Saville, for bringing these matters to its attention.