Guide How to complain about a councillor

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4. Complaint outcomes

Complaint alleging criminal conduct

Where the complainant alleges criminal conduct (including failure to register or declare a Disclosable Pecuniary Interest, or voting at a council meeting where such an interest exists), this is a matter for the police and cannot be dealt with under the Code of Conduct. The monitoring officer (MO) will consider whether there is any substance to the complaint and whether it is appropriate to refer to the Police.

NOTE: Complainants may refer criminal allegations directly to the Police.

No further action

The case is closed and a letter sent to both the complainant and the subject member with an explanation why. The subject member has the option to request that the details of the complaint and outcome to be published on the EDDC website. If not, details of the complaint will remain confidential.

Circumstances where no further action may be appropriate:

  • Behaviour not subject to the Code
  • The complaint is the same or substantially the same as a complaint previously dealt with
  • The period since the alleged behaviour is so significant that it is considered to be inequitable, unreasonable or otherwise not in the public interest to pursue
  • The complaint is trivial or discloses such a minor or technical breach of the Code that it is not in the public interest to pursue
  • The complaint is or appears to be malicious, politically motivated, tit-for-tat or otherwise submitted with an improper motive and the complaint is not considered to disclose sufficiently serious potential breaches of the Code to merit further consideration
  • The complaint is covered by the Council’s persistent and vexatious complaints policy and the complaint is not considered to disclose sufficiently serious potential breaches of the Code to merit further consideration
  • The councillor has provided a satisfactory remedy to the complaint
  • The complaint is about a person who is no longer a member of a relevant council
  • There is evidence to suggest a potential breach of the Code but the circumstances do not warrant further action.

 

Monitoring Officer Investigation

The MO carries out an appropriate investigation into the complaint. If no breach is found there is no further action and the case is closed and parties notified why. The subject member has the option to request that details of the complaint and outcome be published on the EDDC website. If not, details of the complaint remain confidential.

If a breach is found then the MO seeks to agree an appropriate resolution and / or sanctions with the parties. Where it cannot be agreed, the MO will determine appropriate resolution and / or sanctions and if the subject member accepts them then the matter is concluded. A letter will be sent to the complainant and the subject member stating the findings and detailing the resolution / sanction. The letter to the subject member will be published on the EDDC website.

Where the subject member does not agree the resolution and / or sanctions, the MO will make a decision on what, if any, further action should be taken. This could include referral for independent investigation (see No.5 below).

 

Other action

Where action such as training or referral to the political group leaders or the town / parish council would be the most appropriate way to address the issues raised by the complainant or where the councillor has already provided or expressed a willingness to offer a satisfactory remedy to the complaint.

Where other action may be appropriate:

  • Less serious complaints where the councillor wishes to put their actions right
  • A general breakdown in relationships at the Council where other action such as mediation might help
  • Complaints where the public interest in conducting an investigation does not justify the costs of such an investigation
  • Where there is a lack of experience or the councillor may benefit from training or mentoring
  • Where the issue appears to be in the political arena and therefore appropriate for referral to a leader(s) of a political group to deal with
  • Where it appears that the town / parish council would be best placed to resolve the issue
  • Where there is the same alleged breach of the Code by many of the council’s councillors, indicating a poor understanding of the Code and authority’s procedures

Where other action is taken a letter is sent to the complainant and the subject member setting out the action taken with an explanation. The subject member has the option to request that details of the complaint and outcome be published on the EDDC website. If not, details of the complaint remain confidential.

 

Complaint referred for independent investigation

Where the complaint has raised an issue that the MO, in consultation with the Independent Person, decides cannot be resolved by local settlement and / or is serious enough to warrant investigation, he will appoint an investigator. This could be an appropriately skilled council officer from this or another council, or an external investigator. The investigation will be proportionate and include interviews with everyone the investigator decides will help them assess the complaint and reach a conclusion on whether there has been a breach of the Code of Conduct. In exceptional circumstances, we may keep the identity of the complainant confidential if we agree it is necessary, or we may delay notifying the councillor of the investigation where this may prejudice the investigation.

What happens when the investigator issues their final report? Where the Investigator finds that the councillor hasn’t breached the Code of Conduct, the MO will write to the subject member, the complainant and the Town/Parish Council if relevant to end the matter. The subject member is given the option of whether they wish for details of the complaint and outcome to be published on the EDDC website. If not, details of the complaint remain confidential.

Where the Investigator concludes that there has been a breach of the Code, the MO will try to seek agreement with the subject member on resolution and / or sanction. Where agreement is reached a letter will be sent to the complainant and the subject member stating the findings and detailing the resolution / sanction. The letter to the subject member will be published on the EDDC website. If it is not appropriate or possible to agree matters, the MO will arrange a Hearings Sub Committee. This will be a public meeting in which the Investigator and the councillor concerned will be able to make representations to the Sub Committee members before the Committee decides what, if any, sanction is appropriate. In cases where the councillor persuades the Hearing that there are legitimate reasons for holding the Hearing in confidential session, the public will be excluded from all or part of the Hearing. There is a written procedure for the hearing itself.

What action can the Standards Hearings Sub Committee take where a councillor has breached the Code of Conduct?

The Council has delegated to the Hearings Sub Committee powers to take action to promote and maintain high standards of conduct. Sanctions available to the committee:

a. Censure or reprimand the councillor

b. Publish its findings in respect of the councillor’s conduct

c. Report its findings to Council (or to the Parish Council) for information

d. Recommend to the councillors’ Group Leader (or in the case of un-grouped councillors, recommend to Council or to Committees) that he/she be removed from any or all Committees or Sub-Committees of the Council

e. Recommend to the Leader of the Council that the councillor be removed from the Cabinet, or removed from particular Portfolio responsibilities

f. Recommend to Council that the councillor be replaced as Executive Leader

g. Instruct the Monitoring Officer to (or recommend that the Parish Council) arrange training for the member

 

Powers to enforce compliance

The Monitoring Officer and Standards Hearings Sub-Committee can only recommend a particular sanction to the relevant town or parish council. The Committee and the monitoring officer don't have any power to enforce compliance.