Agenda and minutes

SPECIAL MEETING, Joint Standards Committee - Friday 13th January 2017 2.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Maldon District Council Offices, Princes Road, Maldon. View directions

Contact: Committee Services 

Items
No. Item

859.

Chairman's notices (please see overleaf)

Minutes:

The Chairman drew attention to the list of notices published on the back of the agenda.

860.

Apologies for Absence and Substitution Notice

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors M R Pearlman and B Ledger.  In accordance with notice duly given Councillor H M Bass was substituting for Councillor Pearlman.  It was reported that Councillor Ledger had advised that due to ill health he would be standing down from the Committee.  The Essex Association of Local Councils had been approached with a view to nominating a replacement representative.

 

861.

Minutes of the last meeting pdf icon PDF 76 KB

To confirm the Minutes of the special meeting of the Committee held on 9 December 2016 (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

RESOLVED

 

(i)                 that the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 December 2016 be received.

 

Councillor S Nunn said he noted the report submitted to this meeting addressing the constitutional arrangements he had raised under Minute 804, and thanked the Deputy Monitoring Officer for updating him pursuant to Minute 808.

 

RESOLVED

 

(ii)               that subject to the above amendment the Minutes of the meeting of the Committee held on 9 December 2016 be confirmed.

 

 

862.

Disclosure of Interest

To disclose the existence and nature of any Disclosable Pecuniary Interests, other Pecuniary Interests or Non-Pecuniary Interests relating to items of business on the agenda having regard to paragraphs 6-8 inclusive of the Code of Conduct for Members.

 

(Members are reminded that they are also required to disclose any such interests as soon as they become aware should the need arise throughout the meeting).

 

Minutes:

There were none at this juncture although Councillor S Nunn gave notice that he would disclose an interest in relation to agenda item 8 – Allegation of Misconduct when that point was reached in the meeting.

 

863.

Review of Constitution affecting the Joint Standards Committee pdf icon PDF 99 KB

To consider the report of the Monitoring Officer (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Monitoring Officer on possible revisions to its constitution.

 

In the light of comments made by Councillor S Nunn at and following the last meeting of the Committee it was considered that there was scope for looking at certain aspects of the Council’s constitutional arrangements so far as they affect the set-up of this Committee.

 

The constitution of the Committee, details of which were circulated at the meeting, was set out at the head of its terms of reference and general remit.  In particular it provided that

 

7)         The Chairman of the Committee shall be a Maldon District Councillor appointed at the Annual Meeting of the Council.

 

8)         There will be one Vice-Chairman who shall be a Maldon District Councillor and shall be elected by the Committee.

 

The Committee noted that the above matters had occurred within the confines of the statutory annual meeting of the Council, albeit on adjournment to facilitate the holding of special meetings of the committees for this purpose and that in reality that was the first meeting of the Committee.  This conformed to the overall constitutional arrangements of the Council as set out in Procedure Rules.

 

Councillor S Nunn asked that it be recorded that he believed that the constitution had been breached in that the Chairman of the Committee had not been appointed by the Council at its annual meeting and that the Vice-Chairman had not been elected by the Committee.  He added that the implication of the reference to ‘Joint’ in the name of the Committee was that its members were of equal standing, and recognised the equal importance of Parish and Town Councils in the District.

 

Discussion ensued with particular reference to the potential involvement of the two Parish/Town Council Members in the chairmanship/vice-chairmanship decisions.

 

It was proposed by Councillor R G Boyce that in the interests of equality and fairness the two Parish representatives be invited to attend the first meeting of the Joint Standards Committee held at the statutory annual meeting of the Council.  There was no seconder to this proposition.

 

It was then proposed by Councillor S Nunn and seconded by Councillor Rev A E J Shrimpton that every member of the Committee has equal rights to the election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman and that this is done at the first meeting of the Committee following the statutory annual meeting of the Council.

 

After some further and brief debate and clarification of the mechanism currently operated Councillor Shrimpton withdrew his seconding the above proposition.

 

Councillor Nunn then amended his proposition to refer to the same day as the statutory annual meeting of the Council and this was seconded by Councillor Mrs B F Acevedo.  Upon being put to the meeting and a vote taken the proposition was agreed.

 

RECOMMENDED that the Council agrees that the constitution of the Committee be revised to enable all its members to be party to the election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of the Committee and that this takes  ...  view the full minutes text for item 863.

864.

Exclusion of the Public and Press

To resolve that under Section 100A (4) of the Local Government Act 1972 the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item(s) of business on the grounds that they involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

Minutes:

The Committee was invited to resolve to move into private session to deal with agenda item 8 – Allegation of Misconduct.  In reply to a question, the Monitoring Officer advised that the report did identify an Officer of the Council and therefore to proceed with the consideration of this matter in open session could impact on that Officer’s reputation and well-being.  In her view this was significant and, along with the reasons given in the report, outweighed the public interest in disclosure of the information.

 

RESOLVED that under Section 100A(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public be excluded from the meeting for the following item of business on the grounds that it involves the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Part 1 of Schedule 12A to the Act, and that this satisfies the public interest test.

 

865.

Allegation of Misconduct

To consider the report of the Monitoring Officer, (copy enclosed).

Minutes:

The Committee considered the report of the Monitoring Officer on a complaint by an Officer of the Council concerning the conduct of a District Councillor.

 

Councillor S Nunn advised, further to his earlier notification of an intention to declare an interest, that he was friends with one of the persons mentioned and was also acquainted with a Councillor referred to in the correspondence.  He also referred to his management responsibility with Essex County Council.

 

866.

Adjournment of Meeting

Minutes:

The Chairman adjourned the meeting at 2.40 pm to allow Members a short break.

867.

Resumption of Meeting

Minutes:

The formal business of the Council was resumed at 2.45pm.

 

The Monitoring Officer had referred this complaint to the Committee in accordance with stage 2 of the Conduct Complaints process which required the Committee to make an initial assessment and decide whether to refer the complaint for investigation or that no further action is taken.  The Monitoring Officer said that the report was based on the information obtained to date which in her view suggested that there may have been a breach of the Councillor Code of Conduct.  She advised that if the Committee shared that belief then the appropriate action would be to agree that the complaint should be fully investigated.

 

Councillor R G Boyce drew the Committee’s attention to the fact that the Deputy Monitoring Officer’s conclusion and notification under stage 1 of the complaints process had overrun by one day and that the allegation had been hanging over the Councillor concerned since last September 2016.  It was contended that the matter was out of time and should therefore not proceed at all.  Cllr Boyce then proposed accordingly and this was seconded by Councillor Rev A E J Shrimpton.

 

The Monitoring Officer said that in her view there was no reference to a deadline in the process and therefore nothing absolute in this respect.  She felt that during the process under stage 1 every possible step was taken to protect the identity and interests of the parties and that whilst there had been a slight delay of one day due to the level of encryption of the documentation required in communications with the Independent Person (who was required by law to be involved in the process) she did not consider that the delay was unreasonable or had caused any disadvantage to the Councillor concerned as it made no difference to the outcome of stage 1 or notification to the Councillor concerned.  In the interests of natural justice, and the fact that the delay was unforeseen, it would be wrong to allow a technicality to circumvent the substantive process.

 

While it was understood by some members of the Committee that the Council’s intention had been clear in setting down the timescales within the conduct complaints process such that they were to be absolute, the Committee noted that the process did not provide for a complaint to fall and the implications of this if not dealt with according to the timescales laid down.  Further, the slight delay had not affected the time taken to bring the matter to the Committee. 

 

The Monitoring Officer advised the Committee that if the intention of the Council had been absolute then the process would need to be revisited to provide for what happens to a complaint in such circumstances and what the response to the complainant would then be.  The potential ramifications of issues of this nature outweighing the duty of the Committee to look at the substantive conduct issues were broad.  She suggested this might be taken as a somewhat bureaucratic stance and  ...  view the full minutes text for item 867.