Hearing date: 9 November 2011
Re: Investigation reference no. SBE 2008/09/24
Respondent: Councillor Norman Smith
Relevant authority: Bonby Parish Council
Mr Wayne Harvie (Independent Member) (Chair)
Councillor Richard Nixon (Parish Member)
Councillor Yvonne Aubrey (Parish Member)
Councillor David Whiteley (Member)
Councillor Neil Poole (Member)
1. The Referral
1.1. The Sub Committee considered a matter that had been referred for investigation by an Assessment Sub Committee (reference 2008/09/24). Richard Mell (Democratic Services) had investigated the complaint and produced a report.
1.2 The Respondent had been provided with a copy of the investigating officer's report and had been given an opportunity to respond. He had submitted a statement and a letter from his representative, both of which had been circulated.
Richard Mell attended and presented his report.
The Respondent attended and was represented by Mr Glenn Siddall-Butchers.
The Sub-Committee was advised by the Monitoring Officer, Mr Will Bell.
3. The Complaint
3.1 A complaint had been received that the Respondent had breached the Code of Conduct by failing to declare interests at specified meetings of Bonby Parish Council when planning applications relating to himself or relatives had been considered and when matters relating to Sheepdyke Lane, Bonby had been discussed.
3.2 The complaint had been made by Mr William Cheetham, a resident of Bonby.
4. Submission by the Respondent
4.1 There was no submission for excluding the press and public
4.2 The Respondent's representative made verbal submissions which were carefully considered by the Sub Committee.
5. Submission by the Investigating Officer
5.1 The Investigating officer submitted an account of the investigation, the interviews which had been undertaken together with his findings and conclusions.
6. Findings/Failure to comply with the Code
6.1 The Complainant had initially identified a number of minutes of meetings of Bonby Parish Council where he alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct had occurred covering the period November 2001 to March 2008. The investigating officer, after careful consideration, chose to restrict his investigation to those meetings of which minutes were held electronically by Bonby Parish Council and covered the period February 2004 to March 2008. In so doing, the investigating officer was satisfied that such minutes represented a true and accurate representative sample of the issues in hand.
6.2 In light of the foregoing, the complaint brought by the Complainant comprised of two elements -
(i) That at meetings of Bonby Parish Council held on the 7 June 2004, 6 September 2004, 1 November 2004, 14 March 2005, 6 June 2005, 5 September 2005, 3 October 2005, 7 November 2005, 6 February 2006 and 3 March 2008 planning applications relating to land either owned by the Respondent or his relatives/business had been considered without the Respondent declaring the requisite interests.
(ii) That at meetings of Bonby Parish Council held on the 2 February 2004, 5 April 2004, 5 May 2004, 7 June 2004, 7 July 2004, 6 September 2004, 4 October 2004, 1 November 2004, 6 December 2004, 9 February 2005, 14 March 2005, 4 April 2005, 6 June 2005, 4 July 2005, 5 September 2005, 3 October 2005, 6 February 2006, 6 November 2006 and 4 December 2006 issues relating to drainage, footpaths and hedge/driveway obstructions pertaining to Sheepdyke Lane, Bonby were considered and by virtue of his residence of 6 Sheepdyke Lane, Bonby the Respondent failed to declare the requisite interests.
6.3 It was established that the Respondent had attended the aforesaid meetings and from perusal of the minutes the investigating officer was satisfied that no declarations of either personal or prejudicial interests had been made by the Respondent at any of the meetings.
6.4 It was established that the Respondent should have declared both personal and prejudicial interests arising from his attendance at the meetings detailed in paragraph 6.2(i) and his failure to do so constituted a breach of the Code of Conduct.
6.5 It was established that the Respondent should have declared both personal and prejudicial interests arising from his attendance at the meetings detailed in paragraph 6.2(ii) and his failure to do so constituted a breach of the Code of Conduct.
6.6 It was not established that in failing to declare the interests detailed in paragraphs 6.4 and 6.5 above that the Respondent sought to improperly influence any of the decisions taken.
The Sub-Committee reached the following decision having considered written and oral contributions from the investigating officer and the Respondent's representative.
7.1 That the Respondent had failed to declare personal and prejudicial interests at the meetings of Bonby Parish Council on the dates detailed in paragraph 6.2(i) and (ii) contrary to paragraphs 9 and 10 of the Code of Conduct.
7.2 That in not making the declarations that he should have the Respondent did not seek to improperly influence the outcome of such decisions and accordingly the Respondent did not breach paragraph 12 of the Code of Conduct.
The Sub-Committee determined that the Respondent -
(i) Receive a censure from the monitoring officer for his conduct in relation to these matters; and
(ii) Participate in appropriate training on the Members' Code of Conduct particularly relating to the declaration of personal and prejudicial interests. Such training to be completed within 3 months of the date of the Sub-Committee's decision and the Respondent to notify the monitoring officer as soon as such training has been completed.
9.1 The Respondent may apply to the Adjudication Panel of England for permission to appeal against the decision within 21 days of receiving written notification of the decision.