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Anonymous emails from the public read out in Full Council

0 votes
How do other councils treat emails from members of the public?

An email was read out by the Clerk, in the Public Forum last night, from an anonymous member of the public. Though we were not mentioned by name, I and two other councillors were referred to as bullies. It was said that we bullied other councillors and the staff and that our behaviour in meetings was poor. I asked if the member of the public could be given details of how to complain to the MO, but should I do more than this?
by (1.5k points)

4 Answers

0 votes
I'm not a wizard at technical stuff but how can an email be anonymous?
by (7.1k points)
It was not anonymous to the clerk and chair. They allowed the emailer anonymity!
0 votes
Depends on your communications policy. Normally correspondence received by the clerk can be given as part of the agenda or circulated to councillors in hard copy for their comments etc. If it was anonymous and did not specify which councillor(s) to whom it referred then your assertion that you know who were referred to states more about the validity of the complaint than a statement of innocence of the matter. It would be very difficult to progress such a matter as presumably there is no way of the council knowing who the originator was or how to discuss the matter with them. The council should then propose that until the complaint is made officially then nothing can be done to progress it as such.

Councils should have a policy for such anonymous correspondence which does not include ignoring it at clerk level as all councillors should be fully informed of receipt of such things and the impossibility of addressing them directly whilst retaining the knowledge of such matters.
by (22.5k points)
Thank you for your reply. I must apologise for not including enough information in the post (for that would be a very very lengthy post indeed) for anyone else to be assured that we three were clearly the target of the email. However I do think that it’s a bit of a leap to presume validity of the complaint because I could tell that it was about me.
+2 votes
Following the Ledbury case Councils have no role in the process of complaints about individual councillors so the correct procedure was for the complainant to be given information about how a referral to the monitoring officer can be made.
Unless the complainant gave express permission for his/her details to be published/read out, any correspondence etc. should be anonymised.

Frankly I don't think it should have been read out at all.  The clerk should have dealt with it as you indicated.
by (13.9k points)
Thank you for this
I think we need to separate substance from process here.
As for substance, none of us here know whether or not you are a bully.  That is between you, your clerk, and the rest of your council.

As for process.  You have told us that an anonymous email was read out in the public session at one of your meetings.  On the face it, that could apply to any of the councillors although you have a strong suspicion it was aimed at you.  In my opinion a) the email should never have been read out and b) it cannot possibly remain anonymous because a copy can be demanded either as a subject access request under the data protection legislation or under the Freedom of Information legislation.
+2 votes
It should never have been read out the complainant should have been told that the Parish Council cannot  handle complaints and they must be referred to the MO

The Clerk should have know that and in almost any sphere apart from Parish Councils you could lodge a complaint against them but no doubt their “ managers “ will shrug it off

I know of a PC where the Clerk is aggressive towards Councillors especially by email this  has resulted in several resignations
Any attempt to raise the matter with their managers results in the comment you know what they are like just ignore  them
If you could prove any Councillor was involved in this farce then lodge a complaint to the MO

You have no right under FOI to see the email assuming it exists in the first place
by (10.0k points)
Jules - as a matter of interest, under what exemption could disclosure of the email be denied?
John, difficult to know where to start
1 it shouldn’t have been read out

2 if it was to be read out it should have been an Agenda item as correspondence ( with the senders details redacted )  not in public forum that way the email would have been included in the Agenda pack

You already know what the email said so you gain nothing from getting a copy because the sender will be redacted under GDPR
It could be argued that as it wasn’t part of the formal meeting the FOI does not apply
As you clearly have a “ difficult “ Council I assume like me you record all meetings in which case you have a record of exactly what was in the email
Jules.  Just to be clear - I'm commenting; not disagreeing with your sentiment.

However a) I do not understand under what exemption the email would be redacted and b) I actually think a subject access request under the data protection legislation is more appropriate.

But - as I said - this is not a disagreement - just another way of looking at things.
John no problem I’m just pointing out that I don’t think you have a chance of finding out who sent it if one was sent in the first place
SAR ? I issued one to a PC having become aware that they were approaching third parties in writing about me

They put my SAR on the Agenda so it was on notice boards all over the Parish and at the meeting refused to accept they’d done anything
They did apologise to me later ( not at a meeting) and claimed the correspondence was confidential so I couldn’t see it
Thank you John and Jules, I am not interested in who sent it as such, but I would like to make a code of conduct complaint about the Chair who cheerfully told all that the sender had sent it twice to make sure it was read out. However our MO would want a carefully worded complaint which referred to the exact part of the code breached. Could you advise which you think is appropriate here, otherwise they just say ‘it’s a council matter regarding your procedures…and do a VONC’ or similar, (which we’ve already established here is a pointless waste of time).
I think what happened is bullying and that’s what I’d use if I made a complaint
Thank you, Jules, I’ll give it a go
Good luck let’s be honest if reading an anonymous email out in public isn’t bad behaviour what is ?

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