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0 votes

I am being indicted under an Officer and Councillor behaviour protocol introduced by our Clerk presumably in response to the Ledbury case.  This seems to be an in house conduct code and the punishment stages are

Stage 1: The behaviour will be assessed by the Parish Clerk in conjunction with the Chairman and/or the staffing sub-committee. If after assessment it is considered that the behaviour is unacceptable the person will be politely asked to amend their behaviour.

Stage 2: If they continue to behave unacceptably or the behaviour is repeated within 6 months, a 2nd warning will be given and the Parish Clerk, Officer or Council will stop responding to the person.

 Stage 3: Review – a review will take place after a reasonable amount of time and we will contact the person to inform them of the review decision.

 

 If unacceptable behaviour continues, the restricted period will extend. If this does not improve behaviour, the council may need to consider legal actions e.g an injunction under the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime- and Policing Act 2014 or Protection from Harassment Act 1997 and/or reporting to the Monitoring Officer

 

The Chairman has written to me advising that I am at stage 1 and inviting me to a meeting to discuss.    As my main problems are with Clerk and the Chairman and I see this very much as a kangaroo court with my accusers being the judge and jury as well.

Now I have no problems with what I have done and said and am more than capable of defending myself but little experience on how to play this.  There appears to be no appeals process.  Any advice?

by (4.7k points)

7 Answers

0 votes
I have no idea whether you are completely out of order - or whether you are not.

However, in respect of the 'procedure and the suggestion that a councillor's conduct will be assessed by the parish clerk ...', I have never heard such twaddle in my life.  Complaints about the conduct of a councillor should be referred to the Monitoring Officer ... end of!  At the moment, I am unable to print the advice I would give!
by (9.9k points)
0 votes
As in the Ledbury case put your claim in against the complainants to the monitoring officer, you've reached the tipping point in my opinion.
by (1.3k points)
0 votes
It would appear that you have the makings of a kangaroo court in your council. As with all diciplinary procedures the "accused" ( councillor or employee) must be afforded the ability to hear in full the "evidence" and have the ability to challenge it at all levels and reviews. They must also be afforded the ability to have support and representation. From what you have written the procedures adopted by you council do not appear to have either been laid down correctly or so far followed. Has this " procedure" been adopted by full council? and if so who is named as the investigators of the complaint. I would question as to what makes the council think that an employee should have any part in such a procedure other than in advisory capacity. The clerk should take no part in it. You have the right to have findings reviewed by an independent third party.

The councillor in the Ledbury case won her case based much on what you are stating here so the transcripts are well worth reading. Of course you will find that the local county NALC office HALC were in error in their advice given to the PC and Hereford council soon afterwards stopped using HALC's services.
by (26.5k points)
Absolutely agree that the Ledbury case changed the way allegations of misconduct against councillors can be dealt with (or rather not dealt with) by a town or parish council but just to correct a small point, Ledbury is a market town in rural Herefordshire. Hereford Council is also a town council in Herefordshire.   The two councils are not linked other than by location.
Apologies for the reference confusion.
And to clarify: Hereford is a city not a town ( don't upset the natives!) and it is the county council ( Local authority) covering Ledbury.
People always get Hereford Council and Herefordshire Council confused but the two are very different!  Herefordshire is the Unitary Authority, Hereford is a parish council (OK City Council and I agree, they get quite sensitive about it!).   An area I used to live in!
0 votes
The process sounds illegal. I would contact the Monitoring Officer and insist they intervene to advise the council they are acting unlawfully.
by (800 points)
I have contacted the MO and unless you understand the various processes it can be difficult to follow.  Having said that inter alia he says "I am not in a position to offer you, or indeed the parish council, legal advice on the legality of any member officer protocol of the parish council". As suggested in your responses from other parties the role of the monitoring officer is to process standards complaints related to breach of the council’s code of conduct it does not extend to acting as legal adviser to the parish council or individual councillors".   Would be happy to forward full response to an informed observer for an opinion if they care to PM me
Ok, but the MO should be concerned that a council is trying to extend its reach into what is the MO's remit. That is not offering them advice on their protocol - it is to tell them to stop. I believe the MO in Ledbury case advised the council they were acting unlawfully and was ignored. In terms of what to say to the council, I would suggest telling them that their protocol would lead to the council acting ultra vires, and that if they have a problem with your conduct they should make a complaint to the MO.  But please note I am not an expert - I would suggest speaking to the MO.  They may be reluctant to get involved but it sounds like, in this case, they should be involved.
Yorkieman your MO hasn’t got a clue my Parish Council tried something similar and I “ self reported myself “ using the Ledbury principle and all hell broke loose but at the end of the day after £1000’s were wasted I won if you send me your email address by PM I’ll send you the link
0 votes
This has all the ingredients of a ‘vexatious complainer’ protocol.
I’m not suggesting you are vexatious - not by any means. What I mean is this is a well established technique adopted when somebody asks an ‘awkward’ question and the person being questioned - invariably the clerk - takes offence / indignation at being questioned and seeks a protection from further searching questions.
I recognise it because I was subjected to it.
First clerk that took offence at perfectly reasonable questions quit threatening an Industrial Tribunal (as I later found, this is also a well adopted distraction / diversion technique) but thought better of it when countered with the prospect of a fraud investigation.
The next clerk was a bit more tenacious and set about subjugating the gullible Cllrs (many of whom now recognise, and openly admit, the error of their ways) wasn’t long before they too were given their sandwiches in a road map.
I wouldn’t mind taking a punt that your chair is not the sharpest tool in the box, you have a number of less than fully engaged Cllrs, you have a bombastic and passive aggressive clerk and that you are asking questions which others are too lazy to ask and then you are not settling for ½ assed answers.
You see, if that is anywhere like an accurate summation, then it follows quite closely the path I travelled. I was labelled a vexatious complainer, I was even subjected to a visit from the local PCSO with what he called an ASBO warning. I literally told him to foxtrot Oscar and take his paperwork with him - genuine - I then FoI’d his body worn camera so I could watch it again
I’m still registered as a vexatious complainer for my PC (and I’ve been the chair since Summer ) How hilarious is that!
by (19.8k points)
0 votes
I think I’m just about to be ambushed with a variation of this. In a closed session the council will agree to spend money to establish via an HR advisor whether staff or councillors have been bullied after complaints about staff have been received. All I tried to do was use the council’s (almost non existent) policies to address some concerns I had about the conduct of the clerk. The clerk should not have known about these as they were sent confidentially to the chair of the staffing sub committee and have never been addressed with the clerk. So where did the question as to whether the staff were bullied come from?
by (1.7k points)
That will back-fire on them then.
If you raised legitimate concern, confidentially, with chair of staffing committee, and that confidentiality has been broken (not by yourself) then you cannot be liable (in this regard as described)
If they need an ‘HR advisor’ to tell them that then they are not fit for custody of public money.
0 votes
I am somewhat confused with the above as to who is the complainant and who is the complainer so I have tried to be generic

There are three very separate routes depending on the nature of the complaint.

As a councillor poor behaviour is referred to the monitoring officer if it breaches the code of conduct. The chairman could possibly have a quiet word to prevent escalation to this stage

A staff member ( the employee) cannot essentially be involved if if it is against a councillor ( the employer) if they have a complaint it is passed to staffing committee who will decide if the complaint is upheld. The new code of conduct states it is the chairman who submits the code of conduct.

A complaint about the staff is passed to the staffing committee who follow the disciplinary policy if appropriate
Vexatious complaints are for the public, managed with a rigorous system of documented evidence and are time limited with review dates. This can be dealt with by the chair and clerk.

Councils seem to forget they are employers and employment law is a separate legislation outside of the LGA. Not looking after your staff is an expensive mistake if the council is taken to a tribunal.

It also should be noted that sharing complaints across all parties at initial stages prevents independent reviews if an appeal is raised
by (6.3k points)
Generic, and with some relevance, but also an inappropriate, apparently deeply entrenched misconception, that a PC has any influence or liability for the activity of a member of the public dressed up in a perpetuation of the myth that PCs should be terrified of ever challenging or questioning the clerk for fear of retribution by means of industrial tribunal.
For all the times the old chestnut - you’ll be in tribunal - is trotted out, you’d imagine they are weekly occurrences. They are not.
Designating a member of the public a vexatious complainer is the refuse of clerks and PCs that are incapable of answering simple questions - usually because they are either, incompetent, complicit and or realise they are being exposed. Rarely, very rarely, they will be a genuine problem complainer but 9 times out of 10 it will be the adverse reaction of a PC to a genuine public question which they don’t want to answer.
I’d bet where there is a recorded “vexatious complainer” there is also an entrenched and incompetent, ill informed PC with a long standing, bombastic, passive aggressive clerk.

What fun it would be to correlate sub optimal PCs with records of existing “vexatious complaints.”

It is currently being suggested in another thread that someone stick to their guns, engage the public and campaign for the next election cycle in order to redress existing perceived deficiencies.
It is quite reasonable to expect that person or group might ask questions of the existing council. That puts them right in the cross hairs of being inappropriately labelled “vexatious.”

Seen it happen exactly this way!
Further to the offer to discuss matters with the Chairman I had my interview yesterday and essentially the main issue related to the various clerks were getting upset about being constantly challenged.  The original challenge was about the failure of the Clerk to allow me access to NALCs LTNs.    The message I received at the time was that she had never done it 20 years as a clerk, and she was not about to start now.  Her response indicated that if she was forced to, she would leave and ensure that her agency blacklisted my PC.  I subsequently made representations to our staffing committee who never replied. During my interview   I was told that the reason she provided to the chairman at the time was that if I had information contained in the LTNs then "I would use it against her". The expression "over my dead body "was used. Whilst an uneasy truce was called, I was left with the clear impression that the threat of Clerks leaving assumed a far greater importance than supporting effective Councillors.

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