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0 votes
We have a local magazine and they reported on a complaint that was made from a member of the public against a certain councilor, the monitoring office said that the complaint was confidential and no basis for the complaint, the person who made the complaint informed the magazine which printed it all and named the councilor involved, are they allowed to do this
by (460 points)

5 Answers

+2 votes
Hmm, a local magazine that thinks it's a tabloid newspaper! The councillor, like any individual treated in this way, could pursue the magazine and the individuals for libel.
by (53.7k points)
The MO has no powers over a local magazine, but if the MO reported no basis this was probably because it fell outside the scope of the CofC, or no evidence existed to demonstrate that the code had been breached, in which case the MO would not have published any details and the matter would remain confidential, so on the basis of innocent until proven guilty, details should not have been published in the magazine, although there is nothing preventing them from stating that a complaint had been submitted, without going into detail. This is a private matter between the individual and the magazine.
I’m afraid that simply isn’t correct Dave.
It is perfectly normal practice for a CoC complaint submission to be published  regardless of the outcome of the investigation.
If a submission is made, it passes the initial threshold as being worthy of investigation then REGARDLESS of the outcome of that investigation- it is still published.
You are labouring under a false illusion to assume that the subject should be anonymous unless found to have transgressed since it is not at all uncommon for complaint submissions to be vexatious, inappropriate or as a means of attempting to influence the subject.
It is just as important for the subject of a nonsensical complaint to be able to publicly demonstrate that the complaint is nonsense (if it is) as it is important for a complainant to show they were wronged (if they were.)

A cursory glance at my LA webpage shows historic complaint decision notices AND rejection notices.
So in the circumstances of the OP, the complainant absolutely can divulge information about the complaint to the media, the media absolutely can publish and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about that.
If what is divulged and subsequently reported by the media is substantially true - that a complaint has been submitted (and a complaint has been submitted) then that is simply reporting of verified fact.
There is nothing wrong in that and nothing that can be done about it.
If however the complaint is subsequently rejected or not upheld, then the subject might actually like to seek equal reportage.
...but if the MO said no basis, it wasn't a valid complaint and wouldn't have been published by the LA. The vast majority of complaints submitted to my local MO are petty personal grievances or political game-playing. If the MO investigated every one, it would be a full-time job. A quick read is all that's required to determine which ones to bin. If it's one of my councillors, the MO will sometimes contact me for a second opinion. It's only the tiny minority that are genuine complaints that go through the process and are published. In all my years of multiple councils, I can only recall two that have been investigated, both for inappropriate language.
We’ll have to agree to disagree.
You seem to be basing your comments on experience - and it is entirely possible that you haven’t experienced an example of a complaint being rejected for investigation by MO and then being published - in exactly the same place, format, style and referencing system as the list of complaints which ARE upheld.
If you haven’t seen it done that way that’s fine - it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.
I am basing my comment on example rather than experience - experience is limited by that which you have been previously exposed to. Example is just example….. I can go to the code of conduct complaint page for my LA, I can see, in exactly the same sequencing and list those complaints which are upheld AND rejected. That’s not an opinion - it is observably evident.
But we are straying from the original point.
A complainant (as a private individual) is entirely un encumbered by LA ‘confidentiality’ caveats. Any person can submit a ‘story’ to the press. The press can publish whatever they like within legal bounds.
That really is all there is to it.
Forgot to cover the other point:

“… In all my years of multiple councils, I can only recall two that have been investigated,…”

You’ve been lucky!

I’ve just (literally weeks ago) written the PC censure for a former Cllr with 6 complainants in 5 complaints in 2 years. He resigned thinking he’d dodge his public censure - it was still published!
I’ve also personally submitted about 10 CoC complaints including 1 that was investigated by the local constabulary, several that have been referred to ICO and an EA challenge - ALL passed the threshold for investigation, some resulted in ‘directions’ from the MO, others resulted in ‘advice’ for the PC or individuals to undertake additional training and / or moderate their behaviour, the 2 that went to ICO resulted in ‘direction’ from ICO and record in AGAR. Unfortunately the 1 that went to police was discontinued with no action due to MO wriggling his way out of agreeing to a prosecution despite it being a strict liability offence (failure to declare an interest.)

Interesting that you say your MO seeks your opinion. In my last complaint submission the MO set out to partially reject my submission on the basis that it was over 6 months since it occurred. Actually, it wasn’t over 6 months - that’s just counting - but he did state that because it was ‘nearly’ 6 months and because I was so well informed about complaints (his words) he still set out to partially reject it.
That resulted in a complaint against the MO - the written apology was fairly swift, the complaint was fully passed the investigation threshold, went through investigation and was upheld.
0 votes
Load of old tosh in the majority of the responses so far.
Just goes to show how irrelevant and inaccurate advice sourced from an Internet forum can be.
If a formal complaint was submitted to the MO it should have been screened, recorded and either passed the threshold for investigation or not. Either way, the record would have been created and would be published by MO either as a complaint investigation finding or as a statement that no investigation was initiated.
The LA might wish to treat it as a confidential matter - until concluded whereupon it will likely be published in full.
There is no obligation upon the complainant nor anybody else to treat it as confidential.
It’s not libel nor slander to report that a complaint has been submitted if in fact a complaint has been submitted - it’s just reporting.
by (21.9k points)
0 votes
A complaint made against a councillor to the MO is a private matter and nothing to do with the Parish Council or other councillors.( innocent until found guilty- anyone remember that concept?) The MO will take submissions with evidence from both parties including corroborating submissions by either or both parties. The findings of the MO will be published and enter the public domain where they are made public. No doubt if the MO finds that any law breaking is involved then it would become a police matter and again on investigation the findings would be made public. In both cases the findings are not confidential and are open to press reporting.
by (27.2k points)
It may be caveated as ‘confidential’ by the MO but that only relates to LA staff and only for as long as it is necessary to arrive at a conclusion at which point, as you say, it is then placed in the public domain.
The caveat has absolutely no bearing nor authority over any other party such as the complainant or anyone they may choose to share the info with - unless they choose, voluntarily, to abide by them.
0 votes

The formatting falls over a bit but for Dave, an example extract from LA webpage showing ALL complaints and the relevant findings. 

Recent decision notices of all complaints reported to the Standards Committee Decision notices April 2021 to March 2022

CCN001 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Broadhurst Penzance Town Council

Breach

• CCN003 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Simmons Forrabury And Minster

No Breach

• CCN004 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Davies Penance Town Council

Breach

CCN005 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Harris Wadebridge Town Council

Breach

• CCN006 21 22 Decision Notice Councilor Raynor Newquay Town Council

Breach

CCN009 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Widdon Cornwall Council

No Breach

CCN010 21 22 Rejection Notice Councillor Mitchell Wadebridge Town Council

Rejected

• Rejection Notice Councillor Fairman Cornwall Council

• CCN011 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Robert Treverbyn Parish Council

Rejected

No Breach

• CCN012 21 22 Decision Notice Councilor Pengelly Penzance Town Council

No Finding

• CCN013 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor S Leach St Austell Bay Parish Council No Breach

CCN013 21 22 Decision Notice Councilor B Leach St Austell Bay Parish Council 

No Breach

• CCN014 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Fox Camborne Town Council

No Finding

• CCN016 21 22 Decison Notice Councillor Young Falmouth Town Council

Breach

CCN018 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Sutcliffe Maker With Rae Parish CoundBreach

• CCN019 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Toms Loo Town Council

No Breach

CCN020 21 22 Decision Notice Councilor Cartwright Ludgvan Parish Council

Breach

CCN021 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Toms Porthleven Town Council

No Breach

CCN022 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Cruse Cornwall Council

No Breach

• CCN023 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Rayner Newquay Town Council

No Breach

CCN025 21 22 Decision Notice Councillor Ranson St Stephen By Launceston Rural Parish Council

CCN026 21 22 Decision Notice Councilor Bridges Perranarworthal Parish Council

CCN027 21 22 Decision Notice Councillar Toms I one Town Council

First 20 complaints of 21/22 civic year as a sample:

Breach 7 of 20 - 35%

No Breach 9 of 20 - 45%

Rejected 2 of 20 - 10%

No finding 2 of 20 - 10%

by (21.9k points)
0 votes
It’s amazing just how many problems that parish councils have, considering that we don’t get paid and most do it for the good of the community, I come under WSALC but I am even suspicious of the person that runs that for being biased
by (460 points)

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