31st January 2007
Members Code of Conduct Hearing - Councillor B J Hall
Decision of the Committee
The Committee has listened very carefully to all the submissions made.
We feel that the fact that this investigation was carried out by the Ombudsman prior to the clarification of the law in this area, in the Livingstone case means there are many issues the Ombudsman did not feel necessary to delve into, in particular, regarding the performance of official duties.
Notwithstanding the fact that Councillor Hall believed he was attending an approved duty and claimed and was paid in respect of that attendance, in the light of the absence of other facts, we do not feel we can make a decision as to whether, in law, he was performing the duties of a Councillor.
However, even if we had made a decision that he was attending in the performance of his duties, we would have still had to consider whether the very reprehensible remarks he made were such as to justify an interference with his right to freedom of speech and having taken account of all submissions, on balance we are inclined to the view that such interference could not be justified in this case.
Moreover, we would have had to make a decision as to whether this incident brought the office of Councillor into disrepute rather than Councillor Hall himself, and whilst we consider that this tirade of threatening remarks could do nothing but bring Councillor Hall into disrepute, we are not satisfied there was a sufficient connection to his office for it to be said that it brought the office, as opposed to the man, into disrepute.
We have therefore decided that Councillor Hall has not failed to follow the Code of Conduct.
However, we do wish to make recommendations to the Authority that, arising out of what has become apparent in this case, they request the Director of Finance and Leisure, and if necessary other officers, to review the definitions of approved duties and their relationship to the performance of a member's functions under the law, if they have not already done so, and to issue any necessary advice to Members. And we make a final observation that, if this has not already been done, the Director of Finance and Leisure ensures the proper and full completion of claim forms.