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The fact that
Bexley Council has said that it holds no written information
about what was said at
Councillor Fothergill’s Code of Conduct hearing has
resulted in the inevitable complaint to the Acting Chief Executive.
Chairman Cheryl Bacon appears not to have followed Bexley Council’s Rules of Procedure.
Dear Mr Moore,
I wish to register a formal complaint against Councillor Cheryl Bacon.
My complaint relates to her failure to ensure that proper minutes were taken to record the proceedings of the disciplinary hearing against Subject Member, Councillor Maxine Fothergill, on 10th December 2015, at the Members’ Code of Conduct Complaints Sub-Committee Meeting.
Under the London Borough of Bexley Members' Code of Conduct Sub-Committee Rules of Procedure, it states in Rule 3.9(e), that when considering sanctions, the MCSC will consider the following questions, along with any other relevant circumstances or factors.
It then lists eleven questions the Sub-Committee should consider when considering sanctions.
On 8th January 2016, I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the London Borough of Bexley, reference number 2754596, requesting a copy of the minutes of the meeting held on 10th December 2015, containing the responses by the Sub-Committee members to those eleven questions and any other relevant circumstances or factors, when considering sanctions against Subject Member, Councillor Maxine Fothergill.
I received a response to my request, in a letter dated 4th February 2016, stating that the information I requested is not held by the London Borough of Bexley. “In this case, the responses by the Sub Committee are not held as recorded information.”
This is a serious breach of procedural rules. Rule 6.3 of the Members' Code of Conduct Complaints Sub-Committee states that an appeal may only be raised on grounds including:
(i) a material failure to follow procedure, or
(ii) the sanction(s) imposed by the MCSC is disproportionate
(iii) the sanction is inappropriate in the circumstances.
I consider the failure to make a record of the responses gives Councillor Maxine Fothergill grounds to appeal the decision to convict her on the grounds that the failure to keep a record of the responses to the questions affects her ability to question whether there was a material failure to follow procedure.
It also affects the ability of the Sub-Committee members to reject any allegation by the Subject Member, that they took into consideration other factors, not included in the eleven questions, that were not relevant to the proceedings.
It also affects the ability of the Subject Member to appeal the decision to convict her on the grounds that the sanctions imposed by the MCSC is disproportionate and/or the sanction is inappropriate in the circumstances, as she will not be aware of any other relevant circumstances or factors that were taken into consideration by the sub committee members before imposing sanctions and is therefore unable to question the veracity of those circumstances or factors in any appeal process.
I consider the failure by Councillor Cheryl Bacon to ensure that the proceedings of the disciplinary hearing were properly recorded to be a serious case of Misconduct and I am therefore requesting a full investigation into my concerns.
Should any such investigation result in disciplinary proceedings being taken against Councillor Bacon, I am prepared to attend any disciplinary hearing and give evidence, if required to do so.
So either Bexley Council has lied with its FOI response or it didn’t follow its own rules. A difficult one to call, both are tried and tested Bexley Council strategies.
Councillor Cheryl Bacon remains under consideration by the Crown Prosecution Service for Misconduct in a Public Office along with Lynn Tyler her legal adviser at the Code of Conduct Sub-Committee.