September 21 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, August 7, 2014
No further action will be taken against a councillor who swore during a parish council meeting, a committee has ruled.
Councillor Stewart Luck has welcomed the decision by Uttlesford’s Standards Committee on Tuesday (August 5) following an investigation into allegations that he breached Debden Parish Council’s code of conduct.
The committee found that Cllr Luck had breached the code by “failing to treat a section of members of the public with respect” but decided no further action needed to be taken because he had apologised for his remarks at the meeting in question.
Michael Perry, Uttlesford District Council’s (UDC) legal officer, looked into a complaint that Mr Luck lost his temper and swore at members of the public during a heated extraordinary meeting of the parish council in February.
The meeting had been called to set the precept and to consider an increase to underwrite a government loan towards the cost of a new village hall.
In his published findings, Mr Perry dismissed complaints that Cllr Luck shouted down the chairman of the parish council, Cllr Andrew Tetlow, that he had called Cllr knight a “liar”, and bullied the parish clerk, Christine Griffin.
However, Mr Perry had concluded that Cllr Luck swore at members of the public and shouted down the parish clerk.
At the hearing, Mr Perry said he had changed his mind and now accepted that although Cllr Luck swore he apologised at the time and that his apology could have been heard by members of the public.
The committee heard evidence that the minutes of the parish council meeting made no reference to the apology and that an attempt by Cllr Luck at the next parish council meeting to amend the minutes and insert a reference to the apology was unsuccessful.
Mr Perry said it was “unfortunate” that the apology was not minuted and that the council had mishandled the meeting.
Andrew Blatt, solicitor acting for Cllr Luck, challenged the procedure of the hearing and said the publishing of Mr Perry’s conclusions on the council’s website, ahead of the committee meeting, had led to a Press report which could have been construed as “pre-determined and unfair”.
A spokesman for UDC said: “The committee found that Cllr Luck had breached the code of conduct by failing to treat a section of members of the public with respect as he swore at them during a council meeting. They found that he apologised at the meeting for his remarks and determined no further action needed to be taken.
“The committee found that he had not treated the parish clerk with disrespect and there was, therefore, no breach of the code in that matter, and endorsed the monitoring officers findings that there had been no breach of the code of conduct with regard to other complaints made.”