Ex-Mayor’s misconduct ruling is overturned
A FORMER Mayor found guilty of a breach of conduct towards a member of council staff has had the ruling overturned.
Melton borough councillor Elaine Holmes was found to have broken the members’ code of conduct by failing to treat others with respect and to have brought her office and the authority into disrepute.
However, Leicester magistrates have now overturned the ruling which was made by the council’s standards committee.
A tribunal allowed the appeal because the hearing should have been held within three months – instead it was held some 22 months after being reported.
The original complaint was made by a council staff member who alleged she was given a ‘dressing down’ in a public reception area of a council building for not inviting Mrs Holmes to a dinner hosted by the Market Towns Convention in Melton.
After hearing the case in June the council’s three-member standards committee ordered Mrs Holmes to write a letter of apology and to undergo training in councillor-officer relationships.
Before the hearing the council had run up a bill of about £8,000 investigating the case and hiring a London solicitor to represent it.
In his decision Judge Chris Hughes OBE, who heard the appeal, described the case as ‘a sorry tale which does not bring credit on either the council or its former Mayor’ and also meant the member of staff had been let down.
He said the council was dilatory in setting about arranging the hearing, concluding that ‘throughout the course of the 22 months there was no sense of urgency, no systematic and determined attempt to bring the matter to a hearing promptly and with a proper regard for the rules which specifically required a hearing within three months’.
The judge said the conduct of the appellant also contributed many months delay – ‘she refused to cooperate as was her clear duty . . . rather she demonstrated an alarming arrogance and lack of insight’ – while at other times she was unfit to take part in the proceedings.
Speaking after the tribunal Mrs Holmes said: “The whole thing has been very distressing for all parties and I feel saddened it has cost the public purse so much money.
“I was trying to carry out my job as Mayor of Melton to the best of my ability and just feel the whole matter could have been resolved if we had just sat round the table together.”
A council spokeswoman said: “The council recognises it should have been stronger when dealing with this issue. The council has learnt from this experience and will be putting a full report to the Governance Committee.
“Procedures and processes will be reviewed to ensure there is a more robust system in place in future to deal with such matters.”
Commenting on the case Matthew O’Callaghan, leader of the opposition Labour group, said: “Thousands of pounds have been spent on this case and the council now needs to thoroughly investigate this and the clear message coming from the decision against the council.”
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Weather for Melton
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 13 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: East
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
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Wind direction: West