Three Standard Committee Complaints Against Me
I now have the details of the three Standards Committee complaints against me. Last time when UKIP tried to silence me by means of Complaint, I published it all transparently here. The case never made it to the Committee because there wasn’t anything valid in it.
I am doing exactly the same again. I have checked with the legal fellows at FDC, the same as I did last time, and they confirm that I am entirely within my rights to publish this information if I wish to do so. I DO wish to do so. The main reason is because I simply do not trust one of the local newspapers, who seem to take every opportunity to attack me and every opportunity to support UKIP and the Independents (personal opinion.) Although I cannot prevent them running a story with a particular bias, I can publish the facts here and try for at least some transparency.
So here are the three complaints. I’ve published them exactly as I received them. I’ve made no attempts to correct grammar or spelling – any errors are errors that were there when I got them, so don’t blame me. :)
Cllr David Patrick’s Complaint:
Yesterday evening (Monday 19th May) I was in attendence at a meeting of Wisbech Town Council. The meeting started at 7.30 pm. Our rules allow 15 minutes at the start of the meeting for public participation. On this occasion there were 3 people wishing to speak as participants, those people being County Councillors Paul Clapp and Alan Lay as well as Dean Reaves re an agenda item.
As Cllr Lay got up to speak Cllr Tierney turned his phone and proceeded to film him speaking with the phone being placed just a little way from Cllr Lay’s face. He had not sought permission to do so and we as a council do not have a policy of filming or taking audiable recordings of meetings (although I appreciate it’s Government policy). It is my belief that this was being done intentially to intimidate and try to embarrass Councillor Lay. ( I am aware that there has been a previous complaint of Councillor Tierney’s behaviour towards Cllr Lay.)
I therfore believe Cllr Tierney’s behavior was improper and unbecoming in his role as a Councillor. It is my belief that he was being intentionally discourteous and disrespectful and deliberately intimidating towards a person who was wishing to speak during Public Participation time.
As the filming was taking place I called a point of order to the Mayor. After some discussion Cllr Tierney asked if it was wished that he should cease recording to which the Mayor’s reply was yes. Cllr Tierney then placed his phone on the table.
Cllr Tierney has a blog site and has made comments re last nights issue which you may find useful below
– My response.
Yes, I did wish to video Cllr Lay’s speech. He is a County Councillor acting in his official capacity, speaking at a Public Meeting on an issue of public interest. County Council have a strict policy of allowing and encouraging filming of all sorts and I expected that this would mean Cllr Lay would be used to being filmed and would not mind me recording his speech so that the wider public could hear his words. As it happened, Cllr.Lay and Cllr. Patrick objected to the filming taking place. I asked the Chairman if I should turn my phone off, the Chairman said he would prefer if I did. I did so immediately. David Patrick’s “belief” that I was being discourteous and disrespectful and intimidating is just that – his belief. Of course that is not the case and I struggle to see how the simple act of wanting to film a public elected representative making a speech could possibly be deemed any of those things. If Cllr. Lay did not want people to see him give a speech, I think politics was an odd road to walk.
In reply, I would say that these baseless attempts by Clapp, Lay and Patrick are actually an attempt to bully and intimidate me. But I won’t be making a complaint about it. Because I don’t find them intimidating at all.
Cllr. Patrick refers to Wisbech Town Council policy about video. The Council’s Standing Orders say (in number 70): “there shall be no audio or video recording or photographs of the meeting without the express approval of the council”. I would point out that this was the first item of business and the speakers were not on the agenda so we could not know in advance who they would be. I therefore had no opportunity to request permission, and got no opportunity to do so since the objections were immediate. Upon my asking for instructions from the Chairman, I immediately complied in the proper way and turned the video off. This is entirely proper behaviour under the circumstances and is not a breach of the Code of Conduct.
I’m glad Cllr Patrick reads my blog and refers to it – please feel free to check it and let me know it anything in it breaches the Code Of Conduct. Since it simply deals with facts and personal views, I don’t believe anything in it does.
Cllr. Paul Clapp’s Complaint:
I went to a meeting of the Wisbech Town council on Monday night as I wished to speak on one of the items on the agenda. I arrived and I had to tell the Mayor what it was I wished to speak on. Cllr V Bucknor stood up to speak and there was laughter and joking going on between Cllr Tierney Cllr Hoy and Cllr Clarke. I have not seen this sort of behaviour in a council chamber before. It was rude and the behaviour was unbecoming of a Councillor. WE could not hear what was being said by Cllr V Bucknor. Yo be perfectly honest it was like being in a school playground.
Cllr Tierney waited for Cllr Alan Lay to speak and he thrust his mobile phone at him to record what Cllr Lay said. Cllr Hoy stated that they are allowed to record meeting. I said you are but not on a Cllrs mobile phone I asked the Mayor as a point of order that yes you are allowed to record meetings but the CAMERA must be manned by a person who is qualified to do this task. The Mayor said that I was perfectly correct and could Cllr Tierney switch his mobile phone off.
Cllr Tierney has done everything in his power to dis credit Cllr Lay. I am asking you not to brush this instance under the carpet but to deal with this man. In my opinion he is a liability to the Conservatives and is doing more harm than good for the people of Wisbech. I would hope that common sence will prevail and you would wish to de select Cllr Tierney as what he is saying at the moment in my oppinion is at least slanderous and if this is how Cllr Tierney gets his kicks then in my oppinion he is mentally ill and should not be a part of Wisbech Town Council.
I look forward for your co-operation with this delecate matter.
County Councillor Paul Clapp
– My response
Cllr Clapp refers to conversations between Councillors. I don’t recognise his description, but would point out that if the Chairman felt there was too much noise he would have asked the Councillors involved to be quieter. He did not do so and therefore I presume the noise level and the conduct of Councillors was acceptable. Cllr. Clapp will surely know that Councillors are not expected to sit in silence like automatons – and they do not do so in any Council I’ve ever visited. We do our best to be respectful when people are speaking, but with issues of some fiery debate we do all sometimes get a little noisy – and it is the Chairman who lets us know when we are out of order and asks us to quiet down. But most interesting of all – WHO THE HELL is Cllr Clarke? We don’t have a Councillor Clarke on Wisbech Town Council. If that doesn’t speak to the accuracy and truth of his complaint, I don’t know what does.
Cllr Clapp uses colourful metaphors, however I can assure you I did not “thrust my mobile phone” anywhere. I simply held it up, as you do, when you want to record something. Cllr Clapp’s next comment Is just plain wrong. There is no statement in the Public Bodies (Admissions to Meetings) Act 1960 or the forthcoming new Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014 that says anything at all about: “the CAMERA must be manned by a person who is qualified to do this task.” He appears to have just made that up!
I asked for clarification of this last week from the Houses of Parliament Library, Parliament and Constitution centre. This is what they said:-
The 2014 Act permits the Secretary of State to make regulations permitting filming. Draft regulations have been made, but they have not yet been approved by either House of Parliament. In the meantime, therefore, access to and reporting of proceedings at parish and town councils is governed by the Public Bodies (Admission to Meetings) Act 1960.
Councils cannot currently be required to allow filming under this Act: conversely, the Act does not oblige councils to ban filming. Therefore, under the law as it stands, it is for the town council to decide whether or not to permit filming at council meetings.
The councillor also said that another attendee at the meeting stated that councillors were not permitted to film other councillors. The 1960 Act does not distinguish between councillors and other members of the public regarding the right to report on or film town council meetings: the town council has the final say in either case. Likewise, there is nothing in the 2014 Act, or the draft regulations (see below) which would prevent councillors from filming other councillors in a meeting.
The Government published guidance in June 2013 regarding filming of council proceedings. The guidance states:
Council meetings are public meetings. Elected representatives and council officers acting in the public sphere should expect to be held to account for their comments and votes in such meetings. The rules require councils to provide reasonable facilities for any member of the public to report on meetings. Councils should thus allow the filming of councillors and officers at meetings that are open to the public.
Finally, Cllr Clapp seems to be confusing the powers of the Conduct Committee and a local party. Perhaps you could inform him that only the local Conservative Party and it’s members can “deselect” me? (And even then, I’d still be a Councillor, just not a Conservative one.) I doubt they would do so simply because UKIP people don’t like being under scrutiny – but that would be for them to decide. He says I am “slanderous” and yet, as usual, specifies nothing I’ve said which is slanderous. If he could state which things I’ve said are “slanderous” then I could respond, but I am not a mind-reader.
As for him calling me “mentally ill” – that is certainly libellous. It’s also rude, and offensive to people who do actually suffer from that type of illness. So much so that after speaking to their legal advisors, Fenland District Council went to lengths to express that by giving me the email they do not support or endorse the comments in it. But luckily for him – I don’t run crying to the Standards Board each time somebody says something I don’t like.
And finally here is Cllr. Alan Lay’s Complaint:
I once again have to bring to your attention the unbecoming behaviour of Town Councillor Steve Tierney
Last night at the Wisbech Town meeting I was mentally abused by Mr Tierney. He has written in his blog what I call a long diatribe of wasted words
about my appearance at the meeting. In fact his writings took longer than my short talk about a plan to reduce to 20 mph within Wisbech minor roads.
His continual verbal abuse is not called for and as far as I am aware I fulfil my obligations. His blog of a week or so ago infers that I have called for the people of Roman Bank to be hung !!!
This is another outrageous statement that I take to be a breach of his undertakings as a Councillor.
I request that his attitude towards my self and UKIP be looked at and if found to be out of order, that he be brought before the Standards Committee.
As you know this will be my second time of questioning his irrational behaviour.
Alan Lay CCC
– My response
Much like last time he tried to stop me writing stuff with a Standards Board Complaint, this is full of allegations and no actual points. He says I “mentally abused him”. He is referring to the fact that I held a camera up for 10 seconds hoping to record an Elected Councillor making a public speech on a public issue, then immediately turned it off when he and the Chairman asked me to. If that constitutes “mental abuse” then the definition must have changed a lot since I last worked with Public Health.
He refers to my blog as a “long diatribe of wasted words” – to which my response would be “Well don’t read it then. It’s a free country. Or it used to be, before you started trying to silence people who said things you didn’t approve of.”
He refers to be my blog entry “Bad News For Roman Bank” and suggests that I “inferred” that he called for the people of Roman Bank to be hung. In fact, he wasn’t mentioned anywhere in that blog post. It was about a UKIP candidate called Gordon Ferguson and made reference to an article in the Daily Telegraph, which was fully linked in the post. There is nothing in that blog post that in any way is a breach of the Code Of Conduct and anything he thinks was “inferred” is a construct of his imagination, not anything I said.
He says I have “verbally abused” him – but does not specify how, where or when. I don’t believe I ever have. I’ve only spoken to him twice, and both times it was fairly cordial.
Like his Colleague, Cllr Clapp, he also does not seem to understand the process of a Standards Complaint. He calls for you to find me “out of order” and bring me “before the Standards Committee.” In fact, only the Standards Committee themselves can find me “out of order” and I will be happy to come before them and demonstrate that nothing I have said or done breaches the Code Of Conduct in any way.
Finally, he points out that this is the “second time” he has complained. Given that the first complaint got nowhere because nothing in it represented any sort of breach of the Code Of Conduct, the fact that this is the second time he has tried it is hardly supportive of his case.
I have been advised that given some of this content I should go straight to a solicitor and sue. I wont be doing that. Because I don’t do that. I take the high road. Lay, Clapp and Patrick can suggest stuff, infer stuff and call me names. I think that reflects badly on them more than it does on me. And it’s stick and stones that break bones, if I recall. Not words.