Agenda, decisions and minutes
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Contact: Fiona Young Interim Democratic Services Manager
Note: This is a continuation of the Hearing adjourned on 31 August 2021
Declarations of Interest
Members are asked to declare:
· Any personal interests not included on the Register of Interests
· Any prejudicial interests or
· Any disclosable pecuniary interests
which they may have in respect of business on this agenda.
Members were invited to declare any personal interests not included on the Register of Interests, or any prejudicial or disclosable pecuniary interests, which they might have in the business on the agenda. No interests were declared.
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It was reported that five people had registered to speak at the meeting on 30 September 2021 under the Council’s Public Participation Scheme.
Cllr Warters stated that the process being used to deal with complaints hearings was flawed, and noted that Members of the current panel had also been critical of the process in the past.
Gwen Swinburn stated that the proper process was being ignored, on the grounds that the Subject Member had been denied the right to a pre-hearing, which had been allowed in a case in 2018.
[The Chair responded, confirming that the procedure at Annex D to the report had been followed, that the Chair in the 2018 case had exercised their discretion in respect of a pre-hearing, and that this had been explained to the Subject Member.]
Ian Chambers, a member of Deighton Parish Council, spoke in support of the Subject Member, stating that he had not adversely influenced the parish council’s decision regarding the Complainant’s application to be co-opted and that it was the Complainant who had behaved disrespectfully.
Jeanne Fletcher, a member of Deighton Parish Council, spoke in support of the Subject Member, agreeing with the comments of the previous speaker and adding that the complaint investigation had taken far too long and was a waste of time.
Trevor Bartram, a previous Chair of Deighton Parish Council, said he had received an ‘unacceptable’ letter from a parish council member regarding the Complainant’s application, and that he had given advice to the Chair and clerk which they had ignored.
Exclusion of Press and Public
To consider whether to exclude the Press and Public at any point in the hearing when there is a possibility that exempt information under Paragraph 1 of Schedule 12A to Section 100A of the Local Government Act 1972 (as revised by The Local Government (Access to Information) (Variation) Order 2006) may be disclosed; namely, the identity of any of the witnesses called to give evidence.
Resolved: That the Press and Public be excluded from the meeting if at any point Members request legal advice in private, and during their deliberations and decision at the end of the meeting.
To consider a complaint made against Cllr Hardcastle, a Member of Deighton Parish Council, which has been referred to the Hearings Sub-Committee for determination following an investigation.
Details of the procedure to be followed at the hearing can be found at pages 19-23 of the agenda papers.
City of York Council
Joint Standards Committee Hearings Sub-Committee
Panel Members of the Hearings Sub-Committee:
Cllr C Douglas – Chair
Cllr T Fisher
Cllr C Chambers (Parish Councillor)
Advisors to the Hearings Sub-Committee:
Ms A Davies – Independent Person
Miss J Berry – Monitoring Officer, City of York Council
Mrs R Antonelli – Deputy Monitoring Officer, City of York Council
Mr W Burns, Senior Solicitor, City of York Council
Cllr S Hardcastle – Deighton Parish Council. Cllr Hardcastle’s representative, Mr Brack was also in attendance.
Mrs Hale. Mrs Hale’s representative, Mrs Mercer was also in attendance.
The Hearings Sub-Committee
The Sub-Committee was constituted in accordance with procedures approved by the City of York Council Joint Standards Committee to consider a complaint in relation to the conduct of Councillor Hardcastle.
The procedure for the conduct of the Sub-Committee was circulated to all Parties as part of the agenda for the Sub-Committee.
The hearing took place in public with the agreement of all parties and the Panel made the decision to exclude the press and public for the following aspects of the hearing:
· Instances whereby the Panel seeks legal advice;
· Deliberations by the Panel Members; and
· Decision-making prior to the public declaration of the decision.
The Panel was concerned with a complaint made in relation to the conduct of Councillor Hardcastle by Mrs Hale.
The Panel received a report from Mr W Burns, Senior Solicitor with City of York Council, who had been appointed by the Monitoring Officer to investigate the complaint. Mr Burns was appointed as a Deputy Monitoring Officer for the purposes of undertaking this particular investigation. Mr Burns was instructed to follow the published procedure when undertaking his investigation.
Mr Burns’ report is dated 7April 2021, and a copy of the same was circulated to all as part of the agenda for the Sub-Committee hearing.
Facts considered by the Panel
The Panel decided at the outset that the main areas of dispute for them to determine were:
· Mrs Hale believes that Councillor Hardcastle had a personal animosity against her and that he delayed her application to be co-opted onto Deighton Parish Council due to this.
· The Investigating Officer found that the content of the Chair’s statement of 2020 was inappropriate and that a reasonable person may well regard the statement as disrespectful. The Investigating Officer found that the statement made it clear what Councillor Hardcastle’s personal opinions were, which made it difficult for a fair decision to be made by the Parish Council and that the presumption of bias against Mrs Hale was clear following the statement.
· Councillor Hardcastle disagreed with the Investigating Officer’s report; he believed the process to be flawed and biased. He felt that the Investigating Officer’s refusal to interview seven witnesses resulted in him being treated unfairly. In addition, Councillor Hardcastle felt that the complaint contained allegations which had not been proven. Councillor Hardcastle stated that the investigation referred, in ... view the full decision text for item 13.
The Panel considered a complaint made against Cllr Steven Hardcastle, of Deighton Parish Council (the Subject Member), by Mrs Eve Hale (the Complainant). The complaint related to an allegation that the Subject Member had delayed her application to be co-opted onto Deighton Parish Council, due to his personal animosity towards her. The matter had been referred to the Hearings Sub-Committee for determination following an investigation.
Introductions were carried out and the procedure for the hearing was explained.
Determining factual disputes
Copies of the investigator’s report and the written submissions received had been circulated to the Panel and to the parties prior to the meeting. The parties confirmed that they had seen the report and the procedures to be followed at the hearing. During the meeting the Panel took advice from the Independent Person.
The Subject Member was represented by Mr Brack, a member of Deighton Parish Council. The Complainant was represented by Mrs Mercer.
The Investigating Officer presented his report and responded to questions from the Subject Member and his representative.
The Complainant presented her case and responded to questions from the Subject Member and his representative.
Mr Brack presented the Subject Member’s case. The Subject Member then responded to questions from the Panel, the Monitoring Officer, the Investigating Officer and the Complainant.
[At 12:09 pm the hearing was adjourned for a break, during which Mrs Mercer left. The hearing re-commenced at 12:45 pm].
The Investigating Officer summarised his case.
[At this point, the Subject Member withdrew from the hearing and an adjournment was called to obtain legal advice. The hearing re-commenced at 1:12 pm and continued in the absence of the Subject Member and his representative.]
The Complainant summarised her case.
[The hearing then went into private session whilst the Panel made their deliberations and returned to public session for the Panel to announce their findings]
The Panel gave consideration to the following allegation of breaches of the Code of Conduct:
That Cllr Hardcastle’s behaviour was in breach of the member obligations contained in Sections 1 and 3 of the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct; namely, that when a member of the council acts, claims to act or gives the impression of acting as a representative of the council, he/she should:
· Behave in such a way that a reasonable person would regard as respectful (Section 1)
· Not seek to improperly confer an advantage or disadvantage on any person (Section 3).
Having considered the written documentation and the verbal representations made at the meeting, in light of the Joint Standards Committee’s published criteria for the assessment of complaints, the Panel
Resolved: That the Investigating Officer’s findings that Councillor Hardcastle has breached Deighton Parish Council’s Code of Conduct be upheld.
Reasons: (i) Mrs Hale believed Parish Councillor Hardcastle had a personal animosity towards her – the Panel considered the Chair’s 2020 statement which has been referred to as part of this complaint. The Panel determined that this statement clearly referred to Mrs Hale and Councillor Hardcastle’s comment that he ... view the full minutes text for item 13.