A UKIP councillor has been found guilty of misconduct after leaking confidential legal documents intended for councillors’ eyes only.
Mark Chatburn, the only UKIP councillor on Stockton Borough Council, was investigated for publishing the legal paper on his blog.
But the councillor, who represents Yarm, said he was only acting in the best interests of residents and published the confidential legal advice to show how, he claimed, councillors on the planning committee were being influenced in their votes.
He was investigated by Stockton Borough Council for breaching the councillors’ code of conduct and was found guilty in a hearing last week.
Coun Chatburn, who did not attend the hearing, said: “I cannot pretend it came as a surprise the council’s kangaroo court, made up entirely of political opponents, reached the decision they did.
“From how they deal with planning applications, to secretly buying properties to convert into childrens’ homes and presenting residents with a done deal, Stockton council is seemingly incapable of acting in an open and transparent manner.
“I was elected to act in the best interests of residents. That is what I have always done and that is what I will continue to do.”
Coun Chatburn published the legal paper, relating to a controversial planning application at Urlay Nook, near Eaglescliffe, on his blog, linked from his Twitter account.
The legal document said the council would be unlikely to win an appeal against developer Taylor Wimpey if it rejected a plan to build 145 homes and Coun Chatburn said this was trying to influence the voting of the planning committee to vote in favour of the scheme.
The written decision from Stockton Borough Council’s Standards Panel said his actions “represented unacceptable behaviour for a councillor” and also criticised his lack of remorse.
He has been instructed by the panel to give reassurance, in writing, that he would not leak any more confidential information and will be given “advice and guidance” about the code of conduct.
The decision document said: “The Councillor had shown no remorse, but rather to the contrary had indicated that he would do it again without hesitation, and that he had demonstrated scant regard for the pre-hearing and hearing process.”
Coun Chatburn is no longer on Stockton council’s planning committee after defecting from the Conservative Party to UKIP last year.
Source – Northern Echo 07 May 2014
Investigators have cleared a councillor caught up in accusations of dodgy lobbying.
Liberal Democrat Greg Stone (North Heaton) will face no further action from Newcastle Council after he was secretly recorded by a national newspaper offering “tricks of the trade” on how to get planning permission.
The councillor, who works as a lobbyist, faced calls to resign as two Labour politicians put in complaints over Mr Stone’s role.
Further questions were raised by Newcastle East MP Nick Brown, who discovered emails he says showed Mr Stone had contacted the council’s chief executive to raise the concerns of “business interests” over the council’s refusal to grant an alcohol licence to the proposed Tesco Store on Grainger Street, Newcastle.
Mr Stone offered to put the chief executive in touch “with the parties concerned”, but was told the council would be fighting plans for more city drinking. Since then Newcastle Council has granted the Tesco store a smaller drinks licence.
Labour MP Mr Brown called for a tougher investigation because Mr Stone’s employers at Indigo Public Affairs have worked for Tesco in the past. In a statement put to the council as the investigation continued last year Mr Stone lists 10 possible reasons why he might have been sending the email to the chief executive.
Further questions regarding the Tesco lobbying were put to Mr Stone, who then said he was asking on behalf of the Lib Dem group.
Mr Stone said: “This investigation arose as a result of unethical reporting, which failed to fairly reflect the context of my comments, and complaints from opportunistic political opponents.
“I have maintained throughout that I have acted properly in my professional and council roles.
“I am therefore unsurprised by the finding that I did not breach the code of conduct, and I am glad that this protracted process has been resolved in a very clear way.”
A council spokesman said: “The council received two complaints against Coun Stone that he had allegedly breached the Code of Conduct for members. These complaints were thoroughly investigated. The investigating officer concluded that there had been no breach of the Code of Conduct. The council’s monitoring officer was satisfied with the conclusions in the investigating officer’s report and therefore closed the matter.”
Mr Brown said questions remained unanswered over the council’s licensing policy.
Source – Newcastle Journal 01 April 2014