A councillor has been cleared of breaching Brighton and Hove City Council’s code of conduct.
The verdict was delivered at a Standards Panel hearing held at Hove Town Hall this morning (Monday 18 March).
It followed a complaint by Angela Pereira, a manager at the EF language school, made after a meeting in October last year.
She accused Councillor Andrew Wealls, a Conservative who represents Central Hove, of behaving unfairly and rudely.
Councillor Wealls had chaired a meeting with people living in St Aubyns and managers from EF after residents complained about persistent noise from students.
Ms Pereira said: “We were called to discuss noise disturbances at our student residence in St Aubyns.
“The meeting was chaired by Councillor Wealls who, throughout the meeting, did not make any effort to be partial and fair.
“It was clear that he had a formed opinion on who causes the noise disturbance in St Aubyns – the EF students and only them – and did not react well to any interjections made by EF.
“One such interjection by me was met with Mr Wealls commenting: ‘You keep quiet.’
“On a number of occasions I raised my hand to talk and was not given an opportunity to speak.
“The residents of St Aubyns interjected on several occasions and were not met with the same responses and/or attitude from Mr Wealls who seemed to know them on a personal level.
“The accusatory tone and lack of professionalism in these instances were unnecessary and unbecoming of someone in Mr Wealls’s position within the council.”
Ms Pereira’s complaint was investigated by a council officer, Brian Foley, who contacted most of the people who had been at the meeting in question.
Among those interviewed were council officials, a Sussex Police sergeant and one of Councillor Wealls’s political rivals, Councillor Christopher Hawtree, who also represents Central Hove and belongs to the Green Party.
Councillor Hawtree said that the meeting was productive and he was surprised to learn that a complaint had been made about Councillor Wealls.
He described the way that Councillor Wealls chaired the meeting as firm but nothing more.
And he was impressed that EF wanted to try to resolve the noise problem as they understood that it was important for their business reputation.
He added that he thought EF seemed defensive at first although this was understandable given the position that they were in. The three EF managers at the meeting did, though, offer constructive solutions.
Ms Pereira declined to be interviewed after making her complaint and neither she nor Councillor Wealls attended the Standards Panel hearing.
The panel – chaired by Labour councillor Jeane Lepper, sitting with Green councillor Ollie Sykes and Conservative councillor Ann Norman – cleared Councillor Wealls of misconduct.
Although Councillor Wealls could not attend the Standards Panel hearing, his interview with Mr Foley was presented in evidence.
Councillor Wealls said that he had needed to act forcefully to control the meeting at times.
He said that Ms Pereira kept putting her objections to what residents were saying before they had finished. It was in this context that he would have asked anyone to keep quiet.
He added that the meeting had been successful because it had resulted in a range of positive outcomes.
And he hoped that he and EF managers would be able to move on from this complaint and to continue to work together in a positive way.
Ms Pereira has ten days should she wish to appeal against the findings of the Standards Panel.