Complaint about councillor harassment investigation dismissed

Posted On 11 Oct 2018 at 12:02 pm

A man who claimed that a female councillor breached the code of conduct when she accused him of harassing her on social media then blocked him has now had two complaints dismissed.

The local government ombudsman this month published a report into its investigation of how the council dealt with the complaint.

The complainant, referred to as Mr X, was unhappy that Brighton and Hove City Council had refused to pursue his allegations the councillor had breached the code after an initial investigation.

But the ombudsman found that the council had not acted inappropriately.

At the heart of the matter was an exchange on social media, in which the councillor said that Mr X had sent her aggressive emails and requests to meet her alone. She then blocked him.

Mr X said this was not true, and reported her to the council for breaching its members code of conduct, accusing her of “online abuse”.

A senior council officer and an independent person reviewed Mr X’s complaint and the screengrabs of the social media exchanges, and decided that the councillor had not breached the code in blocking him.

The council also found that the councillor’s opinions about Mr X’s behaviour were genuinely held and that she had not intended to generate “gratuitous harm” in stating them.

Finally, it was not in the public interest to spend more time and money investigating the claims.

The ombudsman report said: “The decision at the preliminary stage was based on evidence readily available at that point which included the information Mr X had provided in his referral and the screen shots of the social media correspondence.

“Any in-depth scrutiny would have happened later on if the council had decided there was a complaint to pursue at the next stage. As the [senior officer] did not consider such further investigation was justified under the procedure this did not take place.

“I am satisfied that the council followed the published code in its handling of Mr X’s allegations and that it addressed the particular concerns he had detailed when doing so.

“I do not therefore consider there is evidence of fault in relation to the matters Mr X has raised in his complaint to this office.”

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