Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Standards Board

Regular readers may recall the recent spat between Chris Close and myself over one of his more offensive posts on the Town Liar. Close then chose to complain to the Standards Board for England.

I have now received the Decision Notice from the Standards Board: - it reads as follows;

The complainant alleges that Councillor Wallis referred to him as a "bonkers maverick" on his web blog, in response to a comment made by the complainant on another website.

Officers note from Councillor Wallis' web blog and subsequent link to the complainant's web blog that there appears to be an ongoing difference of opinion between the two. It is recognised that a divergence of political opinion may occasionally flare into controversial comments and remarks, which are considered objectionable by parties against whom they are directed. However, though it may relate personally to the complainant, it is noted that the remark relates to complainant's personal political views, which he is entitled to express.

In the circumstances the Standards Board for England has decided that the allegation should not be referred to an ethical standards officer for investigation. Having taken account of the available information we do not believe that a potential breach of the Code of Conduct is disclosed. We have made no finding of fact.

So there you have it. Two things immediately spring to mind;

(1) As I think I've observed before, if you revel in libelling Town Hall officers, headteachers and the like, it helps if you have a thick skin yourself, when inevitably some criticism comes back your way. I was disappointed that the Echo never covered the fact that the only person who suggested that they would make a very fine elected Mayor for Darlington was Chris Close himself - a development which if publicised would have greatly assisted the No cause.

(2) On a more serious note, I remain irritated at the process the Standards Board adopts in dealing with complaints. As a basic right, I think I should have been informed when Close's complaint was first received. The Standards Board would say that this leads to delay, and that the more unlikely complaints can be weeded out at the earliest stage (and indeed it seems to have taken them about 5 minutes to work out that Close's allegation was garbage). Still, I know that many councillors are uneasy with this element of the process.

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