Adur councillor found guilty of conduct breach over six-letter expletive
An Adur district councillor has been ruled to have breached the code of conduct after aiming an expletive at a parish councillor.
Last night, Buckingham Ward councillor Emma Evans was deemed to have been in breach after calling Lancing parish councillor Geoff Patmore a ‘t****r’ and a ‘badly behaved child’ on Facebook.
At a meeting of the joint governance sub-committee Mrs Evans was unrepentant, said Mr Patmore’s ‘pre-occupation’ with her was ‘politically motivated and vexatious’ and accused him of tagging her in posts at all hours of day and night.
She said: “I felt Mr Patmore was mischief-making and blatantly unpleasant. His constant posting is unpleasant. That’s what I meant by ‘t****r’. I stand by the fact he is a ‘t****r’. He has been thoroughly unpleasant at every opportunity.”
Mrs Evans said blocking or ignoring Mr Patmore, which several witnesses said they had been forced to do, meant he would go unchallenged.
In a witness statement supporting Mrs Evans, Independent Adur councillor Joss Loader said Mr Patmore would often politicise comments on Facebook, to the point he had been blocked from the New Shoreham By Sea Facebook group in which the offence took place.
“While councillor Evans’ post may be viewed as less than respectful it resulted from lengthy exchanges and her comments on June 10 were not made in isolation,” said Mrs Loader.
Leader of Adur District Council Neil Parkin also provided mitigating evidence in support of Mrs Evans and said he had been forced to leave Facebook after Mr Patmore ‘trolled’ him.
The protracted meeting at Worthing Town Hall was punctuated by giggles from the crowd and included a 15-minute PowerPoint presentation from councillor Andy McGregor on the evolving meaning of the word ‘t****r’, which prompted an exodus from many of the gallery.
Despite councillors spending more than 10 minutes debating whether to allow the presentation – it was eventually agreed 3-2 in favour – Mr McGregor’s points were ruled as ‘inadmissable and irrelevant’ as soon as his presentation concluded.
The council’s monitoring officer, Susan Sale, argued regardless of the meaning of the word ‘t****r’, Mrs Evans’ comment was still disrespectful and did not uphold the high standards of the council.
She said Mrs Evans could have not responded to Mr Patmore, responded more politely or blocked him entirely. Mr Patmore’s conduct was not up for discussion, she said, as he was deemed not to be commenting from his position as a parish councillor, but as a resident.
A public apology would also have avoided the three-hour meeting, she said, saving time, resources and money.
The committee agreed Mrs Evans had breached the code of conduct and ordered the councillor to undertake training and said a public censure would be released. Mrs Evans was not forced to apologise.
In a statement given the morning after the meeting, Mr Patmore said: “The cabinet member was found to have breached the code of conduct, given training and censure, but the cabinet member was not forced to apologise.
“On the basis of the evidence in front of the committee it was right and proper to censure and provide training to the cabinet member for the breach of the code of conduct.
“I have never been found to have breached the councillor code of conduct so the mitigation provided is utterly groundless and unproven in terms of not forcing the cabinet member to apologise.
“The lack of an apology sets a staggering precedent in that ADC cabinet members can swear at Facebook posters and councillors on social media and even though found to be in breach of the code of conduct are not required to apologise for swearing e.g. calling a Lancing parish councillor and member of their electorate a ‘t****r’ for asking questions and holding controlling councillors to account.
“I hope the training and censure will ensure this sort of breach of conduct does not happen again from this cabinet member.”