RandallJohnson scrutiny behaviour – whitewash or justice today?

Owl’s prediction: a tiny, tiny tap on the wrist – barely contacting – then back to business as usual for her and her party.

“A standards committee is today meeting behind closed doors to consider whether a senior Tory broke the county council code of conduct, Devon Live understands.

Conservative county councillor Sara Randall Johnson, chair of the authority’s health scrutiny committee as well as the Devon and Somerset fire authority, angered campaigners at a public meeting last month.

The former leader of East Devon District Council was jeered by the public gallery when she ignored a tabled motion by independent councillor Claire Wright designed to halt hospital bed closure plans by making a referral to the Secretary of State.

Instead, she allowed party colleagues to seize the momentum by kick starting the debate and swiftly proposing the exact opposite, a motion which narrowly won the day by just one vote.

Ms Wright protested at the meeting and after the meeting, which attracted around 80 members of the public, a dozen people are thought to have complained.

The council’s cross-party Standards Committee met on Tuesday, August 29 to debate the issue but invoked a so-called Part 2 exemption which allows proceedings to be held in secret.

A formal report is expected to be published by the group, which also includes former councillors, after the meeting revealing, explaining the decision.

Ms Wright said she did not complain formally but submitted a statement of her concerns and has been interviewed by the committee chairman.

Ms Randall Johnson and Ms Wright clashed at the bad-tempered and at times rowdy Health and Wellbeing committee meeting in July.

Randall Johnson used her new power of chairmanship to thwart her long-time opponent, whose first electoral success at district level in 2011 cost Randall Johnson her seat and leadership of the council.

Some observers claimed the move was a settling of old scores.

In the months prior to the meeting, protestors had been opposing plans by the Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group to axe 71 beds across four cottage hospitals in the Eastern locality.

Campaigners, angry that the case had not been made for the Your Future Care model of home visits, labelled the consultation a sham and turned to the Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Group for help.

Under the previous chairmanship of veteran Labour councillor Richard Westlake, the scrutiny group was poised to refer the plans to the Secretary of State if 14 documented points were not addressed.

But he stepped down at the election and Ms Randall Johnson took up control.

At the first meeting of the newly constituted committee in June, it became clear that she did not support the move.

She refused to put Ms Wright’s proposal to the last vote at the June meeting and eventually members were persuaded to defer a decision to get more information.

Ms Wright again proposed that the plans be sent back to the Health Secretary, submitting a written motion before the meeting began.

She cried foul when her tabled motion was ignored, claiming she had never seen it happen in six years of committee meetings.

Unfortunately for her, the legal advice from the council backed Randall Johnson, stating that motions needed to be proposed and seconded in the meeting.

She then dismissed Ms Wright’s protest by telling her the power to choose was entirely at her discretion as chair, before moving to a vote against referring the proposals, which was won by a majority of one, with one abstention.

Former Lib Dem county council leader and respected political veteran Brian Greenslade remarked after the meeting that the move had been highly unusual.

He considered that not mentioning or circulating a table motion – one submitted before the meeting begins – was rare: not against procedure but definitely a departure from protocol.

The committee is now expected to rule on whether this departure from protocol breached the members’ Code of Conduct.

A council spokesman said the minutes will be published within the next few days.

“It’s too early to say whether this is a subject that will be discussed or raised by elected members at a future full council meeting,” he added.”

http://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-news/tory-chairman-faces-standards-inquiry-396146

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