Exmouth councillor ordered to apologise for ‘personal and derogatory’ emails

Owl sees from reading the Standards Hearing Sub Committee’s full report (link below) that this case dates back to the dying days of Ben Ingham’s “independent” regime and Cllr. Paul Millar’s evident frustration leading up to his decision to “cross the floor”.

Owl also notes:

 “The Sub Committee expressed concern about the investigation process in relation to this complaint and that it would be appropriate to use a fresh investigator.

The Sub Committee also suggested that the wording of paragraph 5(h) in relation to bullying should be reviewed.”

This matter is now closed. 

But Owl is aware that many members of the public, over many years, have felt that professional standards have not been upheld by officers and elected members. They feel their attempts at making formal complaints have been brushed aside and there is no effective appeal.

This is a top-down matter of corporate culture and Owl hopes that this is now changing.

Regional Editor exmouth.nub.news

An Exmouth councillor who was alleged to have ‘ridiculed, harassed and insulted’ a top council boss, has been ordered to apologise and undertake training.

Independent Councillor Paul Millar was accused of bullying and not treating others with courtesy and respect, breaking East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) code of conduct.

Following a complaints hearing, Cllr Millar was ordered to undertake further training and to write a letter of apology for not treating treating others with courtesy and respect. The committee found him not guilty of bullying.

The complaints hearing was held in private and the agenda papers have been withheld from publication until now.

The complaint, that went before EDDC’s Standards Hearing Sub Committee, claimed Cllr Millar sent emails to the authority’s chief executive, in an unacceptable manner.

The committee felt the language used was of a ‘personal and derogatory nature’ which showed a failure to treat the chief executive with courtesy and respect, but they did not feel Cllr Millar had bullied anyone.

The committee concluded that Cllr Millar had breached the code of conduct by conducting himself in a manner or behaved in such a way to give a reasonable person the impression that he had brought his office into disrepute.

In mitigation, a statement from Cllr Millar said he had been frustrated by the political situation and felt powerless to influence the council’s actions.

He explained the difficulty he had experienced as an independent councillor and that he felt unsupported.

He also felt that the actions of the chief executive were unwarranted and that this had caused him to react as he did.

The committee noted that Cllr Millar, who represents Exmouth Halsdon, did not accept all of the ‘undisputed findings of fact’, as fact.

It was also noted that Cllr Millar had not co-operated with the investigating officer’s investigation but had co-operated and engaged with the hearing.

In considering the disputed facts, the committee took into account relevant material evidence and representations from involved parties.

To read the committee’s full report, and the emails involved in the complaint, CLICK HERE.

5 thoughts on “Exmouth councillor ordered to apologise for ‘personal and derogatory’ emails

  1. I’m sure I am not the only person who considers that only one of those paragraphs contains wording that might be considered inappropriate. The remainder are serious points relating to attitude and performance, which should as Cllr Millar suggests be investigated. Was any consideration given to justification, and have those matters been investigated?
    Why has Cllr Ingham put his name to this spiteful attempt to bully a committed young councillor?
    I remember on a previous occasion where the complaints procedure was used to bully Cllr Wragg we were also able to read the comments made by the officer involved, Richard Cohen, as well as Mr Darsley’s comical attempt to justify them. Why do we not see Mr Williams’ part in this dialogue?
    While it is good to see for future reference that the committee recommended a change of investigator questions must remain over why the Monitoring Officer persisted in using Mr Darsley when he was warned in July that this was unsafe in any case involving Mr Williams and why he has still not responded to a related complaint almost four months later with a reminder at the beginning of this month. Were these his own decisions or was he influenced by his boss?

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    • There wasn’t even a written complaint against me, so the correct procedure was not followed, it was staged to protect Cohen’s reputation. He stated at a public meeting at the Elizabeth Hall Exmouth that the building was costing EDDC £170k a year which was a blatant untruth. I raised the procedure at Cllr. Millar’s Standards Hearing, where I was a witness for him, and said that the findings against me were null and void! The whole Standards set up came about following corruption in Doncaster, but has become a tool for bullying.

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  2. Upon reflection I do wonder about whether Mark William’s exercised much common sense in bringing this case to Standard Committee. Although it is important for Councillors to be held to high standards of conduct, it is also essential that Senior Officers also be held to the same high standards.

    Unfortunately, Mark Williams raising this has reminded me, and perhaps many others, of the shameful, disgraceful way that Senior Officers have behaved in the past and, as some comments suggest, may still be doing so despite the regime change and a promise of democratic transparency.

    Some of the issues that come to mind:

    * Mark Williams inappropriate public disclosure of information reported in confidence by a Councillor to the Devon & Cornwall Police

    * Disparaging remarks made about members of the public by Senior Officers at Council Meetings

    * The general lack of adherence to the Freedom of Information Act and repeated examples of failure to disclose information as required in the timescales required

    * The disgraceful way that Senior Officers behaved with the First Tier Tribunal review of Freedom of Information requests relating to the sale of The Knoll, including the public reprimand about the Council’s behaviour made by the FTT at the end of their review

    * A lack of transparency on inconsistent planning recommendations whereby extremely similar planning applications in similar locations receive wildly and widely differing recommendations from Senior Planning Officers

    * The way that sites were introduced at the last minute into the Local Plan and the occasion where a blatant attempt was made in Full Council to introduce a change

    * Repeated failures to interpret the Council’s Constitution in an even handed manner – for example in using emergency government covid rules to enable the Annual Meeting to be cancelled, allowing the previous Chairman to attempt to avoid election of a new Leader, despite the change in balance of power emerging within the council.

    * Inappropriate use of Schedule B agenda items which are discussed in private with the public excluded, without following the legal requirements for publishing the intention to do so in advance

    I am sure that there are many others – these are just the ones which spring to mind.

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