Apology issued after emails accused CEO of being ‘arrogant, lazy, and pompous

Now the focus falls on the part played by “two fingers” Ben Ingham, a man, in Owl’s opinion, of questionable judgement.

[Also with “previous form”].

Daniel Clark www.devonlive.com and www.radioexe.co.uk

An East Devon councillor has apologised to the council’s chief executive after a standards investigation concluded that language used in his emails breached the code of conduct.

Cllr Paul Millar was found to have on six occasions used language of a personal and derogatory nature which showed a failure to treat the Chief Executive with courtesy and respect.

The emails were sent back in January and February this year and followed comments that the chief executive Mark Williams had made in public at council meetings.

In the emails, Cllr Millar had said that Mr Williams ‘had a very long pattern of behaviour of briefing against councillors to the press and I believe it’s getting to a point where it has become no longer tolerable’, as well as saying ‘he is cold, arrogant, lazy, pompous, and highly disrespectful in remarks he makes in public about elected, backbench Members’.

Cllr Paul Millar
Cllr Paul Millar

Another added: “Your comments were ‘Councillor blaming’, you did it publicly and they reflect poorly on the Council – there’s no public ‘officer blaming here’ – only rightful disgust that you seek to brand us as having a parochial mindset when this is far from the truth.”

The text of Cllr Millar’s emails were published as part of the decision notice, but not the full chain of the emails whereby any additional context to them were given.

The standards committee found that Cllr Millar’s had breached the Code of Conduct in that he failed to treat others with courtesy and respect but complaints made by Cllr Ben Ingham that his actions were a pattern of bullying behaviour were dismissed, and that while Cllr Millar brought his office into disrepute, they did not bring the council into disrepute.

The hearing, which was held in private, heard that Cllr Millar, who at the time was an unaffiliated Independent, stated that he had been frustrated by the political situation and felt powerless to influence the Council’s actions.

Mark Williams, East Devon District Council's chief executive
Mark Williams, East Devon District Council’s chief executive

He explained the difficulty he had experienced while an independent councillor and that he felt unsupported and said felt the actions of the Chief Executive were unwarranted and that this had caused him to react as he did.

Having been found to have breached the code of conduct, Cllr Millar, who is now Democracy & Transparency Portfolio Holder, said he had apologised to Mr Williams.

He added: “I have submitted an apology to the CEO for any hurt caused by comments which I could have worded in a different way.

“I came into local government to act fully in the public interest at all times and stand up for all of the residents living in East Devon, particularly those who been dealt a bad hand in life and are unfairly suffering as a result of the pandemic. For as long as I am a Councillor, I will continue to do this.

“I still have questions about the investigation but I’m really keen now to move on and fully concentrate on helping people in my Ward and continue my progress in working with my amazing colleagues in the new administration in making the Council more open and transparent.”

The complaint made against the conduct of Cllr Millar was made by Cllr Ingham, who earlier in 2020 had been found to have breached the code of conduct by not treating Cllr Millar courtesy and respect.

A standards investigation into the then leader of the council’s conduct found that Cllr Ingham had shared confidential details around health matters to other councillors, as well as making a ‘two fingered gesture’ at Cllr Millar during a scrutiny committee meeting.

The complaint against Cllr Ingham was upheld by the council’s monitoring officer and he was required to give a written apology to Cllr Millar.

Cllr Ben Ingham
Cllr Ben Ingham (Image: Daniel Clark)

A Code of Conduct complaints update report which went to the Standards Committee earlier this month publicly revealed the details of the breach, and while Cllr Ingham was not named as the councillor, the Local Democracy Reporting Service has seen information to confirm he was the councillor.

The report also heard that an allegation that an unnamed councillor who booed a speech made at a meeting was resolved with agreement to informal mediation.

When asked if they wished to comment further on the findings or if Mr Williams wished to say anything, an East Devon District Council spokesman said: “We consider it would not be appropriate for any comment to be given.”

2 thoughts on “Apology issued after emails accused CEO of being ‘arrogant, lazy, and pompous

  1. I find this result amazing considering what used to go under the eye of senior officers before the Tory’s had to change their habits when the opposition got organised. Cllr Paul Millar stands accused, in my book, of having a good grip on the ways of some of EDDC ‘s officers and past office holding members. Good for you Paul.

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  2. It would / does not surprise me in the least to learn that Ben Ingham was pulling strings behind the scenes. Hopefully that sort of behaviour is less acceptable in the new regime, where transparency and integrity now (at last) have some importance, and if he has been doing this, I hope that he is held to account for it – in the court of public opinion if not a Standards Committee.

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