Complaint Number: LA/As/1998
Date case started: 27 Feb 2017
Decision issued: 24 Apr 2017
Allegation against: Councillor Ian Tait
Complaint Categories: 3.1, 3.2, 3.3
Nature of allegation
Breach of the provisions in the Councillors’ Code of Conduct set out in section 3 (General Conduct).
Decision by Commissioner
Decision that Councillor Ian Tait had not contravened the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
Complaint no. LA/As/1998 concerning an alleged contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct by Councillor Ian Tait 0f Aberdeenshire Council
1. Complaint number LA/As/1998 alleged a contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by Councillor Ian Tait (“the respondent”).
2. The complaint stemmed from an oral exchange between the complainer and the respondent following the conclusion of a formal meeting and outwith the context of the business discussed at that meeting. The subject matter was however related to Council business in that it referred to a petition raised by the complainer against a proposal to increase business rates. The parties were accordingly addressing a matter of Council business, albeit in an informal manner.
3. I had to consider whether or not the alleged conduct was covered by the Code and, if so, whether it amounted to a breach of the Code.
4. Paragraph 3.1 of the Code, as amplified by the Guidance issued by the Standards Commission for Scotland requires the observance of respect on all occasions when councillors are acting in that role, as was the case in this instance. Paragraph 3.2 refers to the observance of respect and courtesy in the course of meetings, and paragraph 3.3 imposes a similar obligation towards council employees.
5. The term ‘respect’ is not further defined within the Code. The interpretation applied in previous decisions has included consideration of the context, content and manner in which the conduct complained of has been expressed. In this particular case the exchange was restricted to the two participants, was of brief duration, and the disagreement over the complainer’s petition extended only to the respondent’s personal belief that the complainer was overstating the degree of support given to his petition.
6. A degree of latitude in expression is recognised in the context of the occasionally robust nature of political debate. While the complainer in this instance was evidently upset by the inference of being untruthful in stating the support given to his petition, and the apparently dismissive manner in which this was expressed, the respondent did not overtly accuse the complainer of lying and was not personally abusive towards him.
7. The area manager was not involved in the exchange and did not feel that the disagreement between the parties in her presence was disrespectful towards her. She did not regard the exchange between the respondent and the complainer as being exceptional or requiring her intervention.
8. Having considered the information that arose from my investigation, I concluded that Councillor Ian Tait had not contravened the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.
91 Haymarket Terrace
24 April 2017