If you would like to make an enquiry, you can use our online form by clicking here. If you would rather view our full contact information, this can be found at the bottom right of each page of this website.
Decision of the Hearing Panel of the Commission following the Hearing held at the Jury’s Inn, Glasgow on 1 and 6 December 2011
- The Complaint
- Joint Statements of Facts
- Evidence Presented at the Hearing
- The Decision
- Reasons for Sanction
Mr Ian Gordon, Convener, Chair
Ms Jan Polley
Mrs Julie Ward
This Hearing arose in respect of a Report by D Stuart Allan, Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland (“the PSC”) further to complaint No. LA/G/1049 (“the Complaint”), concerning an alleged contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by Councillor David Turner of Glasgow City Council (“the Respondent”).
Mr Stuart Allan, the PSC, represented himself in this matter and was accompanied on 1 December 2011 by Mr Iain McLeod, Investigating Officer. The Respondent represented himself in this matter.
Councillor David Turner of Glasgow City Council contravened Paragraph 3.14 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct which was issued by the Scottish Ministers in terms of section 1 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
This relates to the Key Principles of ‘Leadership’ and ‘Respect’ in regard to ‘Conduct in the Chamber or in Committee’.
The substance of the complaints is that Councillor Turner has failed to respect a colleague (Bailie Jim Todd) during a Council meeting of the Glasgow City Council on 9 September 2010.
The relevant provisions are:
Councillors’ Code of Conduct
Section 2: Key Principles of the Code of Conduct
You have a duty to promote and support these principles by leadership and example, and to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of the Council and its councillors in conducting public business.
You must respect all other councillors and all Council employees and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times.
Conduct in the Chamber or in Committee
3.14 You must respect the chair, your colleagues, Council employees and any members of the public present within the Chamber during Council or Committee meetings or other formal proceedings of the Council. You must comply with rulings from the chair in the conduct of the business of the Council.
The PSC’s Report (“the Report”) was submitted to the Commission in accordance with section 14 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
The PSC and the Respondent lodged as a production a Joint Statement of Facts signed on 11 November 2011. In the agreed Joint Statement, Parts 1 to 4 of the PSC’s report were accepted. Part 5 of the PSC’s report was broken down into paragraphs which were accepted and paragraphs which were in dispute. The Appendices and Annexes to the PSC’s report were agreed.
Evidence Presented at the Hearing
Mr Allan presented the PSC’s case to the effect that by making a number of disrespectful remarks towards Bailie Jim Todd, at a meeting of Glasgow City Council on 9 September 2010, the Respondent breached paragraph 3.14 Councillors’ Code of Conduct. Mr Allan led a number of witnesses, namely Mr Ian Drummond, Ms Elaine Galletly, Lord Provost Robert Winter, Councillor Alex Dingwall, Councillor Alex Glass and Bailie Jean McFadden.
Mr Allan asked the Hearing Panel to adopt the findings and conclusions contained in his Report.
The Respondent led two witnesses, namely Councillor Billy McAlister and Councillor James Dornan, and also gave evidence on his own behalf.
The Hearing Panel considered all of the evidence. Submissions were given both in writing and orally at the Hearing and the Panel found as follows:
- The Councillor’s Code of Conduct applied to the Respondent.
- The Panel considered that, on the balance of probabilities, the Respondent had shown disrespect for Bailie Todd during his speech in the Chamber of Glasgow Council on 9 September 2010. In so doing he had breached Paragraph 3.14 of the Code of Conduct.
The Panel noted that the allegation of ‘failure to respect a colleague’ related to Bailie Todd having a self-employed role with a taxi license to operate with Network Private Hire.
During the Hearing the allegation was set out in two elements:
1. Bailie Todd had in some way influenced the decision of the Council to award a contract to Network Private Hire
2. That Bailie Todd was aware that this company was associated with criminals but was content to continue to work for the company.
The Panel considers that element 2 of the allegation does not constitute a breach of the Code.
The Panel Noted the Following Evidence:
1. It is a fact that Bailie Todd was not present at the meeting of the Council’s Executive Committee on 8 December 2006, which approved a Framework Agreement for the provision of taxi services to Glasgow Council (this included Network Car Hire). Nor is there any evidence that he could or did influence that decision by the Council.
2. All witnesses gave accounts of the noise within the Chamber, prior to the speech by the Respondent, varying between normal and noisy with heckling from the Labour benches towards SNP Councillors. The majority of witnesses stated that the level of noise and disruption increased immediately after the alleged disrespectful references to Bailie Todd.
3. The majority of witnesses stated that they clearly heard the comments made by the Respondent, in part because the eruption of noise occurred after the comments and because there is a microphone system in place in the Chamber, with an individual speaker at each Councillor’s seat.
4. Two witnesses (Council Officers) had compiled a note jointly after the meeting of their recollection of what had been said by the respondent. A third witness (Councillor) made a handwritten note straight after the meeting. Each note gave similar accounts of what the respondent had said during his speech. These witnesses said they had clearly heard the content and made the notes on the basis that they considered the remarks to be wholly disrespectful towards Bailie Todd.
5. Three witnesses gave evidence that within the Chamber, they had challenged the respondent on the content of his speech in relation to Bailie Todd and urged him to withdraw his remarks. One witness urged the Respondent to withdraw on two occasions. One witness, the Lord Provost, indicated that this was the first time in his role that he could recall asking for a retraction of a statement. The Respondent declined to withdraw the remarks; these witnesses considered the remarks to be offensive and disrespectful towards Bailie Todd.
6. The majority of witnesses, which included a Senior Officer of the Council and a Councillor who was not a member of either the Labour or Scottish National Party, stated that they considered the words to be offensive and disrespectful of Bailie Todd. They also stated that it was clear to them that Bailie Todd had been shocked by the content of the speech by the Respondent. A councillor had felt strongly enough to point out there was no privilege in the chamber.
7. The Respondent and two witnesses stated the speech was designed to be a political statement, involving the public perception of matters and not a personal attack on Bailie Todd. The speech had been previously read and ‘tweaked’ by the Leader of the SNP Group and seen by the Deputy Leader. They all considered there was nothing in the speech that had not already been reported in public.
8. Towards the end of his speech the Respondent had asked for advice from the Leader and deputy Leader of his Group as to how to respond to the demands for withdrawal/apology. He was advised to continue, not to withdraw his remarks or apologise.
9. In a letter to Bailie Todd dated 24 October 2011, the Respondent wrote to express his regret for any hurt caused to Bailie Todd as a result of his speech. He also said: “I am clear that you personally have not, nor sought to do anything inappropriate in relation to the Council awarding a contract to Network Hire and I hope you will accept this as my view on the issue”. During the Hearing the Respondent repeated his apology on several occasions and said that the reason for delay was that he never expected it to go this far.
What may have been intended as a Political statement about the actions of the Labour Group in the Council has been seen by other Councillors and Council Officers in the Chamber to be an unwarranted personal attack on a fellow Councillor. The Panel is satisfied that there is no evidence to support an accusation or an imputation that Bailie Todd had acted inappropriately in relation to the contract being awarded.
The Panel notes there was a controversial motion being put forward by the SNP Group; that there was tension between the political parties in the Chamber and that this was the Respondent’s first major political speech. This may have impacted on the quality of the delivery of the speech and how it was heard. On the balance of probabilities, however, the Panel accepts that the majority of witnesses state they were able to hear the words said.
The Panel considers there is no doubt that the remarks in the speech brought a noisy and emotional response from some Councillors and provoked demands for withdrawal and apology. The Panel notes however that the remarks in the speech were seen to be highly disrespectful by a number of council officers as well as Councillors.
Whilst the Respondent had comprehensively researched media reports and based his speech on their content, he had failed to do what could be reasonably expected of a Councillor: for example to clarify whether Bailie Todd had been involved in any of the procedures leading to the award of the contract for taxis or whether any other material or allegations, other than media reports, were in existence. This failure indicates at best carelessness or at worst an intention, to imply that Bailie Todd had used his position to act acted inappropriately as a Councillor. In either case the Panel is satisfied in considering this evidence that it shows the Respondent was disrespectful to Bailie Todd.
For these reasons the Hearing Panel conclude that the Respondent has breached Paragraph 3.14 of the Councillor’s Code of Conduct.
The decision of the Panel is to censure Councillor Turner under the terms of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland Act) 2000 Section 19(1)(a).
Reasons for Sanction
The panel does not consider Councillor Turner acted intentionally. Whilst he had conducted his research, the Panel believes his speech was misconceived despite receiving advice from his more experienced colleagues.
Councillor Turner is reported as a hard working councillor who has been in his role for a relatively short time and is not well experienced. This was his first major speech.
We agree with the statement by the Public Standards Commissioner that Councillor Turner considerably mitigated his position by his open and genuine recognition of the evidence given concerning the effect of his speech on Bailie Todd and publicly expressed his regret.
The Panel wishes to acknowledge that Cllr Turner conducted himself with dignity and honesty during the Hearing.
The attention of the Respondent is drawn to Section 22 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 which details the Right of Appeal in respect of this Decision against the finding or the sanction imposed.