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Decision of the Hearing Panel of the Standards Commission following the Hearing held at the Busby Hotel, Clarkston, on 14 June 2011
- The Complaint
- Joint Statements of Facts
- Evidence Presented at the Hearing
- The Decision
- Reasons for Sanction
Mr Ian Gordon OBE, QPM, Chairman
Ms Jan Polley
Mrs Julie Ward
This Hearing arises in respect of a Report by D Stuart Allan, Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland (“the PSC”) further to complaint No. LA/ER/1046C (“the Complaint”), concerning an alleged contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct (“the Code”) by Councillor Mary Montague of East Renfrewshire Council (“the Respondent”).
Mr D Stuart Allan, the PSC, attended the Hearing and presented his case. The Respondent was represented by Ms Frances Randle of Steel and Shamash and also attended the Hearing in person.
The Complainant was Ms Angela Weldon. The Complainant alleged that the Respondent contravened the Councillors' Code of Conduct and, in particular, the provisions relating to Registration of Interests and Declaration of Interests.
The PSC investigated the complaint and concluded that by omitting to record in her Register of Interests, between the dates of 14 June 2007 and 08 October 2010, the fact that she received remuneration by virtue of her employment as a teacher by Glasgow City Council, the Respondent breached paragraphs 4.2, 4.3 and 4.7 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and Regulation 4 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003.
The PSC further concluded that the Respondent had not breached the Code’s provisions in respect of Declaration of Interests.
The relevant provisions are:
Councillors’ Code of Conduct
Section 4: Registration of Interests
4.2 Regulations made by Scottish Ministers describe the detail and timescale for registering interests. It is your personal responsibility to comply with these regulations and you should review regularly and at least once a year your personal circumstances. Annex B contains key definitions and explanatory notes to help you decide what is required when registering your interests under any particular category. The interests which require to be registered are those set out in the following paragraphs and relate to you. It is not necessary to register the interests of your spouse, or cohabitee.
Category One: Remuneration
4.3 You have a registerable interest when you receive remuneration by virtue of being:
the holder of an office;
a director of an undertaking;
a partner in a firm; or
- undertaking a trade, profession or vocation, or any other work.
4.7 When registering employment, you must give the name of the employer, the nature of its business and the nature of the post held in the organisation.
In terms of Annex B to the Code “Remuneration” is defined as including ‘any salary, wage, share of profits, fee, expenses, other monetary benefit or benefit in kind. This would include, for example, the provision of a company car or travelling expenses by an employer’.
Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003
4.— (1) Each responsible person shall give to the applicable proper officer or standards officer a first notice of interests.
(2) The responsible person shall give that first notice by the latest of–
(a) 1st June 2003;
(b) one month after the date of any declaration of acceptance or date of appointment, as the case may be, of that person; or
(c) one month after the date on which a members' code has effect in accordance with section 3(10) of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
(3) The first notice shall state–
(a) the name of the responsible person;
(b) for each category listed in the first column of the Schedule to these Regulations in respect of which the responsible person has a registerable interest, information of the kind described in the councillors' code or members' code as set out in the second column of that Schedule; and
(c) for each other category so listed, that the responsible person does not have such an interest.
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 Respondents provided a Joint Statement signed on 13 June and 14 June 2011, in respect of facts which were agreed and facts which were in dispute:
Parts 1-5 of the PSC’s Report dated 30 March 2011 were agreed.
Appendices A to E of the PSC’s Report were agreed as accurate records of the matters which they purport to record.
Annexes A to B of the PSC’s Report were agreed as accurate records of the matters which they purport to record.
The Respondent’s submissions outlined at 9 a-d of the Joint Statement of Facts were agreed.
Evidence Presented at the Hearing
Mr Allan outlined the facts and presented his case to the effect that by omitting to record in her Register of Interests, between the dates of 14 June 2007 and 08 October 2010, the fact that she received remuneration by virtue of her employment as a teacher by Glasgow City Council, the councillor breached paragraphs 4.2, 4.3 and 4.7 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and Regulation 4 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003.
Mr Allan asked the Hearing Panel to adopt the findings and conclusions contained in his Report.
Ms Randle submitted that the Respondent admits that she breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and it is her case that this was a technical breach. Ms Randle asked the Hearing Panel to consider the circumstances under which the breach occurred.
The Respondent, Councillor Mary Montague, gave evidence on her own behalf about the circumstances under which the breach occurred.
The Hearing Panel considered all the evidence, submissions given in writing and orally at the Hearing, and found as follows:
The Councillors' Code of Conduct applied to the Respondent.
The Respondent has breached paragraphs 4.2, 4.3 and 4.7 of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct and Regulation 4 of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 (Register of Interests) Regulations 2003.
The Panel decided to censure Councillor Mary Montague. This sanction is made under the terms of section 19(1)(a) of the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000.
Reasons for Sanction
In reaching their decision, the Panel had taken into account:
- In failing to register properly and timeously her remunerated employment as a Teacher, Councillor Montague did not demonstrate the openness and transparency required by the Code.
- Councillor Montague has accepted responsibility for this failure to register.
- The Panel accepts that there was no deliberate or wilful concealment of her remunerated job. The failure to register was a negligent oversight.
- The Panel recognise Councillor Montague’s public service and notes the difficulties she has faced in her ward in recent years.
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.