TWO top councillors have been cleared of belittling a colleague during a controversial meeting, reports MIKE DELANEY.
A watchdog who probed the case ruled that local authority leader Peter Grant’s and planning chief John Beare’s behaviour toward Kay Morrison was not intimidatory.
Labour councillor Morrison lodged the complaint with the Public Standards Commissioner for Scotland after a bad-tempered Glenrothes Area Committee meeting in October where Scottish National Party councillors - including Mr Grant and Mr Beare - voted to name the under-construction facility which will replace Fife Institute the Michael Woods Sports and Leisure Centre.
They claimed it would be a fitting memorial to the late Mr Woods, who was credited as playing a pivotal role in saving the Institute from alleged closure.
Cllr Morrison had claimed it was when she challenged that move and called for the facility to be called Glenrothes Sports and Leisure Centre - in line with the outcome of a public consultation - that the councillors behaved in a way designed to belittle and intimidate her.
She alleged, in her complaint, that the councillors’ code of conduct had been breached.
In his judgement, commissioner Stuart Allan said: “I can understand how the strongly divergent views about the naming of the centre may have resulted in the respondents expressing their views in a forthright and robust manner
“I do not, however, consider that forceful comments made within a democratic forum, in the course of debating a local issue which is the subject of disagreement, constitutes intimidation.
Referring to the legal right to freedom of speech, he added: “I do not consider that the respondents’ behaviour was of such a nature as would justify interfering with, or setting aside the freedom...in favour of the rules laid down in the code.”
Adding that the behaviour complained about could not have been considered to breach the code, he said: “Accordingly, it would serve no useful purpose and not be in the public interest to investigate the complaint further.”
Responding to the ruling, Cllr Morrison said: “It’s important to note that the commissioner did not consult anyone else who observed the behaviour, so the decision is based on very limited evidence.
“I’m certain that an unbiased observer would be as surprised as I am by this decision - it doesn’t change what actually happened.”
Cllr Morrison had previously raised a complaint with council chief executive, Ronnie Hinds.
While he also ruled against her, he reminded councillors that they had to take care over their behaviour during meetings.
But Cllr Grant said: “The commissioner has reached the only possible decision and cleared myself and John Beare of any possible wrongdoing.
Describing the allegations as a “fabrication”, he accused Cllr Morrison of delaying a ruling by failing to respond to calls to provide more evidence, adding: “It’s now time for Cllr Morrison to start explaining why it took her son long.”