A series of complaints against Fife councillors’ behaviour during the debate over Madras College have been thrown out.
The Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland found that Councillors Tim Brett, Brian Thomson and Lesley Laird had not been guilty of any wrong-doing, in decisions published on the Commissioner’s website.
These are people who are questioning your integrity and, personally, I think there is nothing more important to a councillor.Councillor Bryan Poole
Three complaints which Cllr Bryan Poole, the council’s education spokesman, said had been made against him are not published – but he said he too had been cleared of any contraventions of the code of conduct.
He railed against the complainants, describing their motives as “questionable’’.
He hit out: “I do see it as a form of intimidation and it makes me very, very angry.
“I really do think these people need to have a hard look at themselves – I know they are the same people who complained against Cllrs Lesley Laird, Tim Brett and Brian Thomson.”
And, despite the Commissioner’s policy of maintaining the anonymity of complainants, he declared: “If they are big enough to put complaints in, they should come out and say who they are.”
Cllr Poole believes the complaints were made by people who are “very friendly with STEPAL, and take very similar views to them”.
He added: “These are people who are questioning your integrity and, personally, I think there is nothing more important to a councillor.”
STEPAL’s secretary, Sandra Thomson stated that the organisation was not involved.
She said: “STEPAL has not submitted any complaints to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards. None of the directors of STEPAL has submitted any complaints.”
She added that “making a false allegation like this could be defamatory”.
Cllr Brett said he was “relieved and pleased” by the Commissioner’s decision.
“I did not believe I had done anything wrong,” he said.
The complainants, whose anonymity is preserved by the Commissioner, had alleged that Cllr Brett had breached the councillors’ code of conduct after Parent Voice had made a post on his Facebook page which, they claimed, demonstrated pre-judgement of the planning decision on Cllr Brett’s part.
He commented: “I fully understand this has been, and still is, unfortunately, a controversial issue particularly in St Andrews.
“I do genuinely believe everyone recognises the desperate need we have for a new school.
“I do support Pipeland strongly because, as far as I can see, that is the only option we have.
‘‘I have supported a new school on different sites, and I have changed my position as the facts have changed.”
Cllr Thomson said he would not comment on the complaints, explaining instead he would “leave the public to make up their own minds”.
The complainant in his case had said statements made in the press by him about the Judicial Review of the Pipeland decision were inappropriate and “questioned and criticised those who are exercising their democratic and legal right”.
Finding in Cllr Thomson’s favour, the Commissioner said he had no involvement in any statutory decision making process connected with the potential judicial review and acknowledged his entitlement to freedom of expression, as conferred by the European Convention on Human Rights.
Cllr Laird had been accused of being “entirely inappropriate, misleading and lacking in transparency, by using exaggerated figures to discredit the North Haugh site.”