Public hearing for Fife councillor accused of prejudicing taxi driver

Councillor David MacDiarmid will face a public hearing next month.
Councillor David MacDiarmid will face a public hearing next month.

A Fife councillor accused of prejudging a taxi driver for his criminal history is to be the subject of a public hearing by the watchdog that monitors behaviour of those in public office.

Councillor David MacDiarmid is alleged to have made personal and disrespectful comments toward an applicant who was looking to have his taxi licence renewed – an allegation that, if proven true, represents a breach of the Code of Conduct that all councillors must abide by.

At the Regulation and Licensing Committee meeting when the application for the licence renewal was being considered, Cllr MacDiarmid, who serves the Howe of Fife and Tay Coast ward, is alleged to have remarked to the applicant: “I don’t know why two women would live with you never [mind] get married to you.”

It was also alleged that, prior to making the motion that the committee should refuse the applicant’s licence renewal, Cllr MacDiarmid said: “I think this man is a bully and I don’t want bullies driving people round in taxis in Fife.”

The applicant had been found guilty of stalking his second wife and had previously been accused of abusing his first wife and his adopted son.

Now the Standards Commission for Scotland (SCS) will hold a Hearing at Fife House, Glenrothes, on April 25. The hearing will be open for members of the public to attend.

A full investigation has already been carried out by the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (CESPLS) who will outline the case against Cllr MacDiarmid. The councillor, or his representatives, will then be given a chance to respond.

The case will be heard and adjudicated by three members of the SCS. If a breach is found to have occurred, they will also decide on the sanction, which could see the councillor censured, suspended or disqualified.

Speaking on the Councillor’s Code of Conduct, Professor Kevin Dunion, convener of the SCS, said: “When taking decisions on quasi-judicial or regulatory matters, councillors must demonstrate fairness and impartiality.

“A failure to behave properly and to be seen to be behaving properly in council meetings risks a councillor’s decision, or those of the council’s, being legally challenged.”

The meeting in question took place back in December 2015.

Professor Dunion added: “It is of paramount importance that our hearings are heard in public, to ensure transparency, trust and confidence in the system.”

The SCS is independent of government and political parties. It promotes and enforces codes of conduct for councillors across Scotland, as well as individuals appointed to a wide range of national and regional public bodies such as Sport Scotland, the Scottish Police Authority and NHS Boards.

As well as adjudicating on hearings, the SCS provides training and guidance to promote and encourage adherence to Codes of Conduct for councillors and members of devolved public bodies.

The SCS panel will make its decision public on the day of the hearing and will issue a full written decision within two weeks.

Further information on the work of the SCS can be found at www.standardscommissionscotland.org.uk