Venue: Virtual Meeting on Zoom. View directions
Contact: Laura Kirman Tel: 01992 564273 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This virtual meeting is to be webcast. Members are reminded of the need to unmute before speaking.
The Chairman will read the following announcement: “I would like to remind everyone present that this meeting will be broadcast live to the internet (or filmed) and will be capable of repeated viewing (or another use by such third parties). Therefore by participating in this virtual meeting, you are consenting to being filmed and to the possible use of those images and sound recordings for webcasting and/or training purposes. If members of the public do not wish to have their image captured they should ensure that their video setting throughout the virtual meeting is turned off and set to audio only.
Please also be aware that if technical difficulties interrupt the meeting that cannot be overcome, I may need to adjourn the meeting.”
The Chairman reminded everyone present that this virtual meeting would be broadcast live to the internet and would be capable of repeated viewing, which could infringe their human and data protection rights.
Declarations of Interest
(Team Manager, Democratic and Electoral Services) To declare interests in any item on the agenda.
There were no declarations of interest made pursuant to the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.
(Team Manager, Democratic and Electoral Services) To confirm the minutes of the last meeting of the Committee, held on 2 March 2020, as a correct record (attached).
That the minutes of the meeting held on 2 March 2020 be taken as read and signed by the Chairman as a correct record.
(Monitoring Officer) To consider the report and decide if the Councillor’s Code of Conduct was breached; and if the Committee considers there is a breach of the Code, to determine the sanctions (if any) to be imposed.
The Chairman outlined that the Committee needed to consider the report of the Monitoring Officer and determine whether the Committee agreed that a breach of the Councillor Code of Conduct had occurred. If the Committee considered that a breach of the Code had taken place, it would determine the sanctions, if any. to be imposed.
The Chairman gave an overview of the process. The Monitoring Officer, N Boateng, would present the report, followed by questions from Cllr Leppert and Members of the Committee, Cllr Leppert then had the opportunity to make his representation followed by questions from the Monitoring Officer and Members of the Committee. The Committee would go into private session to give due consideration and determine the outcome. The outcome would be detailed in open session.
Presentation by the Monitoring Officer
The Monitoring Officer presented the report on the complaint of Breach of Councillor Code of Conduct by Cllr Julian Leppert. The Localism Act 2010 placed a duty on Local Authorities to: promote and maintain high standards of conduct by its members; adopt a Code of Conduct based on the Nolan Principles of Selflessness, Integrity, Objectivity, Accountability, Openness, Honesty and Leadership; investigate allegations of a breach of that Code of Conduct; and decide what sanctions should be taken if a member failed to comply with the Code of Conduct. The Committee’s attention was drawn to Epping Forest District Councils’ constitution (Article 2 paragraph 4) which stated that each Members should always comply with the Code of Conduct.
Details of the alleged breach were outlined, these related to:
(i) a YouTube video that featured Cllr Leppert in July 2020, when several allegations were made about the occupants of the Bell Hotel in Epping, and
(ii) an article that appeared in the Epping Forest Guardian newspaper in August 2020 in which Cllr Leppert had made a series of comments.
The Monitoring Officer informed the Committee that she had received seven complaints. The complaints were summarise as: people had received abuse, and there had been incidents of physical violence and attacks in racist protests outside of the hotel due to the You Tube video; the comments made by Cllr Leppert would impact on Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people; and this was unfitting behaviour for a Member of the Council.
The Council’s Monitoring Officer detailed that she had asked Cllr Leppert to provide evidence on the claims made in the You Tube video and for confirmation that the newspaper article represented what he had said. Cllr Leppert had not responded to these questions or provided any explanation and the investigation into the complaints had been concluded without his input.
The Councillor Code of Conduct (paragraph 3) provided a general obligation to treat others with respect, uphold the law; and not to do anything which may cause the Authority to breach any of the equality enactments, or bully any person.
The Monitoring Officer had concluded that the comments made by Cllr Leppert in the You Tube video and in the Epping Forest ... view the full minutes text for item 12.
Dates of Future Meetings
(Team Manager, Democratic and Electoral Services) Following the decision of the Council that the Standards Committee be convened to meet only when there is business to be transacted (Council 26 April 2016, minute 12 refers), there are no formal meetings arranged for the remainder of the municipal year. However, further meetings of the Committee can be arranged if required.
The Committee noted that, following the decision of the Council for the Standards Committee to be convened to meet only when there was business to be transacted, there were no formal meetings arranged for the remainder of the municipal year.
Exclusion of Public and Press
To consider whether, under Section 100(A)(4) of the Local Government Act 1972, the public and press should be excluded from the meeting for the items of business set out below on grounds that they will involve the likely disclosure of exempt information as defined in the paragraph(s) of Part 1 of Schedule 12A of the Act indicated:
Article 17 of the Constitution (Access to Information) define background papers as being documents relating to the subject matter of the report which in the Proper Officer's opinion:
(a) disclose any facts or matters on which the report or an important part of the report is based; and
(b) have been relied on to a material extent in preparing the report and does not include published works or those which disclose exempt or confidential information and in respect of executive reports, the advice of any political advisor.
The Council will make available for public inspection one copy of each of the documents on the list of background papers for four years after the date of the meeting. Inspection of background papers can be arranged by contacting either the Responsible Officer or the Democratic Services Officer for the particular item.
The Committee noted that there was no business which necessitated the exclusion of the public and press from the meeting.