#Daphnegate – What I said at the Governance Committee

I’m my party’s local spokesman on Open Government and Transparency, so I thought it only fair to publish what I said at tonight’s Governance Committee – which voted unanimously that I had not breached the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

I may have mixed up a few sentences and I clarified a few other things (like why I put a full stop before a tweet to reach a wider audience), but you will be able to check them against the recording of the meeting in due course (something that I campaigned for before I was elected as a councillor). But before you read on, pause a moment and give thanks to people like Kristin who help those in difficulty – she is an incredible barrister, and a kind hearted and true one. 

(Note, all the papers relating to #Daphnegate are here. Live tweets from the Gazette here).

Firstly, I would like to say that I recognise the language I used in my tweet was offensive and I genuinely regret using it. I stand by the apology I tweeted as soon as the Monitoring Officer recommended I did so on 15th September. My original tweet was sent in a personal, not an official capacity, and it was intended as a criticism of the North East Parking Partnership as a whole, not of any individual officer.

I would also like to draw this committee’s attention to a second tweet I posted on 16th September at 8.48am, before I knew the matter was to be referred to this committee. Responding to a Twitter account holder who goes under the name Colchester Views, I tweeted:

.@Colchesterviews I’d love to say it was the car who got me into trouble, but it was all my own silly fault. Apologies to all concerned 🙂

My intention was to emphasise my apology of the day before and reach the widest possible audience. In this way, I hoped to draw a line under the matter.

However, I would like to emphasise I was unaware that the complaint had been made by my fellow Mile End ward councillor Dominic Graham until nine days after it had been made – and four days after my apology had been rejected and the complaint had been referred to this committee. I didn’t receive a copy of the original complaint until 10 days after it had been made.

Had I known that the complaint had been made by Cllr Graham, I would have reached out to him personally to try and resolve the matter in that way. In the event, I was unable to make the apology he expected because I did not know who had complained or the exact nature of their complaint.

As a result, I felt the situation was spiralling out of control, so I engaged Kristin Heimark, a barrister with Standards Board experience to give me independent advice.

As you can see from the submission she has written, the Council has a Code of Conduct but, because legal precedent shows I was acting in a personal capacity, I have not breached it. I would also refer committee members to the circulated Tribunal papers of Hull City Council and John Fareham, which deals with a comparable case – the Tribunal found he also was acting in a personal capacity and overturned the sanctions against him.

From what I have learned from the legal background of this case is that sanctions would be likely to be overturned if the matter progressed to Tribunal. I believe the legal advice I have received is of benefit to the council in this respect.

However, even though I was acting as a private individual when I tweeted what I did, I recognise that it was unnecessary. So I would once again like to put on the record a full apology and assure the committee that I will be more circumspect in future.

I didn’t mention this at the committee meeting because it was not relevant to the case, but this matter took a major toll on me – I suffer from this condition and only today have been awake since 2.30am. I am glad it is now over.

1 Comment #Daphnegate – What I said at the Governance Committee

  1. Dan

    I am glad to see that this has been resolved properly.

    Of course you went a bit too far, given your position, but we have all done that. Sometime those who criticise others online neglect to look in the mirror over such issues.

    This is a minor issue has been blown up out of all proportion. From the outside it all seems farcical. You made a mistake. You realised it, and withdrew the offending material, and apologised. That’s what should have happened.

    I think that those involved in making and pursuing the complaint should all reflect on the true damage done to the Council. Yes, we should all be respectful of others, and especially so where we hold public office. However, this official action obviously went too far, and has left the public shaking their heads in disbelief. People, and Councillors, should be able to make mistakes and then to move on, even with social media. Those ‘wronged’ should have been mature enough to accept this and also move on.

    Let’s not forget that, allegedly, a former local Councillor recently made a serious error of judgement by naming a child accused of a serious issue within a school. By all accounts he realised his error when it was pointed out to him (which was much more serious than Daphnegate), and he quickly removed the offending content. As far as I can tell, that was the end of it. Maybe that sort of attitude should have prevailed here after you quickly took the correct approach of apologising for your (very minor) transgression.

    Just for the record, I am not a supporter of the Conservative Party, but I do know Ben, which is why I can vouch for his integrity.

    Reply

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