In this facebook Post, Cllr Liam Mullone of South Devon Alliance (Formerly Newton Says No) makes a number of claims...
Cllr Liam Mullone of South Devon Alliance (Formerly Newton Says No) says in the facebook post: "District Council has not complied with the ombudsman's demands but instead has doubled down on every misdemeanour it was censured for".
We will look at each recommendation in turn.
Recommendation: The Council must consider the report and confirm within three months the action it has taken or proposes to take. The Council should consider the report at its full Council, Cabinet or other appropriately delegated committee of elected members and we will require evidence of this. (Local Government Act 1974, section 31(2), as amended)
Fact: An Extraordinary Full Council meeting was called for 14 February 2023 specifically and solely to discuss the report. The agenda, Minutes, and the redacted you tube recording are online:
Recommendation: Apologise to Councillor Daws, accepting the findings of this investigation.
Fact: A full and unreserved apology was made by the leader of the council and a further apology was made by Cllr Richard Keeling. Chair of standards at the time of the original decision.
Recommendation: Rescind its decision notice of 22 July 2020 upholding the complaint Councillor Daws breached the Code and ensure this is no longer available on its website. In its place it should provide a statement saying the notice has been withdrawn following this investigation and provide a link to this report.
Fact: Although the decision notice is dated 22 July 2020, The decision was actually made at a meeting on 15 July. The decision notice has been removed and the recommended statement and link to the ombudsman report are present.
Recommendation: The Council should also learn lessons from this complaint. It should ensure it has a written procedure for its officers and any independent investigators asked to consider standards complaints …
A review of the councils constitution and processes was already under way when the ombudsman report appeared.
At the extraordinary meeting of 14 February 2023 There was a motion beginning… "The Council notes and accepts without reservation the content and recommendations of the Ombudsman Report," and sets out over 10 further paragraphs how these will be implemented". this can be seen here on page 3. Most councillors voted in favour of this motion and it was passed, though Cllr Mullone did not vote.
Recommendation: that in all appropriate cases it considers the rights of the councillor complained about to free expression under Article 10 of the Human Rights Act, as part of any investigation report and subsequent committee decision making.
It should be noted that TDCs monitoring officer was asked specifically to consider Cllrs human rights in a councillors question from Cllr Andy Swain which came to Full Council 13 January 2022 (well before the ombudsman's investigation), after a previous occasion when A South Devon Alliance Cllr had claimed his human rights were being breached. The Answer is that this is a "Qualified right" and must be weighed against other factors including other peoples right to free expression, and the employers duty of care to staff. The ombudsman draws a very similar conclusion in paragraphs 17-22
Also note that consideration of this balance is specifically made in the TDC statement that accompanies the redacted video. "We believe that this approach is the fairest way of balancing the competing desires for openness and transparency, for councillors to be able to express their views in meetings and the right of staff and third parties to be protected from professionally damaging, unfounded comment. No other changes have been made to the recording."
Teignbridge actually has completed the implementation of most of the ombudsman's recommendations, and work is ongoing on changes to the constitution and policy. A public decision has clearly been made and there is clear evidence that TDC has agreed to comply, has a plan to implement and is progressing the plan. Cllr Lian Mullone's statement "District Council has not complied with the ombudsman's demands but instead has doubled down on every misdemeanour it was censured for" is very clearly false.
Cllr Liam Mullone of South Devon Alliance (Formerly Newton Says No) in the facebook post, says: "This video will form part of a shocking raft of evidence, collected over just a few weeks, that prove Teignbridge District Council has …"
In the same facebook post he makes allegations of criminal activity and law breaking…
"We are looking at a gang of criminals trying to cover up their misdeeds…"
"As if to prove it doesn't care about actual law"
"We are not a million miles from fines and possible prison terms."
"You would think a council already guilty of breaking the law would want to tread carefully"
It is difficult to assess the quality of any evidence Cllr Mullone may or may not have, if he will not present it to councillors, or council officers for examination, or use it as the basis of a formal complaint to the council or to the police. After careful checking, we can find no evidence of any activity remotely resembling that described. If anyone has any evidence of such wrongdoing, we in the Lib Dem group would invite them to bring it forward so that it can be examined.
There IS however the report of the ombudsman, already mentioned. This report details serious failings in the standards process formerly used by Teignbridge. In that report, in Paragraphs 58 and 60, the Ombudsman is critical that a Cllr was accused of breaking the code of conduct but the original allegation was not written down, and was not shown to the Cllr in question so that he could be clear about what he was supposed to be defending himself against. We agree that when investigating an issue, allegations should be stated clearly, in writing and the evidence shared so that it can be examined by all concerned.
We are therefore dissappointed that Cllr Mullone claims to have evidence of wrongdoing but does not share it so it can be investigated. So soon before an election as well.
Cllr Mullone has presented no evidence of wrongdoing. We are aware of none, but it is clear that the ombudsman believes any claim of wrongdoing should be stated clearly and the evidence presented so that an informed defese can be made. We in the Lib Dem group expect to be informed if anyone has any evidence of wrongdoing by our group or by the council, and we would investigate it. We take such claims very seriously, and always have.
Cllr Liam Mullone of South Devon Alliance (Formerly Newton Says No) says in the facebook post, "The redactions on this video have nothing to do with 'data protection'…" and later "TDC has misused  data protection laws for years in order to hide what it's doing and to shield its officers from any kind of scrutiny".
This seems to imply that the council claimed the video was removed for GDPR reasons, but as the image clearly carries the message "The recording was subsequently removed to allow specialist legal advice to be taken due to concerns that the publication of the inappropriate naming of individuals and unsubstantiated allegations made in the meeting could leave the Council open to legal action being taken against it."
It is clear that the council says the video was removed because of the possible legal implications of unfounded allegations made during the meeting. Nothing to do with GDPR.
Teignbridge council meeting are held in public in accordance with the Local Government Act 1972. There is no legal requirement for the meetings to be recorded, streamed on the internet, or the recordings to be made available. If the council publishes a recording of a meeting the council could be liable for the content of that meeting, including allegations made during the meeting.
Claiming that your opponent has said one thing - and then arguing against that, when it wasn't what they actually said, is called a "Straw Man" argument. It is a common logical fallacy. The entire argument is invalid if it starts by claiming something that is incorrect.
Redactions on this video have nothing to do with 'data protection'.