Committee decides that former councillor did bring office into disrepute with BLM Facebook post

By Katy Jenkins   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Friday 17th June 2022 1:11 pm
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Paul Dowson
Paul Dowson (Stock image )

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After a number of hours, today (June 9) members of Pembrokeshire County Council’s standards committee has ruled that a former councillor had breached the code of conduct by bringing his office or the local authority “in to disrepute” with an allegedly racist social media post.

PCC’s standards committee had previously determined that they would hold the hearing into whether Paul Dowson had breached the council code of conduct in public, said chairman Corinna Kershaw, but additional information in recent days led to further discussion with members.

Mr. Dowson had requested the introduction of the additional information and said he would not take part in a private meeting but the committee decided that it would hold the entire hearing in private session as it was likely that exempt information would be disclosed.

Mrs. Kershaw said that there were two main factors disputed in relation to the alleged breach in June 2020 – whether M.r Dowson was acting in his capacity as a councillor when he made public comments about the Black Lives Matter movement and if he was or should have been aware that some or all of the post “was likely to be considered racist.”

The breach related to conduct that could be reasonably considered to be bringing the office of councillor or county council into disrepute.

An investigation and report had been carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman, with a representative present at the hearing, however this, along with a council summary report and other evidence was not included in the public agenda.

The committee went into private session at around 11.45 am and returned after 4 pm to state that it had been determined after consideration of “all the evidence and submissions in this matter” that there had been a breach of the code of conduct.

Mrs. Kershaw said that the committee was of the view he had been acting or appeared to be acting in his capacity of councillor and was aware that some or all of the Facebook post was likely to be considered racist.

It was also stated that sections of the code relating to showing respect and consideration for others were also breached.

As he is no longer on the council the “maximum sanction” of censure was imposed but Mrs. Kershaw added the committee wished to put on record that if he had been re-elected it would have been “highly likely that suspension for a period would have been a serious consideration.”

A spokesperson for Ombudsman for Wales said: “Following the Pembrokeshire County Council’s Standards Committee’s careful consideration of her office’s investigation and report on Former Councillor Paul Dowson of Pembrokeshire County Council, the Ombudsman welcomes its decision to censure Former Councillor Dowson in respect of his public comment about the Black Lives Matter Movement.”

“It is hoped that lessons will also be learned from this case and that it will serve to promote high standards of conduct by elected members in their public roles, both within the Council and across Wales.”

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