Angus Council’s leader has dodged criticism over the return of a shamed colleague to the authority’s administration in a moved branded a “desperate” attempt to cling to power.
Arbroath West and Letham member Richard Moore is back in a ruling group which recently lost two councillors amidst claims of an “unhealthy culture” at the top of the authority.
Mr Moore was banned from council meetings for three months in 2018 after an ethical standards hearing.
It found him guilty of inappropriate conduct towards four women at an official event.
The Forfar inquiry heard damning evidence of “unwanted and unexpected” touching as well as other inappropriate conduct.
Mr Moore admitted he flicked one woman’s top as he would “a Subutteo player” and called them “lovely ladies”.
The former Liberal Democrat is now serving as an Independent within the ruling coalition after a series of changes following the resignations of Councillors Lois Speed and Ben Lawrie.
Arbroath Independent Ms Speed – one of the women Mr Moore behaved inappropriately towards – was stripped of the Angus Integration Joint Board vice-convenership and her role as the council’s vice-convener of children and learning at a full council meeting last week.
His return gives the Conservative/Independent coalition a majority of one in the Angus chamber.
But it leaves the administration without any female representation.
Authority leader David Fairweather said he was “delighted” to have the disgraced figure back on board.
However, Kirriemuir councillor Julie Bell – who Mr Moore also behaved inappropriately towards – said his administration return “beggars belief”.
“It shows scant regard for the fact that as a local authority we had voted to be an exemplar organisation around tackling gender-based abuse,” she commented.
“The administration seem to have forgotten that.
“When this kind of behaviour isn’t appropriately dealt with, what kind of message does that send out?” she added.
“He may have served a suspension but there was no input around going on a course around why that behaviour was inappropriate.
“And there has never been any apology for his conduct.”
Cllr Bell said the administration had shown its “true colours” by appointing a man with a track record of harassment into an all-male council administration.
“It could be seen as a desperate attempt to hold on to a majority,” she said.
Mr Fairweather refused to comment on the details of any approach to Mr Moore and the timing of it.
He said: “Delighted that Cllr Moore has re-joined the administration.
“As with his outside roles as vice-convener of licensing board and his continued contribution in development standards alongside the development management review committee his valued experience is welcomed back.”
Mr Moore declined to respond on the matter but has been reported as saying the Standards Commission had applied a penalty they thought appropriate at the time.
The development is the latest stage of a row around the way the administration is being run.
Ms Speed stepped down in March, citing an “unhealthy culture” within the group.
She was quickly followed by young Monifieth and Sidlaws Liberal Democrat, Ben Lawrie.
The mental health campaigner said coalition colleagues had “isolated” and “shouted down” Ms Speed in meetings.
Mr Fairweather subsequently offered his own resignation but was unanimously backed by colleague to retain the helm.
He is counting down his time in the council, having previously given notice he will not be standing in next May’s local government elections.
Now in his mid-60’s, Mr Fairweather has said retirement “can’t come too soon”.
The council make-up looks set for a major shake-up with a number of other figures option not to seek re-election.
They include current opposition leader, Forfar SNP councillor Lynne Devine.
She stepped down from the top role this week and has been replaced by Monifieth and Sidlaws representative Beth Whiteside.