A complaint of inappropriate behaviour by one Angus councillor against another has led to an investigation by the national standards watchdog – with a decision expected within days.
The complaint first came to light in October last year, after an incident which involved Arbroath West and Letham Liberal Democrat councillor Richard Moore, and Kirriemuir and Dean SNP councillor Julie Bell.
At the time, it was believed to have been resolved ‘in house’, however the office of the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life has confirmed that a complaint was received against Councillor Moore, and that an investigation was under way.
It is understood that interviews have already taken place in Forfar , and followed an ‘Initial Office Assessment’ of the complaint, which found that further investigation was required.
Investigations are normally completed within a three to six month timescale, but may take longer depending on a number of factors, including the availability of witnesses and the complexity of the complaint.
An investigation outcome may conclude a ‘Finding of No Breach’ or ‘No Further Action’, but where it has been determined that a breach of the code of conduct has taken place, further work is undertaken, and sanctions can ultimately be applied, which can include censure and suspension.
Both Mr Moore, who previously served as a councillor in York, and Ms Bell declined to make any comment.
Sources within the council have stated that if the decision goes against Mr Moore it may become ‘a resignation matter’.
A senior source on the authority criticised the time it took for investigations to take place.
“Of course due process must be followed, but the fact is that a complaint can be made against an elected member, and that person can be left on tenterhooks for months with the worry of an allegation hanging over them,” they said.
“I appreciate that it can be difficult to organise witnesses and gather information, but I do think that the process could expedited in the interests of fairness for everyone involved.”