'Bully' councillor 'on notice' after breaching code of conduct

A parish councillor has been warned that she is 'on notice' after breaching the code of conduct. Betley, Balterley and Wrinehill parish councillor Angela Drakakis-Smith was found to have bullied and harassed former council clerk Gwyn Griffiths following a lengthy standards investigation costing more than £23,000.

Cllr Drakakis-Smith had been accused of disrupting meetings by continually questioning the accuracy and objectivity of Mr Griffiths' minutes, and bombarding him with emails and questions. Members of the parish council voted to accept the findings of Newcastle Borough Council's standards hearing panel, that Cllr Drakakis-Smith had breached the code, in a special meeting on Friday evening.

They also agreed to the panel's recommended sanctions, which included formally censuring Cllr Drakakis-Smith and removing her from all positions of responsibility. The parish council passed a motion saying they had 'no confidence' in Cllr Drakakis-Smith, and council chair Robert Bettley-Smith warned her that any future misbehaviour deemed to be in breach of the code could result in her being removed from meetings.

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Cllr Drakakis-Smith attended Friday's meeting but chose to sit in the public gallery rather than with her fellow councillors. While she said she 'felt quite strongly' about the council's decision, she was given little opportunity to speak. Following the council's decision, she was asked by Cllr Bettley-Smith if she wish to continue to be a councillor, to which she replied she did.

Cllr Bettley-Smith said: "We have put the councillor on notice as to her future conduct and behaviour. This has been an extremely distressing and stressful situation for everybody concerned - including the councillor, I will accept that.

"It was quite clear what the investigator found in this case - she said there was overwhelming evidence. The councillor should reflect on this and look to improve her behaviour, and comply with the code of conduct in future."

Cllr Drakakis-Smith was the subject of multiple complaints over her behaviour from Mr Griffiths, three other councillors and a member of the public. The matter was referred to the monitoring officer at the borough council, who commissioned an investigation by a specialist employment solicitor.

The solicitor found that that Cllr Drakakis-Smith had breached the code by failing to show respect for others, bullying and harassing Mr Griffiths, and bringing the parish council into disrepute. The borough council's standards hearing panel accepted the investigator's findings and referred the case back to the parish council for a final decision.

During Friday's parish council meeting, the councillors adjourned to a private meeting room to discuss the proposed sanctions, before announcing their decision in public.

Mr Griffiths, who attended the meeting welcomed the conclusion of the case. He said: "I am pleased at the final outcome of what has been a horrible experience. I hope that going forward, the councillor works more cooperatively and in a more harmonious manner with the other councillors."

In March the borough council sent the parish council an invoice for £23,865 to cover the cost of the standards investigation. Parish councillors have raised concerns over having to pay this amount, and a meeting is due to take place with the borough council to discuss the issue.

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