Councillor Must Apologise For 'Unacceptable Behaviour'
Benjamin Dennehy dismisses accusation of racism amid calls for his resignation
Ealing Council has upheld a complaint that a local Councillor's personal blog has breached the code of conduct.
Benjamin Dennehy, the former Conservative representative for Hanger Hill, was expelled from the Tory party after writing that the number of illegal immigrants in Southall was a 'constant on the public purse' and that 'criminality is endemic' in the area.
Liberal Democrat group leader, Councillor Gary Malcolm , complained the blog - which discussed immigration and crime - was 'racist' - something Councillor Dennehy (now UKIP) has always denied.
Last night, Councillor Malcolm told a Council hearing about why he had made the complaint. He read comments from residents who claimed the blog was racist, emotive and not based on facts.
The Standards Committee upheld Councillor Malcolm's complaint - finding Cllr Dennehy had breached the code of conduct by failing to treat with others with respect and bringing the office into disrepute.
Councillor Dennehy refused to attend the hearing saying:
''This has been a colossal waste of money, time and resources at a time when Council funding is under severe pressure. I have refused to attend the hearing. I don't believe in kangaroo courts. I'm intrigued to see the punishment they ascribe after this ludicrous politically motivated trial is concluded.''
Liberal Democrat Leader, Councillor Gary Malcolm, said that Councillor Dennehy’s delaying actions meant that Ealing Council spent approximately £5000 in terms of external legal advice and officer time.
Councillor Dennehy has commented:
'' I spurn this decision liked I would spurn a rabid dog. I'm not surprised at the outcome, though I am amazed Cllr Malcolm insisted on perusing his complaint and cost Ealing tax payers £5,000. Last year the council voted to condemn me and demand an apology. I refused then and refuse now. The punishment the committee can impose is less than that vote. It's been an absolute waste of time and money in an attempt to stifle free speech and opposing opinions. I stand by my blog. I shall be sending an invoice to Nick Clegg on behalf of residents.''
The Findings (from The Public Notice):
The committee found that Councillor Dennehy’s actions breached the following sections of the 2007 Code:
You must treat others with respect, and
You must not conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or the Council into disrepute
The Standards Committee considered that, whilst the blog post raised a number of important and legitimate issues for debate, the tone and much of the content had been inappropriate and unnecessarily provocative. The committee had particular regard to evidence that a number of residents had been offended by the blog post and that Councillor Dennehy had declined to issue an appropriate apology for his actions, as requested by full council at its meeting on 3rd April 2012.
Accordingly, the Standards Committee determined that Councillor Dennehy’s breaches of the Council’s 2007 Code represented unacceptable behaviour for a councillor and therefore should not be repeated, and it requested that he issue an appropriate apology.
24th May 2013