Multiple breaches of councillor code of conduct by Hughenden Parish Councillor

A Hearing Sub-Committee of Buckinghamshire Council has found that Councillor Linda Derrick of Hughenden Parish Council committed multiple breaches of the councillor code of conduct (the code). 


Three complaints had been made against Cllr Derrick.  The hearing found that Cllr Derrick breached the code in each case.  All the breaches related to Cllr Derrick’s treatment of employees. 


In one case, Cllr Derrick made unreasonable demands of an officer to see documentation. In a second, Cllr Derrick posted online blog comments in criticism of the same employee.  In a third case, Cllr Derrick made unreasonable requirements that a witness be present for her meetings with another employee, and that meetings between them be recorded.


The Hearing Sub-Committee found that Cllr Derrick breached the code by failing to treat each officer with respect in all three cases.   It was also found that Cllr Derrick’s actions in the first and third complaints were bullying in nature, given the distress caused.  The hearing said that proper procedures existed for raising any concerns about staff and Cllr Derrick should have followed these rather than take unilateral action.


The Sub-Committee recommended that Hughenden Parish Council agree a set of sanctions against Cllr Derrick:  that she should make a written apology to both former members of staff; that she be formally censured by the Parish Council; that the breaches and sanctions be publicised; and that Cllr Derrick attend training on several topics – the councillor – officer relationship, the handling of personal data, and her obligations under the Code of Conduct. 


It was also recommended that Cllr Derrick is excluded from Hughenden Parish Council’s premises, except to attend formal meetings, until she has undertaken the recommended training.


The Chairman of the Hearing Sub-Committee, Councillor Thomas Broom said: “Cllr Derrick no doubt considered she was pursuing matters in the best interests of her community. However, she showed a regrettable disregard for the collateral damage to staff in the way she went about it.  It demonstrated an insufficient observance of the high standards of conduct expected of all councillors.”  


Cllr Broom added: “It is disappointing that Cllr Derrick didn’t pause for thought sooner to reflect on her behaviours.  This caused further anxiety to the complainants and to herself.  It has necessitated the expenditure of public resource in ensuring the concerns were properly investigated and addressed.   We trust that Cllr Derrick will learn from this experience and will abide by the code in future – which is exactly what the recommended sanctions are intended to achieve.” 


The hearing noted that Cllr Derrick did not breach the code on two other points.  Cllr Derrick’s behaviour in posting the blog comments about a staff member was not bullying as it caused no significant upset to the employee.  Cllr Derrick’s refusal to meet an employee without witnesses or recordings, while disrespectful, did not amount to harassment, being a one-off matter.