Isle of Wight Council Leader, David Pugh, has been referred for investigation in connection to incidents at and after the council Chairman’s Valentine’s Ball, where the widely-distributed video of Cllr Pugh shouting profanities at another guest was recorded.
Following the complaint made by Cllrs Jonathan Bacon, Geoff Lumley and Chris Welsford, six potential breaches of the Code of Conduct for Elected Members have been identified by the Assessment Sub-Committee of the Ethical Standards Committee.
“Seeking to bury the story”
The summary of the complaint compiled by the sub-committee has included the “involvement of the Council’s communications department in seeking to bury the story, compromising the impartiality of Council officers and failing to react and respond appropriately to this matter.”
There are three potential breaches relating to Cllr Pugh’s use of the Communications Department – misuse of his position as council leader to secure an advantage, improper use of the Communications Department for political purposes and compromising the impartiality of those working for the council.
The sub-committee felt it was reasonable that Cllr Pugh requested that “Carole Dennett and Jason Kay be asked not to publish details of the incident in the Yacht Haven Car Park.”
Those individuals being the partner of the Island MP and the Editor of the IW Gazette.
Alleged bullying and intimidation
The other three potential breaches for investigation relate to Cllr Pugh’s alleged actions towards his guest at the Ball, Rachael Bushby, at the table during the Ball – bullying, intimidation of witness and failing to treat with respect.
Complaints that were dismissed
The complaint against Cllr Pugh for his aggressive outburst in the car park following the Valentine’s Ball was dismissed as it was previously agreed by the sub-committee, in a previous complaint, that Cllr Pugh was not acting in his official capacity when the incident took place.
Of the complaints, “to prevent another person from gaining access to information to which that person is entitled by law” and “to conduct yourself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office into disrepute” the Assessment Sub-Committee decided to take no action.
Investigation staying on the Island
The Assessment Sub-Committee, who met last Friday, determined that the complaint should be dealt with at a local level – against the wishes to the complainants – and have passed it to the Monitoring Officer for investigation rather than refer it off the Island to the Standards Board.
Cllr Bacon said “We are pleased that these matters are to be investigated. These are serious allegations, particularly those concerning misuse of Council resources for personal reasons, and we feel that a full investigation is appropriate due to the serious impact on public confidence in the Council and Councillors that such behaviour has.
“We feel it is appropriate that the investigation should take place off the Island due to the seriousness of the allegations and the parties involved, in order to ensure that a proper independent consideration of the issues and evidence can take place.
“We are disappointed that it appears that the proposed investigation is to be conducted ‘in-house’ and will be asking whether this point should be reconsidered.”
According to a report on the IW County Press Website this afternoon, David Pugh is refusing to stand down, calling the complaint a political witch hunt.