Insufficient evidence in a code of conduct complaint has meant a Bembridge Parish Councillor has been cleared of allegedly swearing at a fellow member in a public meeting.
Cllr Richard Weaver, who has served on the parish council since May 2017, allegedly called Cllr Alasdair Steane a c**t — something he has always denied — at a meeting in September 2018.
Report: Had ‘more likely than not’ sworn
An earlier report produced by the Isle of Wight Council found Cllr Weaver had ‘more likely than not’ sworn at Cllr Steane and he ‘failed to meet the obligation’ of two aspects of the code of conduct — treating others with respect and not bringing his position or the parish council into disrepute.
Speaking at a meeting of the Isle of Wight Council’s appeals sub-committee today (Wednesday), Ben Gard, acting as investigating officer, found the explanation given to him by Cllrs Weaver, Grant Stillman and Margaret Donlon plausible, that Cllr Steane was called a ‘cult’. However the evidence was insufficient.
Audio and visual evidence was also proved inconclusive.
Allegations of bullying and harassment
The incident occurred after former parish council clerk Emma Goldring gave an emotional speech resigning from her post, alleging she had been bullied and harassed by some Open Bembridge councillors and supporters.
As the councillors settled to resume the meeting, it is alleged Cllr Weaver called Cllr Steane ‘a c**t.’
The video showed Cllr Steane reacting to an insult and trying to bring the matter to the attention of the chair, Cllr Keith Fagan, who carried on with the meeting.
Cllr Steane tried to bring it up again, stating he had just been called the ‘c-word’.
Cllr Stillman then replied saying,
“You are one. If anyone should resign, it is you.”
At the appeals meeting, Cllr Weaver questioned how Mr Gard could find his account plausible yet ‘arrive at any other conclusion’.
He defended himself saying when he first answered investigations questions he said he ‘may have used the word cult’ but having watched the video reminded him he ‘simply mouthed something’, that was not audible.
Weaver: “Obvious motive to discredit me”
“You have three people who did not hear an offensive word. I think we all agree that if the word had been used, all those present would have taken issue against it.
“It is perhaps most telling that at no time was there a reaction from other councillors, members of the public or the clerk.”
He also produced Facebook posts from the Open Bembridge page saying there was ‘obvious motive to discredit me’.
Weaver: Publicly documented hatred towards me
A post from July 2018, before the incident occurred, contained a picture of a Weever fish, warning members of the group to look out for the ‘slimy, little creature … spellings may vary’ that ‘can be crushed under foot’.
“It is publicly documented there is hatred towards me — the motive behind this complaint is to damage my reputation and business.”
Found not guilty
Cllr John Kilpatrick, the chair of the committee, said:
“On the balance of probabilities and having carefully considered the conflicting evidence, Cllr Weaver is found not guilty.
“It is the decision of the panel that there is insufficient reliable and irrefutable evidence to reach a conclusion that a breach of the code of member conduct has occurred.”
Cllr Weaver had nothing further to say.
This article is from the BBC’s LDRS (Local Democracy Reporter Service) scheme, which OnTheWight is taking part in. Some alterations and additions may be been made by OnTheWight. Ed