BREAKING NEWS: Former county leader broke councillors’ code of conduct
The former leader of Norfolk County Council brought his office into disrepute by telling a political assistant to lie about the source of a damaging email about West Norfolk Council to a BBC radio host, a standards hearing has ruled.
Derrick Murphy was found to have committed one breach of the councillors’ code of conduct but was cleared of six other allegations.
The Freebridge Lynn councillor was found to have brought his office into disrepute by telling the former Tory political assistant Kevin Vaughan to state that Twin Hatter councillors had the idea to send the email to BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Nick Conrad.
However, the committee did not uphold the findings of independent investigator Jenni Richards QC that he had committed three other breaches of the code which alleged that he had failed to treat Mr Vaughan with respect.
Three further allegations had been found not to be proven by Ms Richards.
The verdicts, which were delivered a short time ago, came at the end of a dramatic afternoon in which Mr Murphy claimed the authority’s own chief executive, David White, acted illegally in recording a phone conversation between them three days after the email came to light without his knowledge or consent.
But Mr White said he had only recorded the key conversation because of his and other senior officers’ concerns over Mr Murphy’s behaviour.
After deliberations, the sanctions imposed by the committee were a letter of censure to be written to Mr Murphy, a written report to be sent to full council and Mr Murphy has been ordered to undergo ethics training.
After today’s hearing, Mr Murphy said: ”To be cleared on six of the seven allegations is amazing.” But when asked how this would affect his position, he said: “I have no idea.”
However, one of the complainants, John Martin, has said: “The complainants are naturally very concerned and surprised by the failure of the standards committee to treat these complaints with the seriousness that they warranted.
“I fear that this will send out a message to the public of Norfolk that the standards and ethics regime in County Hall is far from robust.
“We now need to take advice as to the most appropriate means to challenge this decision.”
After members of the standards committee agreed for the session to be held in public at County Hall this morning, Ms Richards full report was disclosed.
In the 40-page document she concluded that Mr Murphy had been in breach of the council’s code of conduct by telling former Tory political assistant Kevin Vaughan to state that an email he had sent to BBC Radio Norfolk presenter Nick Conrad has been requested by members of both the county and borough councils - the so-called Twin Hatters.
She also found that Mr Murphy had breached the code by attempting to mislead the chief executive over his role in the affair during an internal inquiry.
However, in his evidence to the committee Mr Vaughan said the origins of the email had been both the pressure placed on Twin Hatters over issues relating to the incinerator proposal and the anger of current acting leader Bill Borrett that he would not be able to appear live on Mr Conrad’s programme in which borough council leader Nick Daubney was interviewed.
He said the pressure being placed on Twin Hatters had been “interfering with their roles as county councillors” and insisted there was a distinction between whose idea it was to send the email and the view that something should be done to make alternative information public.
The report also reveals that Mr Murphy’s legal team wanted the transcript of a conversation with Mr White, which was recorded without the leader’s knowledge, to be ruled inadmissible. But Miss Richards rejected the claim in her report arguing that it was a matter for her to decide how much weight should be given to the tape.
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Weather for King's Lynn
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 13 C
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Temperature: 6 C to 18 C
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