Thursday, January 15, 2009

Liberal Democrat Councillor - Misconduct

Thanks Julian. You made my hat trick for the day

THE Liberal Democrats' next general election contender for Totnes, Julian Brazil, faces being suspended as a district councillor following a dust-up with one of his council's own officers.

The outspoken district councillor has been accused of breaching the national council code of conduct because of his behaviour.

Now South Hams Council's standards board has taken a decision behind closed doors to press ahead with a hearing.

If he is found 'guilty', Mr Brazil could be suspended and barred from taking part in any district council activities for the next six months.

Although South Hams Council has admitted that the standards board, made up of district councillor and independent members, will be holding a public hearing some time in the next month into a councillor's behaviour, it has so far refused to reveal who it is.

But former school teacher Mr Brazil, who is also a county councillor as well as the Liberal Democrat's prospective parliamentary candidate for the Totnes seat, revealed he is the subject of the hearing.

He explained it centred on a 'robust discussion' between himself and a council officer over a benefits fraud allegation and a local businessman he claims was being bullied.

"I was asked by a member of the public for support and that is what I did," he said.

He said he had confronted the officer concerned over the allegations. The officer had later complained about him.

The standards board excluded both the public and the press from its meeting this week as it studied a report from the council's own legal team over the alleged confrontation involving Mr Brazil before deciding to press ahead with a hearing.

Mr Brazil said he had seen a copy of the report and accepted that everything it declares was said is correct although, he claimed, it has been taken out of context.

Mr Brazil has been a district councillor representing the Saltstone ward of the district council for nine years.

He has been a Kingsbridge and Stokenham county councillor for almost four years.

He was last year selected to be the Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate for Totnes with the aim of taking on sitting Tory MP Anthony Steen at the next general election.

South Hams Council's standards board is made up of two district councillors, an independent chairman and two other independent members.

They will form the panel which will decide Mr Brazil's 'innocence' or 'guilt' when the hearing takes place.

Their ultimate punishment is the six-month suspension from council activities. They can also mete out lesser punishments that include ordering him to make a written apology, telling him to undertake council training or formally censuring him — which means giving him a stiff telling off.

Mr Brazil said he found it 'extraordinary' that the case was being brought.

"I feel I am there not to represent the council or the council officers but to represent the local people and local communities and get the best deal for them. South Hams Council has never liked that approach," he said.

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