Complaints Procedure – Members Code of Conduct

The Authority’s Standards sub-committee is responsible for dealing with complaints relating to a Member of the Authority where it is considered that the Member may be in breach of the Code of Conduct for Members.

How do I complain?
If you want to complain about the conduct of a Member of the Authority you should submit your complaint marked CONFIDENTIAL – COMPLAINT to:

The Monitoring Officer
Parke
Bovey Tracey
Newton Abbot
TQ13 9JQ
Tel: 01626 832093
Email: complaints@dartmoor.gov.uk

The complaint should be in writing, preferably using either of the forms below. If this presents difficulties for you and you do not have anyone who can assist you, please contact us on the above number in the first instance.

How will my complaint be dealt with?
The complaint will be considered by the Monitoring Officer to check that it relates to a matter covered by the Code of Conduct.

The Monitoring Officer may ask you for further information or clarification and will usually inform the Member(s) concerned that a complaint has been received and invite them to make a statement. The Monitoring Officer will also consult with one of the Independent Persons appointed under section 28(7) of the Localism Act 2011.

The Monitoring Officer has to make an initial assessment:

  • whether the matter complained of is capable of being a breach of the code of conduct
  • whether the Member admits or denies of the allegation, in whole or part
  • whether there is evidence of a breach of the code of conduct
  • the seriousness of any apparent breach and the balance of public interest in any investigation
  • whether any reasonable explanation has been offered which should be taken into account

The Monitoring Officer may decide:

  • that no breach appears to have occurred
  • that a breach appears to have occurred, but no further action should be taken
  • to explore the scope for a “no fault” outcome (eg by mediation or the Member receiving additional training)
  • that a formal investigation is necessary
  • that the complaint if proven, could constitute a criminal offence.  In these instances the complainant will be referred to the police.

1.    Decide no further action be taken
The Monitoring Officer can decide that no action is required in respect of a complaint.  This could be due to the fact that the Monitoring Officer does not consider the complaint to be sufficiently serious to warrant any action.  Alternatively it could be due to the length of time elapsed since the alleged conduct, or because it is considered that there has been no failure to comply with the Code of Conduct.

There is no right of appeal against a decision to take no further action.

2.    Refer for other action

The Monitoring Officer can decide that action other than an investigation should be explored. The suitability of other action is dependent on the nature of the complaint.  Deciding to deal pro-actively with a matter in a positive way that does not involve an investigation can be a good way to resolve matters that are less serious and may produce a more effective result.

Other action may also be appropriate where a breakdown in relationships within the Authority is apparent, evidence of which may include:

  • a pattern of allegations of disrespect, bullying or harassment
  • a series of ‘tit for tat’ allegations

If the Monitoring Officer embarks on a course of other action, it will be emphasised to the parties concerned that the purpose of other action is not to find out whether the Member has breached the code. The decision is made as an alternative to investigation.

There is no appeal against the decision to deal with a complaint by other action.

3.    Referral for investigation
The Monitoring Officer will appoint an investigating officer, who may be an officer of the Authority or may be an external contractor. On completion of the investigation, which must be within 3 months, the Monitoring Officer will consider the Investigating Officer’s report and determine whether to convene a Hearing Panel

If the Monitoring Officer considers there has not been a failure to comply with the code of conduct, the complaint may be dismissed and the investigation closed.

If the Monitoring Officer considers that there appears to have been a failure to comply with the code of conduct, a Hearing Panel will be convened. A Hearing Panel will be comprised of three Members of the Authority, who will normally be members of the Standards sub-committee. The hearing will be a public meeting at which the Panel will hear and question the Investigating Officer’s report, anything the Member(s) concerned wish to say and the advice of the Monitoring Officer.

The Hearing is a formal meeting of the Authority and is not a court of law. It does not hear evidence under oath, but it does decide factual evidence on the balance of probabilities.  The subject Member may choose to be represented by a counsel, solicitor or any other person they wish. The public are not able to make representations at the hearing, but can be present if the meeting is held in public. The Hearings Panel will usually announce its decision at the end of the hearing and if possible make a short written decision available on the day of the hearing. A full written decision will be drawn up shortly after the end of the hearing and made available to all relevant parties. A summary of the decision may be published in a local newspaper and on the Authority’s website.

There is no right of appeal against a decision of the Hearing Panel.