Oakham town councillor breached conduct rules six times

Oakham town councillor Martin Brookes

Oakham town councillor Martin Brookes

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A TOWN councillor who displayed an obscene poster on an official notice board and abused colleagues online has been found to have brought his council and his post into disrepute.

A local government standards tribunal was brought against Oakham town councillor Martin Brookes after a series of allegations were made about his conduct.

A total of 14 allegations were considered by a tribunal panel at Leicester Crown Court on August 15 and September 30, the details of which were made available in a report last week.

The tribunal found that in six of the 14 allegations, Coun Brookes had breached the council’s code of conduct.

Coun Brookes, of Willow Crescent, Oakham, could now be suspended from the council for up to six months.

Janet Kentridge, representing Standards for England, told the tribunal that in April last year, Coun Brookes made allegations about duties carried out by the town clerk.

The tribunal found that whether Coun Brookes’ allegations were true or not, by publishing them on his blog he had made a personal attack on the clerk.

The tribunal report said: “It is difficult to see how this kind of public spat can do other than bring the town council and the respondent’s own office as councillor, into disrepute.”

Miss Kentridge also described a blog made in May last year, in which Coun Brookes published details of a grievance the town clerk made against the council, based on Coun Brookes’ conduct towards him.

Coun Brookes included extracts from the grievance and his own comments including calling a number of former councillors “bullies” and “thugs”.

The report said this was “simply vulgar abuse, again evidencing a lack of respect toward the recipients of that abuse.”

In the same blog post Coun Brookes made personal comments about the daughter of a fellow councillor.

The tribunal found Coun Brookes had failed to respect the human rights of the daughter and her family, and was again in breach of the council’s code of conduct.

Coun Brookes was found to have shown a lack of respect to a former councillor in the same month, by accusing him of “online cowardly bullying” in a blog post.

The tribunal found that whether Coun Brookes’ accusations were true or not, by publishing them online he had shown a lack of respect to the former councillor and was in breach of the code of conduct.

Miss Kentridge also described how on May 8, 2010, Coun Brookes displayed an obscene poster he claimed had been sent to him, on the council’s notice board, damaging the board.

Coun Brookes received a police caution for the incident.

The tribunal found Coun Brookes brought the council’s reputation into disrepute by displaying the poster.

The same judgement was made of an incident in June last year when Coun Brookes refused to leave a staffing committee meeting to discuss the town clerk’s grievance. He left only when the police arrived.

One allegation about a comment Coun Brookes made on his blog, which said he would call the police if a particular member of the public came to a future council meeting, was dismissed by the tribunal as an “empty threat”, which should not have been investigated.

The remaining allegations were dismissed as Coun Brookes was found not to have been acting in his official capacity as a councillor, so his actions were not covered by the council’s code of conduct.

The tribunal has adjourned so Coun Brookes, who is representing himself, and Standards for England can make submissions about what action the tribunal should take.

Submissions have to be made by Monday.

Coun Brookes was elected unopposed to the council in February 2010 but resigned in July 2010. He was again elected unopposed in the local government elections in June this year.

Coun Brookes said this week: “I would just like to say I am sorry if any of my actions have offended the people I represent in my ward of Oakham south east.

“My actions have always been reactive, something I am not proud of.

“I have always held the residents’ opinions before my own, and hope to continue to serve their needs.”