POLICE and Cornwall Council are involved after a public meeting of a local council descended into disrespectful chaos.
During a meeting of St Cleer Parish Council on Wednesday June 28 which was being streamed live via Facebook, members of the public watching were shocked as voices were raised and personal insults thrown.
The meeting began with a public presentation seeking support for the Darite defibrillator, but became disrupted after a point of order was raised by a member.
Members of the public witnessed as:
• One councillor (Cllr A) announced it was his intention to seek a civil injunction on another member of the council (Cllr B) so as to call a halt to behaviour and emails described as ‘abusive’ toward others.
• The two councillors told each other to ‘hold your tongue’ and ‘shut up’.
• The meeting was suspended for a few minutes, during which time heated discussion continued and a motion was proposed by Cllr B and passed, banning Cllr A from speaking for the remainder of the meeting.
• One or two other councillors were drawn in to the discussion, with one speaking in defence of the point of order raised and agreeing that something needed to be done about the ‘criticising, damning’ emails.
• Cllr B remarked that he had ‘had to sit here and be civil to people he would rather smack up the side of the face’.
• The majority of the councillors present sat in calm silence throughout these events, with the suggestion then made and agreed that the business of the council should be allowed to continue, rather than the meeting be stopped.
• Cllr A stepped outside, and as he was coming back in through the door Cllr B was seen to go to shut the door and tell him to get outside and during the following heated verbal exchange between the two in the doorway, it’s alleged a threat of violence was made by Cllr B.
• A member of the council later got up and walked out, describing what he had seen as ‘disgraceful’ and ‘behaving like children’.
• Still in public session, personal information of a sensitive nature was disclosed about a named former member of staff and discussed, and disclosure of confidential details took place about a potential new member of staff, identifying their current role and employer.
A spokesperson for St Cleer Parish Council said that the video had been taken down temporarily while Cornwall Council investigated potential legal implications.
The meeting has been described as disappointing by the Cornwall Association of Local Councils (CALC).
Its executive officer Sarah Mason told The Cornish Times: “I am a member of the national Civility and Respect Board – a joint project between the National Association of Local Councils and the Society of Local Council Clerks which aims to address bullying, harassment and poor behaviour in our sector.
“It was disappointing to see how easily a local council meeting can become disrupted when members fail to treat each other with respect. This can prevent councils from functioning effectively, councillors from representing local people, discourage people from getting involved, including standing for election, and undermine public confidence and trust in local democracy.
“I hope that the council is able to move on from this and begin to address the needs of the residents.”
Cornwall Council’s Standards Committee and monitoring officer investigate complaints made against local councillors and reports of breaches of the Code of Conduct. The Council said: “We have not received any complaints regarding the meeting, so no action is being taken.”
A report has been made to Devon and Cornwall Police.