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Agenda item

Assessment of Complaint: COC142986



A complaint was submitted by Councillor Chris Rickett, the Complainant, regarding the conduct of Councillor David Gagen, the Subject Member, both members of Clyffe Pypard Parish Council. 


The complaint involved allegations of bullying and harassment, over a prolonged period of time, which include actions and behaviour of the Subject Member at a Council meeting held on 27 October 2022 and other incidents where the Subject Member is said to have objected to minutes of previous meetings, challenged payments to the previous clerk, publicly jeered at the Complainant as she left a meeting, emailed inaccurate information pertaining to the Complainants role in the circulation of minutes and that the Subject Member accused the Complainant of not sharing with other Members, information relating to agenda items.


The Complainant believed that, through these actions, the Subject Member had

breached the following sections of the Code:


  • He/she shall behave in such a way that a reasonable person would regard as respectful.
  • He/she shall not act in a way which a reasonable person would regard as bullying or intimidatory.
  • The Nolan Principles of integrity and accountability.



The Sub-Committee was satisfied the initial tests of the assessment criteria had been met, in that the Subject Member was and remains a member of Clyffe Pypard Parish Council and that a copy of the relevant Code of Conduct was provided for the assessment.


The Sub-Committee therefore had to decide whether the alleged behaviour would, if proven, amount to a breach of the Code of Conduct. If the Sub-Committee concluded that the alleged behaviour would amount to a breach, then it would have to go on to decide whether it was appropriate under the assessment criteria to refer the matter for investigation.


In reaching its decision, the Sub-Committee took into account the original complaint and supporting information, the response of the Subject Member, and the report of the Monitoring Officer.


The Sub-Committee also considered a written statement from the Complainant, who was not in attendance, and a written statement from the Subject Member, who was also not in attendance.


The Complainant alleged that through these actions the Subject Member had undermined the reputation of the Council and as part of a longstanding pattern of behaviour represented bullying of her as the Chairman.


The Subject Member refuted all of the allegations and contends that the complaint was not genuine and that it was the Complainant and her husband (also a member of the Parish Council) that were the main bullies on the Parish Council and that any distress felt by the Complainant was due to her bullying tactics failing and that other members on the Parish Council were holding the Complainant (in her role as Chairman) to account.


The Subject Member raised the absence of any evidence to the allegations made by the Complainant and stated that the Complainants representation of events at the meeting on 27 October was not honest.


The Subject Member contended that his comment at the meeting was ‘well done, Chris’ and was directed at another member of that name and not the Complainant.


The Subject Member confirmed that he did email the former clerk to enquire on the availability of the minutes for a previous meeting, however, receiving no reply, he felt it reasonable to raise the matter with the Chairman.   


The Subject Member felt that he had always acted appropriately in his role as Parish Councillor and that he had never been accused of misogyny or laziness in his entire life before these allegations. He further suggested that it was the Complainant that had breached the Nolan Principle of integrity, through her actions.


The Subject Member also stated that enquiries he made in relation to the publication of the agenda in line with legislation was done so in the interest of protecting the Parish Council against making any unlawful decisions.


The Subject Member felt that it was his duty to ask questions and hold the Council to account, in order to protect the Council.



The Sub-Committee noted that the dispute between the parties appeared to have arisen due to ongoing clashes over a period of time, which had brought about a division between the Council members.


The Sub Committee noted that there was a high level of frustration felt by the Subject Member in the way in which the Council was functioning, with processes and deadlines not being followed or maintained, poor communication and queries to address such issues not being considered appropriately. As such, the Sub Committee did not find evidence of behaviour towards the Complainant that could be considered bullying, harassment or misogynistic


The Sub Committee further noted the refusal to the offer of help from members and officers of Wiltshire Council to provide the Council with guidance and mediation to help address some of the issues which had arisen over a period of time.


The Sub-Committee felt that there were several opportunities which had been missed to resolve or improve the operational and communication issues at the Council, which should be reviewed, in order to facilitate a fully functioning Parish Council moving forward.


The Sub Committee therefore, resolved to take no further action in respect of the complaint.


It was;




In accordance with the approved arrangements for resolving standards complaints adopted by Council on 9 July 2019, which came into effect on 1 January 2020, and after hearing from the Independent Person, the Assessment Sub-Committee determined to take no further action in respect of the complaint.




The Sub Committee suggested that additional signatories to the Parish Council bank account were appointed to enable the efficient transaction of Parish Council financial business.


The Sub Committee suggested that steps were taken (if they had not already been taken) to appoint a Parish Clerk to promote the proper administration of the Parish Council, having carefully reviewed the requirements of the role and the number of hours required.


The Sub Committee suggested that steps were taken to ensure that in the future, Minutes were published within a reasonably short time after meetings were held and that Parish Council correspondence was answered in a timely manner.


The Sub Committee noted that the Monitoring Officer of Wiltshire Council intended to repeat his offer to attend a meeting with members of the Council to discuss the longstanding difficulties outlined above and with a view to members agreeing a positive way forward. The Sub Committee suggested that all members of the Council take up this offer and approach the meeting with a focus on that objective, as well as a commitment in advance of any meeting to working towards all signing the Positive Conduct, Positive Democracy Charter.






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