As chairman stands aside, committee will decide if private spat between former UKIP member - now a Conservative- and former UKIP councillor was ‘tit for tat’ or something worse
- Credit: Archant
Conduct committee chairman Sam Hoy stood down temporarily today after it was discovered a complainant had signed her nomination to be a county council candidate.
Cllr Sam Hoy, together with an independent committee member, had decided there was sufficient evidence against former UKIP Fenland councillor Dave Patrick, now an Elm parish councillor, for the case to go before the committee.
However she did not realise the complainant, David Gutteridge, a former UKIP member who switched to the Conservatives, had been one of those to sign her papers until last weekend and then decided to withdraw.
Cllr Hoy explained that she knew Mr Gutteridge who was a party activist but not close friend and she had been guided throughout by the legal team at Fenland Hall.
However when a copy of her nomination form appeared on social media over the weekend – with Mr Gutteridge as one of the 10 signatures to propose her- she felt it right to withdraw. A photo of Mr Gutteridge, with Cllr Hoy and other Conservative members and councillors, was also posted on social media. The signatures had been collected by Tory agent and Fenland councillor Chris Boden during a branch meeting
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A letter from Mr Gutteridge, published in another local paper in June, also came to light in which he said he was supporting Cllr Hoy as “ I personally know her but she also has been a councillor at every level and knows what she is doing – easily capable of doing the job and doing it right”.
Today’s hearing went ahead with Cllr Hoy’s deputy, Cllr Boden, in the chair when it was agreed a full investigation should continue.
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Cllr Patrick said later he had made a separate complaint to the conduct committee.
He said Mr Gutteridge clearly knew Cllr Hoy and claimed she had “let this matter intentionally come to a full hearing to discredit myself and has breached the code of conduct by intentionally withholding information and failing to declare the level of association with David Gutteridge.”.
The conduct committee was asked to determine whether Cllr Patrick, when he posted a private message, knew that Mr Gutteridge was an Asperger’s sufferer.
Cllr Patrick private messaged Mr Gutteridge to say that “people like you have nothing of value to offer society”.
Cllr Patrick was responding to Mr Gutteridge’s comment that “you really are a nobody. Good Garry beat you (in the district council election), they deserved better than you”.
The councillor claims he had been a victim of a barrage of “extremely distasteful” comments by Mr Gutteridge and that he was unaware of his medical condition.
The conduct committee decided today that an investigation was needed to find out what had been said in previous messages between the pair and whether Cllr Patrick knew about Mr Gutteridge’s Asperger’s.
Cllr Patrick said: “Over a period of time Mr Gutteridge has made several demeaning and personal comments on social media about myself.
“That comment (You really are a nobody ...) was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“The comments made to Mr Gutteridge were made by me as an individual and not in the capacity as a councillor and I believe that as an individual I do have the right to comment when somebody continually hurls abuse at me.”
Mr Gutteridge said: “I am shocked a person who represents others, in an elected office can treat anyone like this, let alone a person with disabilities.
“I didn’t expect him to admit he knows about my disabilities but he does; there is simply no way he can not as I am pretty vocal about autism. To not know I have Asperger’s he would have to sleepwalk through everyday life. His remark that I am basically constantly insulting him is rubbish.”
At the meeting, both Councillor Nigel Russell and Councillor Rob Skoulding described the messages as “tit for tat”.
Councillor David Mason said an investigation was needed to find out what provoked Cllr Patrick’s message.
Councillor Michael Humphrey said he was “disturbed” about the “tone” of Cllr Patrick’s message.
“It concerns me that an elected member would respond to social media in this way. I was disturbed by the tone of the message.
“Anyone in our position needs to learn to respond in an appropriate manner,” he said.
Cllr Boden said the comments made by Cllr Patrick were “potentially dreadful” and he had been “injudicious” to make them.
An investigation will need to figure out whether Cllr Patrick was a councillor at the time the message was sent (he lost his district council seat on May 8 and was co-opted to the parish council on May 19), whether it was sent as an individual or councillor, what was said in previous messages between the two parties and whether it could be “reasonably assumed” Cllr Patrick was aware of Mr Gutteridge’s condition.
Mr Gutteridge to Cllr Patrick:
You really are a nobody. Good Garry beat you, they deserved better than you.
Cllr Patrick to Mr Gutteridge:
Why don’t you go and £&@? yourself you cretinous person. You are just a very sad person. People like you have absolutely nothing of value to offer society. You are just totally full of hatred and a vile person. Take your poison elsewhere.
After the meeting Cllr Patrick said: “Having read the code of conduct I am clearly satisfied that I have not breached this code as I was not acing in any official capacity and only responding privately to an insult by an individual to an individual.
“This matter has been allowed to progress to full committee in order to damage my public standing and nothing more.”