I recently read your article from April 2006 about the Standards Board. My wife and I are currently under investigation by them for alleged breaches of the Code of Conduct and have bent over backwards to cooperate with their investigator. We have been sent a draft copy of their findings and transcripts of interviews with complainants and witnesses, the whole package being inches thick of double side printing. We [have been given two weeks to respond] which... allows us no time at all to go through everything.
Our main concern, having read the transcript and the draft report is that any evidence or statements that are in any way critical of us get included and yet anything said in our favour is rejected. This happens even when both statements are made by the same person, so that when one witness says something to the effect that we can be a bit opinionated and want things done our way, that is included in the report, but when she makes many criticisms of the the other councillors, the way meetings were chaired and the withholding of information and secrecy that surrounded the council's operation and so on, these things are ignored.
By no stretch of the imagination are we being given a fair hearing. It is as if they set out to find us guilty and that's what they have done. This investigation has been going on for months and my wife and I are regretting that we ever decided to stand for the Parish Council in the first place. We are both retired and felt that we could make a contribution for the good of the village. We were quite saddened when we realised that the other councillors were not only lazy and interested in nothing that wasn't in their interest but totally against any form of openness or public consultation. We were always treated as the outsiders as we moved here 10 years ago and in this part of [the country] that is consider to be a transient.
During council meetings voices were raised and this is what we are charged with, 'being disrespectful'. I know of no other area were respect does not have to be earned. We are at aloss as to what to do. We believed that justice would prevail and, although we might receive some criticism they would not find against us. The draft report suggests that our crimes are, in fact, so bad that our punishment is beyond the Standards Board's powers so they are going to sent it to the Adjudication Panel. Frankly, in one way I will be delighted if we are banned for ever from serving on Council, the stress this has caused us has been extraordinary as has been its effect on our village, splitting it into factions. On the other hand, we just don't think this is right and want to fight on, but can't get any help or advice from anyone.
We cannot get involved in any expensive legal battle, and frankly think that as the Standards Board seems to be a law unto itself that it would just be money wasted anyway. We are at a loss as to how to fight on. If you have any advice, or know where we should turn for help, it will be most gratefully received.
I have published this in ins entirety as I know from other emails that it reflects a growing frustration with the way the Standards Board operates. Is it any wonder that most people think going into local politics is just not worth the candle?
Do leave any advice for my correspondents in the comments.