By DAN GRIMMER
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
A decision over whether a standards hearing into the conduct of the former leader of Norfolk County Council is held in public will not be made until the day the committee meets.
Derrick Murphy, leader of the Conservative-controlled council since October 2010, has stepped down to focus on a standards hearing.
The hearing was ordered after complaints over an email sent by Kevin Vaughan, then political assistant to County Hall Conservatives, to BBC Radio Norfolk.
When that email, which informed the radio station that West Norfolk Council leader Nick Daubney faced a leadership challenge and had failed to procure alternative technology to incineration, came to light, it led to an independent investigation.
That concluded Mr Vaughan acted on the wishes of Mr Murphy and sparked complaints the ex-leader brought his office into disrepute and failed to treat Mr Vaughan and Mr Daubney with respect.
The standards committee will hear that case next month, and Mr Murphy, who represents Freebridge Lynn, and the complainants want it held in public.
But Victoria McNeill, head of law at County Hall, said that was a decision for the committee on the day. She said: “I am currently considering whether any part of the committee papers will need to go below the line, and if so, the standards committee will be asked to consider any reasons for that at the committee hearing.
“It’s for the standards committee to make that decision and it’s not something I can decide in advance.”
On Monday, the council rejected a suggestion by Labour group leader George Nobbs that a standards committee in a neighbouring county should consider the case.
Mr Nobbs had said, while he did not doubt the impartiality and judgment of the standards committee, made up of five Conservatives, a Liberal Democrat and a Green, he feared some of the public might.
But Mr Nobbs was told the full council had previously agreed its own standards committee should consider complaints and nothing different could be done.
When Mr Nobbs asked chairman Ian Monson if he could introduce an emergency motion to change that, Mr Monson refused to accept it.