Further Breaches of the Councillor Code by Hughenden Parish Councillor

Councillor Linda Derrick of Hughenden Parish Council has committed further breaches of the councillor code of conduct (the code), a Hearing Sub-Committee of Buckinghamshire Council has found.

Cllr Derrick breached the Code in three ways when publishing personal details about a staff member on her blog: by disclosing information the councillor knew or should have known was confidential; in bullying the employee by disclosing their personal data; and in showing disrespect to the staff member.

Councillor Howard Mordue Chairman of the Sub-Committee said: “Cllr Derrick has shown a reckless disregard for her responsibilities as a councillor towards an employee. Cllr Derrick caused undue distress to a staff member by wilfully publishing confidential and personal information.”

Cllr Mordue said: “This is the second time in a year that Cllr Derrick has been found to have breached the code when publishing information about an employee. Breaching the code is a violation of public trust. The Panel felt it had no option but to recommend strong sanctions to Hughenden Parish Council. We therefore recommend that for a period of time the Parish Council removes Cllr Derrick from, or does not appoint her to, any committee, working group or panel which may give her access to employee information. We also recommend that Cllr Derrick does not attend the council’s offices except for any formal meetings until she has undertaken specific training on the correct use of personal data.”

The Sub-Committee also recommended that Cllr Derrick should apologise to the complainant and that the Parish Council should formally censure Cllr Derrick for these breaches. Cllr Mordue said: “Cllr Derrick needs to become more trustworthy with regard to staff and in handling their confidential information. The recommended sanctions are intended to minimise Cllr Derrick’s contact with staff while she deepens her knowledge of personal data. Minimising her contact is regrettable but proportionate. This has an impact on her constituents and fellow councillors. But that impact is due to Cllr Derrick’s repeated conduct and we would ask Cllr Derrick to reflect on that.”

The Sub-Committee was also concerned that Cllr Derrick did not engage with the complaints process. Cllr Mordue said: “Cllr Derrick’s breach of confidentiality occurred in the context of a previously live complaint. And now Cllr Derrick has refused to engage with this current complaint from day one. The code is very clear that a councillor subject to a complaint must properly engage with an investigation process. In failing to do so in both cases Cllr Derrick has disrespected a fundamental principle of public life. This has caused additional stress for the complainant and has prolonged this process unnecessarily”.

Hughenden Parish Council will now be asked to consider implementing the recommended sanctions.