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First complaint following councillor Cheryl Bacon
holding a Public Meeting in Closed Session

Dear Mr. Tuckley,

I wish to register a formal complaint against Councillor Cheryl Bacon.

My complaint relates to her conduct in the role of Chairperson of the Public Realm, Community Safety, Economic Development and Regeneration Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting held on Wednesday 19th June 2013, at Bexley Civic Centre.

My first complaint relates to her breach of Standing Order 74(1) of the Constitution and Code of Corporate Governance (Standing Orders relating to meetings of the Council, Committee and public meetings of the Cabinet), which states that subject to Standing Order 74(2) and Standing Order 74(3), the public shall have a right to admission to all meetings of Overview and Scrutiny, Regulatory and other committees and the Members Code of Conduct Committee.

At the meeting on 19th June 2013, Councillor Bacon unlawfully took the meeting into closed session without any lawful authority to do so.

As she led the Members and other persons present from the council chamber, having pronounced it would continue elsewhere in closed session, I approached her and informed her I wanted to attend the meeting. She informed me that I couldn't do so as it was in closed session.

I then asked her under what authority she was holding the meeting in closed session. She replied "I am too busy to tell you. I have a meeting to attend."

My second complaint relates to the fact that she took the meeting into closed session without lawful authority or appropriate reason.

Councillor Bacon made the decision to take the meeting into closed session, based on the fact that a member of the public, on three occasions, refused to turn off his audio equipment or leave the meeting when requested to do so and she didn't know the correct procedure to deal with the incident.

The correct procedure would have been to adjourn the meeting until the arrival of police, for them to stand by to prevent a breach of the peace whilst the member of the public was ejected by council employees. Instead, having been informed by the council employee who had called the police that it would take up to an hour for them to attend, she decided she couldn't wait that long and made the unlawful decision to take the meeting into closed session.

This meant that other members of the public who had attended the meeting and were not involved in the incident were deprived of their lawful right to attend the meeting.

As it happened, the police arrived eight minutes after Councillor Bacon made the decision to reconvene the meeting in closed session.

My third complaint relates to the fact that Councillor Bacon excluded members of the public from the meeting, although no confidential information was to be disclosed, as can be verified by the agenda of the meeting. This was contrary to Standing Order 74(2).

My fourth complaint is that even if she had lawful authority to exclude the public from the whole or part of the proceedings, she should have moved a motion to do so. Standing Order 75(3).

I note that as a result of this incident Bexley Council have introduced an updated protocol to deal with similar incidents.

Councillor Bacon's actions, as well as a breach of the Local Government Act 1972, would also be in breach of the new protocol, she having excluded members of the public not involved in the incident.

It is obvious that even though Councillor Bacon receives generous allowances from the public purse to carry out the democratic process on our behalf, she cannot be bothered to learn the procedures or protocols that go with the role. On this basis I do not consider Councillor Bacon a fit or proper person to hold office and am requesting that a full investigation into her breach of the Local Government Act 1972 be carried out.

I am prepared to attend any disciplinary or other legal proceedings in order to give evidence in this matter if required to do so.

I look forward to an acknowledgement of this correspondence in accordance with Bexley Council protocol.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Barnbrook,

22nd June 2013

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