October 13, 2021 10.23 am

Councillor faces committee expulsion after officer complaint

“Maybe I was harsh on him, but he wasn’t getting back to me”

A Lincoln Labour councillor could be kicked off two committees after a row with a council officer.

A Standard’s Hearing at the City of Lincoln Council found that Councillor Gary Hewson had breached the code of conduct during phone conversations with Resident Involvement Manager Chris Morton in which he tried to get officers to visit local residents as part of a tour of his patch.

The committee asked Councillor Hewson to make a “sincere apology” to Mr Morton and requested that council leader Councillor Ric Metcalfe removed him from the Performance Scrutiny and Housing Sub-Committees for the remainder of the year.

Mr Morton complained about Councillor Hewson following a tour of inspection around Moorland and Boultham Park in August.

The Boultham ward councillor wanted to know when officers would visit the St Andrew’s Gardens area, but was told by Mr Morton that it was not on the route at the time.

Mr Morton said Councillor Hewson “went off on one” – including threatening to go to the officer’s bosses and press, as well as telling him he should not be in his job – before he could resolve the issue.

Councillor Hewson later emailed the officer to apologise after the complaint was made, however, Mr Morton rejected the apology, believing it to be insincere.

During the Standards hearing on Tuesday, monitoring officer Carolyn Wheater told councillors there was “an absolute expectation” that housing officers would go to the area Councillor Hewson wanted to and that it was understandable a breakdown in communication was “very, frustrating”.

However, she said that Mr Morton had not “categorically stated” the officers would not go to the area, but had been trying to contact officers to try and solve the issues.

“Councillors do have a role and can challenge officers in various matters and I understand that constituents may see his behaviour as a hardworking and determined councillor acting for them,”

“However, with all that content… none of these mitigating circumstances… excuses the behaviour that Councillor Hewson displayed towards this officer.

“Language and behaviour like this does not show respect. It constitutes bullying behaviour.”

Councillor Hewson wanted officers to tour St Andrews Gardens, but was unhappy to be told it was not on the original route. | Photo: Google Streetview

Councillor Hewson acknowledged he had crossed a line in the words he had used, however, he told the committee he also should be given an apology because he believed the council officers had done wrong themselves

He was told during the meeting that if he had an issue with how council officers behaved it would be appropriate to raise it through a separate process.

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