That Mary Murphy decision in full

CODE OF CONDUCT FOR MEMBERS

STANDARDS (ASSESSMENT) SUB-COMMITTEE

DECISION NOTICE – NO FURTHER ACTION
DATE OF NOTICE 29 OCTOBER 2010

Complaint – Reference LA2010/7

On 21 October 2010, the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee considered a complaint from Mr Marc Hudson (the Complainant) concerning the alleged conduct of Councillor Mary Murphy a member of the Council (the Member). A summary of the complaint is set out below.

Please note the Complainant has the right to request a review of this decision and that information in this decision notice should be treated as confidential for the purposes of any further proceedings and should not be disclosed. Where the decision notice contains personal information regarding third parties, care should be taken not to disclose this part of the information.

Summary of the Complaint

The Complainant is the editor of a publication entitled Manchester Climate Fortnightly (which is also known as “MCFly”). The complaint relates to an e-mail that appears to have been posted by Mary Murphy from a web address at <marymurphy1746@hotmail.com> to an online debate forum entitled Hulme-Residents-Online-Group@yahoogroups.com on 7th October 2010 at 12.41. The Complainant states that in his opinion this e-mail purported to be “the complete text of a Manchester Climate Fortnightly news story”, but that there “were many serious alterations made, so it appears “MCFly” approves/endorses the Labour candidate for the November 4th by-election” in Hulme Ward. The Complainant states that in his opinion “this is false and fundamentally dishonest”.

A copy of an article entitled “Are we Hulmin’? Yes we are”, printed in Issue 57 of Manchester Climate Fortnightly, which was published on September 19 2010, was supplied to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee for information.

A copy of an article entitled “It’s the Green Party and you can cry if you want to”, printed in issue 58 of Manchester Climate Fortnightly, which was published on October 3 2010 was supplied to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee for information.

A copy of the e-mail that is the subject of this complaint which appears to have been posted by Mary Murphy from a web address at <marymurphy1746@hotmail.com> to an online debate forum entitled Hulme-Residents-Online-Group@yahoogroups.com on 7th October, 2010 at 12.41 was supplied to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee for information.

A copy of a summary prepared by the Complainant of the changes that he alleges that the Member made to the original article published in issue 59 of Manchester Climate Change Fortnightly entitled “It’s the Green Party and you can cry if you want to” was supplied to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee for information. In this summary, the Complainant states that the Member;

(a) does not ever alert “voters to the alterations made” to the original article; and

(b) that all of the alterations made by the councillor to the original article “would make a reasonable reader believe that MCFly supports the Labour candidate [for the Hulme Ward by-election that is to take place on 4th November 2010] and approves of the Liberal Democrat candidate. Neither is true.”

By way of an e-mail dated 20th October 2010, the Complainant supplied the following additional information, a copy of which was provided to the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee at the hearing on the 21st October 2010:

1. Copy e-mail exchange which includes an e-mail which appears to have been posted on 8 October 2010 at 22.09 by Mary Murphy from a web address at <marymurphy1746@hotmail.comxxx> to an online debate forum entitled Hulme-Residents-Online-Group@yahoogroups.com.

2. Copy letter from the Member to the Complainant dated 12 October 2010, in which the Member states as follows:

My original intention on the Hulme website was to put your email in totality on the site. I did then intend to put my own ‘spoof’ update on the site in alternative colouring. However, I hope you can understand that I am not very computer literate and feel that an unfortunate situation has arisen because of this.

I thouth that my narrative was in fact on the website in a different colour which would clearly distinguish my narrative, from yours. This did not happen and I can only apologise.

I am aware that you have made a formal complaint in regards to my actions and this letter is in no way a means to circumvent your complaint.

Marc, you have always been fair and honest with me and I hope that I have not upset you too much or caused you any offence.

In relation to the Member’s statement in her letter of the 12 October that the alterations she made were a “spoof”, the Complainant has observed that the Member did not refer in her e-mail of the 8 October to the fact that the alterations were a “spoof”.

Decision

In accordance with Section 57A(2) of the Local Government Act 2000, as amended, the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee decided that no action should be taken on the allegation. This decision notice is sent to the Complainant and the member against whom the allegation was made.

 

Reasons for Decision

Paragraph 2 of the Code of Conduct deals with the scope of the Code, and paragraph 2(2) advises that the Code does not have effect in relation to conduct of a member “other than when it is in your official capacity”.

The majority of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee considered that the

e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint did not appear to have been sent by the Member in her official capacity as a member of the Council. The majority of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee reached this conclusion on the grounds that:

  1. the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint appears to have been sent by the Member from her personal hotmail account, rather than from the Member’s Council e-mail address, and
  2. the e-mail that forms the subject of this complaint does not appear to have been signed by the Member as coming from “Councillor xxxx”, and does not make any reference to the fact that the author of the e-mail is a member of the Council.

The Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee also took into account the fact that the Member had now sent a letter of apology to the Complainant. The Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee were of the view that, even if they thought that conduct complained of might have been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, if there were to be a local investigation of the complaint and the Member were to be found to have breached the Code of Conduct, the most likely sanction resulting from a local investigation would be a requirement for the Member to make an apology to the Complainant. Since the Member has already apologised to the Complainant, the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee did not consider that, even if the conduct complained of had been carried out by the Member in her official capacity, it would be appropriate to refer the matter for local investigation.

The Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee makes no finding of fact at this stage as, in the absence of an investigation, no judgment can be made about whether the alleged events occurred in the way the Complainant states.

Right of Review

At the written request of the Complainant, the Standards (Review) Sub-Committee can review and either uphold or change the above decision as the Standards (Review) Sub-Committee is constituted of different members from those on the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee.

If the Complainant wishes to exercise the right of a review, the Complainant must submit his/her written request to the Monitoring Officer within 30 days from the date of this Decision Notice, explaining in detail the grounds upon which the decision should be reviewed.


If a request for a review is received in the appropriate timescale, the Standards (Review) Sub-Committee will deal with it within a maximum of three months of receipt. All the parties mentioned above will be notified that a review has been requested and the outcome of any such review.

xxxxxxxxxx, Chair of the Standards (Assessment) Sub-Committee

29 October 2010

2 Responses to That Mary Murphy decision in full

  1. Pingback: Labour Councillor gets away with it |

  2. Pingback: Open letter to the Labour Party concerning Mary Murphy |

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