Councillors to apologise following sexism investigation

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Complaints by former executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon, sparked the investigation.

Two Stratford District Councillors have been ordered to make written apologies to all council staff, following an investigation into allegations on sexist behaviour at the authority.

Cllr John Feilding (Red Horse) and Cllr Peter Barnes (Welford), were both found to have breached the council’s code of conduct and brought the role of councillor into disrepute, following an investigation sparked by complaints from former executive director Isabel Edgar Briançon.

Both Cllr Feilding and Cllr Barnes have accepted the findings and agreed to take certain actions to remedy the breach, including a full and unreserved written apology to all staff and undertaking further training on the Code of Conduct in relation to respect and reputation.

As part of the investigation all council staff were also invited to anonymously submit details of any concerns they had about the behaviour of elected members.

The full report into Cllr Feilding’s behaviour said there were complaints that the Councillor had made remarks including sexual innuendo to female staff, invaded the personal space of female staff members, stroked a female officer’s neck and informed a female staff member about a sensitive issue regarding his sexual health.

The report stated that Cllr Fielding had shown a pattern of often unacceptable behaviour.

Complaints against Cllr Barnes concerned using sexist language and sexual innuendo during conversations with female staff and telling a former employee that she had ‘good breeding hips’ and that he would perform a pagan ritual for her if she wanted fertility support.

In mitigation Cllr Feilding told investigators that there had been no previous complaints about his behavior and disputed one complaint that he touched a female staff member.

He said the complaint regarding his sexual health related to an incident which occurred outside of the office.

Cllr Barnes said he had been through a period of ill health and was prescribed the wrong tablets, which had affected his behaviour.

Complaints about two further councillors were investigated but they were cleared of any wrongdoing, while complaints regarding a fifth councillor are still being investigated.

A further complaint was raised by the former employee about the conduct of a sixth councillor at an external event, but that person was not and had never been a member of Stratford-on Avon District Council, so did not form part of the investigation.

The District Council’s Monitoring Officer has also asked the external investigator to produce a further report in relation to the wider culture of the District Council, following the comments in the original Facebook post from the former employee.

This cultural report will be presented to the Audit and Standards Committee on 18 November 2019.

  • kingcoil

    Cllr Barnes said he had been through a period of ill health and was prescribed the wrong tablets, which had affected his behaviour. Can we have a report from his GP to confirm this ? Both should no longer be on the council if it was a normal work place ie shop or factory then both would get the sack. So come on SDC sack them both !! I bet you don’t as they are your buddies and it is a job for life regardless of wrong doings.

    • 1jamessmith1

      kingcoil some good words there, I would go further than a doctor’s report… details of known side affects from the tablets manufacturer would not go a miss. Other wise summary dismissal for both like you say would be the only proper out come

    • Dan Smith

      This story is a load of crap, a disgruntled ex-employee takes offense to harmless remark and you think he should lose his job, ridiculous! The truth is that the local council has been trying to unseat the independent councillor for years but they have been voted in with huge majority time and time again. This is a charterer smear, nothing more.

      • 1jamessmith1

        Dan these two that are the subject of the complaint/s most likely have been there ‘to long’ or have ‘friends’ at SDC that have, possibly one or both of the Davids, one of which has been at SDC for at least 25 years

        • Dan Smith

          There is an easy way to remove councillors! don’t vote for
          them. The fact is Cllr Barns get the votes and has easily won the local
          elections for many years, SDC are clearly sick of him, there has been a lot of
          effort to try to unseat him over the years and this is just another attempt, be
          it very underhanded. Its sounds to me like a comment has been taken out of context,
          blown way out of proportion and passed on to the media who love to embellish things
          to sell stories! By who I wonder? Not a word on the accuser of course.

      • kingcoil

        So if she was your mother or sister would you think it was alright to receive sexual inuendo ? Sexual harassment of any kind regardless is illegal in the work place, we live in the year 2019 not the 1960s when it may have been acceptable to make such comments

        • Dan Smith

          The comment that was made is not sexual harassment, that is the point. I have a mother, sisters and daughter, If they don’t like something someone says to them then they would let them know and that would be the end of the matter.

          Women are more than capable of standing up for themselves. People are creating a culture of victimhood giving people the sense that if they don’t like what someone has said to them then they have been violated in some manner, it is crazy.

          Would saying ‘you look nice today’ be sexual harassment? Don’t forget the law give equal rights for both sexes. Women often make remarks that men do not like, do you want to live in a world where an ill thought out comment can ruin your life, or your sons, or daughters? Never mind how this type of thing undermines actual sexual harassment.

          • kingcoil

            You must be related to one of these councillors ? firstly why if they are totally innocent would they apologise ? i would never apologise for something i have not done. Infact i would fight it all the way until my name was cleared, also both must attend training which shows how guilty they were.Here is a section from the councils report ”

            The report found the evidence against him was “overwhelming” and his
            behaviour “longstanding”, rejecting “wrong tablets” and his being of an
            “older generation” as an excuse.

            “Comments about good breeding
            hips are hardly likely to enhance the [council’s] profile,” it
            concluded, finding Mr Barnes to have breached the council’s code of
            conduct, bringing it into disrepute.

            The same conclusion was reached over 74-year-old colleague John Feilding.

            In
            addition to stroking a council officer’s neck, complaints included
            invading female staff’s personal space, and telling a worker about his
            sexual health.

            The report found “overwhelming” evidence of “unacceptable behaviour”, adding female staff “do not like to be with” him.

            Both
            have submitted a written apology to all employees. A Conservative Party
            spokesperson said Mr Feilding had had the Conservative whip withdrawn.

          • Dan Smith

            Indeed I do know one of them as they represent my area, we are not friends but I am aware of the good work they do. I would not normally comment on something like this however, knowing one of the persons involved and the manner in which this article paints them is unjust.

            I don’t believe the person in question denies making the comment so therefore is not ‘innocent’, the point that I am making is the allegation of ‘sexual harassment’ is hugely exaggerated.
            By your own logic if anything serious had of happened they
            would have lost their jobs. This is more of the case that someone of a
            sensitive nature has taken offense at a colleagues comments and rather then telling them that like an adult (and mostly likely receiving a swift apology) they have caused a fuss and claimed sexual harassment. Would you feel you had been sexually harassed if someone said you had child bearing hips or look pretty today etc?
            It is a ridiculous smear, people are either far to sensitive or are exploiting the over the top approach complaints, personally I feel it is the latter.
            Times have changed and what was once normal is now frowned
            upon but over the top reactions like this help no one. This type of persecution will create an environment where no one speaks to each other out of fear of offending someone or being accused of something. In the mean time lives are ruined for no good reason.

          • kingcoil

            You say times have changed Yet both of these councillors have not and are living in the days when this was acceptable.How often do they undergo training is a question that needs to be answered.Probably never so there lies one of the problems with the council it is out of date and not really fit for purpose.Council workers i believe have to undergo extra training througout the years but councillors do not.As for losing their jobs can they ? or do they have to be voted out at the next local election ?