Masons 'do not influence council'
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
This is Exeter
AN INVESTIGATION behind closed doors has ruled that Freemasonry has no influence on Torbay Council's decision-making.
The Freemasonary claims were made in the Herald Express on May 27 by councillors Roger Carter, Nicole Amil and Robert Excell.
They also alleged that Tory group leader Kevin Carroll had 'punished' them by removing them from committee positions. These claims were backed up by Cllr Gordon Oliver.
Following publication of their claims in the Herald Express, monitoring officer Keith Stevens launched an investigation, and his findings were presented to the Standards Referrals Sub-Committee.
Mr Stevens began the inquiry because he felt the allegations could bring the council into disrepute.
The Herald Express asked to see the report, but the standards sub-committee said such information is never made available to the public.
The Herald Express has now submitted a Freedom of Information request, asking for a copy of the report.
After analysing Mr Stevens' report, standards sub-committee members Peter Dalzell, Sylvia Faryna and Cllr Ian Doggett were 'satisfied that no action is warranted'.
A statement from the standards sub-committee warned the councillors about making further 'unsubstantiated allegations' publicly in the future.
It added: "The sub-committee has informed the three members making the unsubstantiated allegations that it regards the making of unsubstantiated allegations in the public domain as an unedifying spectacle, given the absence of evidence and the potential damage to the reputation of the council in the eyes of the community and, indirectly, its officers.
"The sub-committee has reminded the three members identified in the press article that genuine and substantiated concerns can be raised in more appropriate ways in accordance with the council's procedures.
"The sub-committee has also considered claims by the same small number of councillors relating to their removal from some committee places and the power of the group leader.
"The sub-committee has considered a report by the monitoring officer on these issues and is satisfied that no action is warranted."
The standards sub-committee also stated that councillors 'named in the newspaper as being Freemasons have all denied that their membership affects their council work'.
It added: "The sub-committee noted that none of the officers dealing with development control matters or the monitoring officer are Freemasons.
"The sub-committee took into account that none of the members making the allegations has provided any evidence to substantiate them in spite of requests to do so.
"In view of this, the sub-committee has concluded that no useful purpose would be served in pursuing the matter further."
The Herald Express attempted to speak with the councillors concerned, but only Robert Excell responded, saying he did not want to comment.
This comes after larger-than-life Tory Party chairman Eric Pickles spelled out his anger to the councillors, saying the matter should not have been brought into the public domain.
Mr Dalzell, chairman of the standards sub-committee, said: "The report was undertaken by the monitoring officer as part of his remit.
"If he considers that an area of conduct could potentially bring the council into disrepute, he will investigate.
"As part of his job he looked at this issue to see if the allegations could be substantiated.
"We found that there was no backup evidence to corroborate the allegations made in the newspaper.
"Unless anyone else can come forward with further evidence we can't go further.
"To show transparency the committee considered it would be appropriate to publish a statement about its findings."