Agenda and draft minutes

Hearings Sub-Committee - Tuesday, 27th September, 2022 7.00 pm

Venue: Council Chamber, Millmead House, Millmead, Guildford, Surrey GU2 4BB. View directions

Contact: John Armstrong Democratic Services & Elections Manager  Tel: 01483 444102


No. Item


Election of Chairman

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee


RESOLVED: That Councillor George Potter be elected chairman for the hearing.




Apologies for absence and notification of Substitute Members

Additional documents:


There were no apologies for absence.



Disclosure of Interests

In accordance with the Councillors’ Code of Conduct, a councillor is required to disclose at the meeting any disclosable pecuniary interest (DPI) that they may have in respect of any matter for consideration on this agenda.  Any councillor with a DPI must notparticipate in any discussion or vote regarding that matter and they must also withdraw from the meeting immediately before consideration of the matter.


If that DPI has not been registered, the councillor must notify the Monitoring Officer of the details of the DPI within 28 days of the date of the meeting.


Councillors are further invited to disclose any non-pecuniary interest which may be relevant to any matter on this agenda, in the interests of transparency, and to confirm that it will not affect their objectivity in relation to that matter.


Additional documents:


There were no disclosures of interest.



Allegations regarding the conduct of two Borough Councillors pdf icon PDF 74 KB

Additional documents:


The Sub-Committee noted that allegations of misconduct against Councillor Paul Spooner and Councillor Graham Eyre (“the Subject Members”) had been submitted in a formal complaint by Martin Giles (“the Complainant”) dated 29 June 2021.  The complaint related to the alleged failure of the Subject Members to comply with the Councillors’ Code of Conduct in relation to the content of emails sent by the Subject Members, a WhatsApp message sent by Councillor Spooner, and tweets posted by Councillor Spooner in connection with enquiries by the Guildford Dragon in respect of the election of the Conservative group leader in June 2021.


In accordance with the procedures set out in the Council’s adopted Arrangements for dealing with allegations of misconduct by councillors (“the Arrangements”), the Deputy Monitoring Officer assessed the allegations contained in the complaint and, in consultation with the Independent Person, attempted to resolve the complaint by way of informal resolution.  


As the Subject Members did not agree with the proposed informal resolution and, given that it had not been possible to identify an informal resolution to the complaint that satisfied both the Complainant and the Subject Members, the Deputy Monitoring Officer considered the further views of the Independent Person and decided that the matter should be referred for independent investigation. 


Simon Goacher, Partner at Weightmans LLP, was instructed in January 2022 to investigate the complaint.   


In June 2022, following consideration of comments from the Subject Members and Complainant on the draft report, the Investigating Officer submitted his final report to the Deputy Monitoring Officer. The report contained a number of exhibits including the relevant Council codes and interviews with the Complainant and the Subject Members. The conclusions reached in the final report were that the Subject Members had breached the Code of Conduct through:


(a)         failure to treat others with respect (para 2 (1) of the Code; and

(b)     conducting themselves in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing the office of councillor or the Council into disrepute or acting in a manner contrary to the Council’s duty to promote high standards of conduct (para 4 of the Code)


This Sub-Committee had therefore been convened to conduct a local hearing into this matter.


In accordance with the Council’s Arrangements, the Chairman confirmed that the Sub-Committee was quorate, and noted that neither the Investigating Officer nor the Subject Members considered that any part of the hearing should be held in private, and no documents (or parts thereof) should be withheld from the public and press.


The Investigating Officer presented his report to the hearing, a copy of which, including a schedule of evidence, was attached to the agenda circulated to the Sub-Committee.


The Subject Member present, Councillor Spooner, asked the Investigating Officer where the line was drawn between a councillor working as a councillor and a councillor exercising freedom of expression in relation to the general discussion that took place between media and politicians. The Investigating Officer explained that it was dependent upon the subject matter of the conversation,  ...  view the full minutes text for item 4.