Councillor at centre of dispute with neighbour told he must re-train if he wants to return to planning role
14:19 23 February 2014
The vice chairman of Fenland Council Planning Committee, who resigned before facing a disciplinary committee, has been ordered to undertake re-training before taking any future role in planning.
The council’s conduct committee made the ruling after listening to complaints made against Councillor Dave Connor of Doddington after he had fought a campaign to stop a neighbour from opening a children’s day nursery.
Neighbour Diane Oswald claimed the councillor has used his position as a Fenland district and Cambridgeshire county councillor to rally opposition. She argued Cllr Connor’s action had resulted in a campaign being waged unfairly against her and that he had signed a letter about a neighbourly dispute as a councillor.
Last week, Cllr Connor resigned from the planning committee and asked to be removed from the licensing committee.
At a conduct committee hearing last Thursday it was decided a letter will be sent to Cllr Connor highlighting concerns about his behaviour.
It was also agreed Cllr Connor should be re-trained if he wishes to re-join the planning committee.
Councillor Michael Humphrey said: “While Cllr Connor did eventually distance himself from the application, he used his position to try and influence members and intimidate the applicant. It was a misuse of his position.
“He handled his involvement in this application badly and did not show the council in a good light.”
But Councillor Will Sutton of Christchurch defended Cllr Connor’s actions and said it was unrealistic to expect councillors not to have neighbourly disputes.
He said: “While he should not have signed it with his councillor title, I do not think the letter was in any way intimidating.
“Can we say that as a councillor you can not have a neighbourly dispute? They are a fact of life.”
Committee members unanimously agreed Cllr Connor was wrong to refer to himself as a councillor in a letter he sent to Mrs Oswald in June last year.
At a previous conduct committee, Councillor Dave Patrick was reprimanded for referring to himself as Fenland District Councillor in a letter which was not for official council business.
The committee advised that in a bid “stop this becoming an established trend”, a letter be sent to all elected members advising them on the appropriate use of titles in letters.
The council examined a vast amount of correspondence from Mrs Oswald, including a letter sent to her by Cllr Connor, and dozens of entries by the Doddington councillor on Twitter.
Cllr Connor’s evidence to the conduct committee included a statement that his letter to Mrs Oswald “was pleasant and not in any way threatening.”
He said he had signed it accordingly as he was both “an FDC and CCC member voted in by the public which Mrs Oswald knows only too well as she posted her vote at Doddington village hall where I was on polling day.”