Town council leader’s ‘you can’t educate pork’ comment did not breach code of conduct says Fenland District Council
- Credit: Archant
A council leader who accused a resident of sharing lies against a colleague and on Facebook dismissed critics with the line ‘you can’t educate pork’ has been cleared of misconduct.
Cllr Sam Hoy, leader of Wisbech Town Council, and a Fenland district and Cambridgeshire county councillor, was on both occasions posting comments in a personal capacity.
And because of that, concluded a three-person panel at Fenland District Council, she could not be accused of bringing the council or her office into disrepute.
Council solicitor Amy Brown gave the ruling in a letter to the complainant, Peter Freeman.
She said the conduct committee chair, Cllr Dave Topgood, and independent panel member – retired Met Police officer Stewart Webster- concurred.
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They “concluded that no further formal action will be taken; however, the deputy monitoring officer has been requested to offer informal words of advice”.
Ms Brown said the complaints against Cllr Hoy were about posts on her Facebook page as well as on Wisbech Town Council Facebook page.
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Mr Freeman had claimed posts on Cllr Hoy’s personal Facebook were prompted by accusations on social media about Cllr Steve Tierney by his friend and associate Spike Cee.
“Specifically, Cllr Hoy had named Mr Freeman (and others) as being connected with the accusations which she has described as being evil lies,” says Ms Brown.
“Mr Freeman considers this to be a scandalous and unfounded accusation against him describing it as a libellous, spiteful, unfounded, hurtful and harmful attack on him as an innocent member of the public.”
Ms Brown said the second complaint refers to comments made on the town council Facebook page “which he considers were directed at members of the Fenland Political Scene private Facebook group which she has often referred to previously as ‘hatefest’.
“Specifically, evidence is provided of Cllr Hoy having posted ‘it is like a hatefest dinner party on here! Anyway, I am done arguing, you cannot educate pork’.”
Ms Brown says: “Mr Freeman considers this to be rude and disrespectful.”
But Ms Brown said it had to be shown whether she was acting in a private or official capacity.
She says: “Cllr Hoy contends that both were made by her as a private individual and that the code of conduct would not therefore apply.”
Ms Brown says of the first complaint that “nothing within the post refers specifically to Cllr Hoy being a councillor and whilst the accusations referred to were made against another councillor, he is referred to in this context as ‘my friend Steve’ rather than in an official capacity”.
The panel was “obliged to conclude that in respect of the posts on Cllr Hoy’s personal Facebook page, she was acting in her private capacity”.
In respect of the ‘you can’t educate pork, the panel found this to be “less clear cut. It is understood that when Cllr Hoy is posting in her public capacity on this page, she usually does so as ‘Wisbech Town Council’ rather than via her own personal Facebook page as she has here.
“Nevertheless, careful consideration was also given to the possibility that within the context of this group and the information available to its readers, it may be more difficult to disconnect Cllr Hoy’s public and personal personas.
“That said, given that the evidence was limited to snippets from the overall commentary, it was difficult to determine the overall context and whether despite Cllr Hoy’s particular role within Wisbech Town Council, the ordinary reader would have viewed her comments as official or personal.”
Ms Brown says Mr Freeman felt the phrase ‘you can’t educate pork’ to be “rude and disrespectful”.
However, Cllr Hoy “denies that she has breached the code of conduct and asserts that when adults are in a robust discussion strong and fiery terms of expression are used” says Ms Brown.
She says that although there is no official definition of the term ‘you cannot educate pork’ the following meanings have been attributed to it via various online forums.
And she quotes examples of it meaning ‘when someone won’t listen to reason’ and ‘you cannot educate something with an inability to comprehend”.
“From the information available, it seems to have followed a debate that was seemingly taking place about unpleasantness towards councillors and their motivation in fulfilling volunteer roles presumably connected with the COVID-19 relief effort,” says Ms Brown.
“Cllr Hoy then seeks to end her participation in the debate by saying ‘you cannot educate pork’ which taken in that context suggests that she was effectively saying ‘I give up,’ ‘I can’t change anyone’s minds’”
Ms Brown says the phrase “was not considered to meet the threshold for further investigation. It was also noted that the posts have been removed”.