Conduct hearing expected in September for Fenland councillor - and former cabinet member- accused of false mileage claims
PUBLISHED: 19:43 19 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:43 19 August 2018
Removed from his £8,500 a year cabinet post but back in the Tory fold after police decided it wasn't a matter for them, Wisbech councillor Simon King is expected to answer allegations of falsifying expense claims at a conduct committee hearing in September.
Through his lawyers Cllr King has fought a bitter and protracted behind the scenes legal battle with Fenland Council to challenge the details and terms of a hearing that under normal circumstances would have been dealt with by now.
However the allegations that Cllr King inflated mileages - claiming for instance a trip of 85 miles to Rugby that was later deemed to not be on official business, and once claiming return mileage of 10 miles for a meeting a mile from his home – are finally ready for a public airing.
A Freedom of Information request by this newspaper revealed more than 40 emails dating back six years in which officers either queried or reduced his expense claims.
Although the conduct committee – when it meets – has limited powers, his Conservative Party colleagues would, in all probability, remove the whip if the case is proven and replace him as their chosen candidate for next May’s district council elections.
It is not clear what would happen to his county council seat – withdrawal of the party whip at Shire Hall would most likely follow but he would be able to retain his seat until the next election in three years time.
Cllr King first appeared before the conduct committee at Fenland Hall in April when the allegation was put that he had apparently attempted to claim for journeys outside of the members allowance scheme.
These equated to £1,511.10 which was paid to Cllr King and a further £736.65 which was claimed but not paid.
At the pre- screening meeting the committee chairman, Councillor Sam Hoy, and the council’s independent members determined that it was appropriate for the complaint to go forward for consideration by the conduct committee as they felt that a breach of the code of conduct may have occurred.
Cllr King faces a challenge on the first Nolan Principle - “Selflessness - Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other benefits for themselves, their family or their friends.
3.2: You must not; (e) conduct yourself in a manner, which could reasonably be regarded as bringing your office or authority into disrepute.
6. You must: - 6.1. when using or authorising the use by others of the resources of the authority :-( a) act in accordance with your authority’ reasonable requirements.
Acting monitoring officer Fiona McMillan advised the committee that the pre screening panel had an extensive discussion concerning the complaint and agreed that the complaint could not be described as “vexatious, trivial or tit- for – tat” and it was unanimously agreed that the code of conduct may have been breached and the matter should be brought before the committee to determine.
The committee agreed that a full hearing would allow Cllr King the opportunity to speak “and this would be useful”.
As the complaint was made by the monitoring officer, the council agreed for external investigators to prepare the case for a full conduct committee hearing.
Cllr King, who has denied all wrongdoing, said last December when the allegations surfaced: “I am completely innocent and my solicitors and I are confident I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.”
He returned the money alleged to have been wrongly claimed.