Devon Cllr Accused Of Sexual Harassment

5 July 2018, 12:04 | Updated: 5 July 2018, 12:31

Devon Councillor Greenslade

A high profile Devon County Councillor has been accused of sexually harassing several female workers.

Brian Greenslade has been found guilty of serious breaches of Devon County Council’s Code of Conduct after an investigation.

He can’t be sacked because he was democratically elected by the public but he has been issued with a notice of public censure by the cross-party Standards Committee.

This is the strongest possible action a Council can take against an elected member.

It comes after the Chief Executive of Devon County Council made a formal complaint about the alleged sexual harassment and abuse of several female workers, by Councillor Greenslade, over a number of years. 

The Notice of Censure states:

Councillor Greenslade is hereby formally censured for his sexual misconduct against female members of Devon County Council staff that resulted in the findings of serious and significant breaches of the Council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

In particular, the sustained and repeated sexual harassment of female members of staff and abuse of his position as a senior and established member of the Council over a prolonged period fell well short of the conduct that can reasonably be expected of an elected member.

Councillor Greenslade’s lack of insight into how his actions may have affected the female members of staff and his indifference to that effect of his actions is of serious concern as are his actions during the investigation which demonstrated that he was prepared to put his own credibility and reputation above his responsibilities to the Council, its staff and his constituents.

This continued poor behaviour falls far below the standards that can reasonably be expected, either by a councillor or anyone.

The Committee further called on the Leader of the Liberal Democrat Group on the Council to remove Councillor Greenslade from all committees, sub-committees and outside bodies. Access to council buildings will also be restricted.

The Standards Committee decision was made after consideration of an independent investigation by a leading QC Tim Straker. This involved face-to-face interviews with members of staff and Councillor Greenslade who also had the opportunity to comment on the report.

Chair of the Standards Committee Councillor Caroline Chugg said:

“This is not a decision that we came to lightly but the weight of evidence was such that we could reach no other conclusion than to find Councillor Greenslade in clear breach of our Code of Conduct.

“On receiving a serious complaint of sexual harassment and abuse involving a number of female employees over several years, we ordered an independent investigation.

"I am sad to say that this investigation revealed a clear pattern of behaviour by Councillor Greenslade that can only be described as highly inappropriate and likely to cause offence and distress.

“As a senior politician this was a clear abuse of his position with conduct that falls far short of that expected of those in public office.

“All of us in public life have an absolute and unshakeable duty to ensure our staff can go about their important work for the people of Devon free from harassment and abuse.”

Chief Executive Phil Norrey added: 

“As a Council we take our duty to provide a safe workplace free from all forms of harassment very seriously and have always promoted and championed the highest standards of personal conduct both from our staff and elected Members.

“We have clear policies and guidelines on what is, and what is not, acceptable behaviour and robust procedures for ensuring all complaints involving such behaviour are dealt with thoroughly and fairly.”

Councillor Alan Connett, Leader of the Liberal Democrats at the Council said: “I offer my sincere and whole-hearted apology to all staff employed by Devon County Council who have experienced any form of inappropriate behaviour, whether from their colleagues or councillors.

“I am calling for a full, widespread and independent review of the County Council’s culture and behaviours along with the immediate implementation of training and awareness for ALL staff and councillors.

“I have written to the Council’s Chief Executive, Dr Phil Norrey, and Leader, Conservative John Hart calling on them to commission this independent review along with training from an independent provider. 

“The Liberal Democrat group will be meeting later this month to consider the Standards Committee recommendations. Cllr Greenslade will have a full opportunity to comment on the complaint which led to the Standards Committee meeting.

“Devon County Council did not permit him to attend the meeting of the Standards Committee. Indeed, the meeting was held at a time when the County Council knew Cllr Greenslade would be absent on a long-planned holiday.

“Cllr Greenslade had asked for the meeting to be held at a time he could attend, and for permission to speak at the meeting. Both were refused.”

“I became Leader of the Liberal Democrat opposition at Devon County Council in 2014. At no time since then has the council’s Chief Executive, Solicitor, or any other officer raised a concern with me about councillor behaviour.

“Devon County Council may well have a hidden culture of ‘see nothing, say nothing, hear nothing’ and we need to be clear that managers and councillors must not ‘turn a blind eye’ if a member of staff or customer of the council is concerned about the behaviour displayed to them.

“If we are to modernise County Hall working practices and ensure staff, councillors and members of the public feel safe to raise their concerns, and ensure they are not ‘swept under the carpet’ then a full programme of training and awareness raising must be implemented urgently.”