A COUNCIL cabinet member responsible for standards in public office has been suspended for two months after a committee found he “bullied or harassed” a woman who argued with one of his constituents.

Cllr Richard Mainon, Denbighshire council’s lead member for corporate services and strategic direction, breached the code of conduct for members on three counts, said the authority’s standards committee on Friday.

His portfolio covers, among other things, standards of behaviour for councillors.

He was found to have brought his “office or authority into disrepute” in his role as a councillor by discussing unsubstantiated allegations about her with the complainant’s work colleagues.

The panel also found he used his position as a county councillor “to confer on or secure for himself, or any other person, an advantage or create or avoid for himself, or any other person, a disadvantage” by intervening in what was a private matter.

Cllr Mainon represents Bodelwyddan ward and was the village’s mayor when the incident happened in December 2018.

He appeared before Denbighshire’s standards committee on the recommendation of the Public Services Ombudman for Wales.

It was alleged he intervened after an argument between a constituent and a member of the public outside a local supermarket on December 8, 2018.

His constituent, who was said to have been suffering from cancer at the time, asked him to make a complaint to the other woman’s employer after she alleged the woman claimed she was a dog warden and would have her pet removed from her.

The constituent later found out the woman worked for a social care regulatory body and informed Cllr Mainon.

He sought her out at her employer’s address, with the intention of getting her to refer herself to her own professional standards unit because of the supermarket altercation.

However, she wasn’t at work when Cllr Mainon called and he didn’t seek her side of the story before revealing to the complainant’s office colleague, line manager and the organisation’s complaints officer what she was alleged to have said during the incident.

They all confirmed Cllr Mainon, who identified himself as a county councillor and mayor of Bodelwyddan, gave the impression he was visiting on official council business, which he accepted.

The complainant was unaware of the allegations repeated by Cllr Mainon to her colleagues until January 2019, when she was interviewed by her bosses.

They ultimately decided it was a private matter which required no further action – and she later complained about Cllr Mainon’s behaviour.

He said he intervened partly because his constituent suggested she was going to put a post about the incident on social media and he wanted to avoid a public spat.

He also said she didn’t feel able to complain herself because of her medical condition.

He called the investigation process against him “subjective” and said he had no relationship with his constituent other than her being an elector in his ward.

Apparently frustrated by the process, Cllr Mainon said “she’s not my spouse”  and asked whether he may as well have signed off his emails as her “friend or lover”.

Speaking for the Ombudsman, Katrin Shaw said the complainant felt the incident in the supermarket was “a private matter and should never have been brought to the attention of her employer”.

Ms Shaw said: “Cllr Mainon didn’t seek to verify the facts with the complainant.

“He tried to suggest to her employer he had seen CCTV (of the incident) and gave misleading information.

“[Cllr Mainon] acknowledged he didn’t attend her place of work to establish the facts and he accepted making the formal complaint caused her distress.”

Ms Shaw added the complainant said his actions had a “huge impact on her” and she had been “very embarrassed”.

The complainant was initially “fearful of making a complaint” against Cllr Mainon in case he returned to discuss the issue.

The Ombudsman’s office investigated and noted Cllr Mainon’s compliance with the inquiry but ultimately said he should face the standards committee for as he had “failed to comply with the following provisions of the Code of Conduct.”:

  • not to conduct himself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or authority into disrepute
  • not, in his official capacity or otherwise, to use or attempt to use his position improperly to confer on or secure for himself, or any other person, an advantage or create or avoid for himself, or any other person, a disadvantage
  • not to use bullying behaviour or harass any person

Cllr Mainon said in his “other careers” he “sat at a senior level” and considered himself a “problem solver” who would “make a decision and stick to it”.

He added: “I just needed for this constituent to feel she had a voice. I am confused. I’m not here to dispute or argue, I will suffer the consequences.”

The committee agreed with the Ombudsman’s view Cllr Mainon breached the authority’s code of conduct on all three counts.

Ms Shaw for the Ombudsman said the committee “should consider a suspension” of more than one month as it had been a “serious breach of the code” and he had shown a “fairly reckless regard of the consequences” for the complainant.

She added: “Considering the way the committee has gone I’m not convinced there’s an understanding on Cllr Mainon’s part of his conduct and the fact he has breached the code.

“Yes he can be given credit for not disputing and drawing out the process but I think his comments about it being a subjective decision and about how a councillor is supposed to sign off correspondence from his council address – friend, lover, whatever – suggest to me a lack of understanding on his part, of the seriousness of the breach you have found today.”

Cllr Mainon later apologised for what he called his “flippant remarks” and said he fully understood the seriousness of the situation.

He added: “I did bring an approach from other walks of life which have no place (in a local authority).

“I know the gravity of this. I am not going to stand again – I will not be a councillor going forward. I will not stand for office.”

A spokesman for Denbighshire council said: “The committee found Cllr Mainon had breached the code of conduct and imposed a two-month suspension.

“Cllr Mainon has 21 days from when he receives formal written notification of the decision to decide if he wishes to appeal.

“Any suspension will only take effect at the end of the appeals process or 21 days after written notification if no appeal is lodged.”