An East Cambridgeshire District councillor has been sanctioned for 2 breaches of the Member Code of Conduct. Councillor Matthew Downey, who represents the Ely East ward, was found to have failed to treat others with respect and that when doing so, his conduct brought his office into disrepute at a meeting of the Council’s Finance & Assets (Ethical Governance) Subcommittee on 29th July 2021.
The complaint alleged that Cllr Downey had failed to treat Cllr Anna Bailey and other Conservative members with respect when he called members of the Conservative Group “racists”, stated that Cllr Bailey and members of the Conservative Group did not think that black lives mattered and accused Cllr Bailey of lying. The complaint arose in relation to various tweets that were posted on Councillor Downey’s Twitter account between 17th and 25th July 2020. The tweets stemmed from a full Council meeting on 16th July 2020 and a meeting of Finance and Assets Committee on 23rd July 2020.
The tweets included assertions that the Council’s Constitution had been breached both in relation to the Council meeting and the Finance & Assets meeting. The tweets also stated that the Conservative members of the Council were racist, criticised named Conservative members for “liking” racist tweets, accused them of breaching the Council’s Constitution and called upon a Chair of a particular committee to resign. It was also alleged that Councillor Downey had “baited” Cllr Bailey to get her to respond on Twitter and subsequently accused her of lying. Cllr Bailey said that the tweets were untrue and therefore brought Councillor Downey or the Council into disrepute.
Following an external investigation, the investigator recommended that the Council find that Councillor Downey did fail to treat others with respect, contrary to paragraph 3.1 of the Code of Conduct, although they were not of the view that when doing so he had bullied anyone. However, they still considered that this conduct brought his office into disrepute contrary to paragraph 3.2(e).
As a result of the finding of the subcommittee that 2 breaches had occurred, Councillor Downey is required to provide a written apology to Cllr Bailey, undergo training in relation to good political debate and that a press notice is issued.