A senior councillor has been cleared following allegations that he attempted to instigate a smear campaign against the leader of Wirral Conservative group.
Independent investigator Patricia Thynne – commissioned to probe the claim - ruled that there was no case to answer against deputy council leader Cllr George Davies.
Her findings in a 17-page report included the comment: “I have found no evidence of any proposal by Cllr George Davies to smear Cllr (Jeff) Green (Tory group leader) or any behaviour which is capable of breaching the council’s code of conduct, and therefore no breach of the code by Cllr Davies.”
Earlier in the report, however, she indicated that some “key witnesses” had declined to be interviewed.
Ms Thynne wrote: “The only clear evidence of an attempt to mount a smear campaign against Cllr Jeff Green is the letter purporting to describe a meeting with him.
“Whilst the contents may appear ineffective as a basis, I am satisfied that it can be seen as an attempt to smear Cllr Green.”
“There is insufficient evidence to identify the source of this attempt and there is no corroborative evidence as to who wrote the letter or that it was ever circulated. Its contents are less than an adequate basis for such a campaign but I am satisfied that it could be seen as an attempt to smear Cllr Green.
Her findings contain the observation: “There is enough evidence to suggest that the behaviour of a number of councillors in the recent past was at best clouded by political motives and was at risk of breaking the code of conduct.”
Councillor Green raised the issue at full council in December last year querying whether council leader Phil Davies had been aware of a tape recording made last August alleging that a senior member of his administration had encouraged former council workers to smear him to take pressure off his own colleagues and gain political advantage.
Ms Thynne said Cllr Green had been anxious to emphasise that he did not ask for a formal investigation under the members’ code of conduct protocol, nor did he identify Cllr Davies as the possible source of the alleged attempt to smear him.
Councillor Green said today: “I am satisfied that the investigator has recognised that there was indeed an attempt to smear me.
“Even though that campaign was inadequate and ineffective it has no place in any organisation that is genuinely seeking to improve.
“Without full publication of the transcript of the tape, which I firmly believe does exist, it will be very difficult to take this matter any further.
“But I do note that the investigator has called on councillors, whose behaviour was ‘at best clouded by political motives’ to behave in a better way.”
The independent investigation was initiated by council chief executive Graham Burgess after concerns were raised by Cllr Green.
A council statement released today said: “A thorough inquiry was undertaken by an independent investigator and discussed with an independent member of the standards committee to ensure its findings were reasonable and rational, based on the evident available.
Although there was no case to answer the council has chosen to publish the report in line with its commitment to transparency.”
Councillor Davies, who emphatically denied that there was a proposed “smear campaign,” told the Globe he had "no further comment" to make on the report.