May 23 2013 Latest news:
Friday, February 1, 2013
A standards hearing which could affect the political future of the former leader of Norfolk County Council will take place today.
Derrick Murphy stepped down as leader of the authority earlier this month, to focus on today’s standards hearing, triggered by complaints from seven members of the public over his part in the sending of an email.
The 10am hearing at County Hall will see Mr Murphy face claims he breached the council’s code of conduct and brought his office and the council into disrepute.
However, there had been uncertainty over whether the bulk of the hearing would take place behind closed doors. But it now appears the public will be allowed in.
Tony Tomkinson, the chairman of the standards committee has told the council’s monitoring officer and head of law Victoria McNeill, that the committee is “minded” to hold today’s hearing in public.
None of those interviewed for the purposes of the investigation has raised any objection to the meeting being public and, although the committee will need to formally decide today, it would now be a surprise if it were held behind closed doors.
The hearing revolves around an email sent by Kevin Vaughan, the political assistant to the Conservative group at County Hall, to BBC Radio Norfolk, in April last year.
It was sent two days before Nick Daubney, leader of West Norfolk Council. was due to appear on Nick Conrad’s show to discuss the King’s Lynn incinerator, which has long been a source of tension between West Norfolk and Norfolk County Council.
It suggested it might “be pertinent information” for the broadcaster to know that the borough council leader was facing “a serious leadership challenge” and that his authority had failed to procure alternative technology to the plant.
When the email came to light it sparked an independent investigation at County Hall, which concluded in the summer that Mr Vaughan had acted on the wishes of leader Mr Murphy. Mr Vaughan later left the council, with a pay-off.
Following the independent report, seven people complained about Mr Murphy’s behaviour and the county council asked Jenni Richards, QC, an expert in local government, to investigate.
If the meeting is open to the public, our reporters will be filing updates throughout the day.