Paterson relents on complaints against two councillors

COMPLAINTS against two Berwickshire councillors have been withdrawn after the Hawick councillor who lodged the official complaints against them, accepted that they were unlikely to succeed.

Hawick’s David Paterson, the only Independent member not aligned to SBC’s ruling administration, said he felt “bullied” and “marginalised” by East Berwickshire councillor Michael Cook and Mid Berwickshire councillor Donald Moffat, and he had asked the council’s standards committee to investigate his allegations against them that they had breached established standards of behaviour.

Councillor Cook, SBC’s executive member for corporate improvement and the human resources spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, allegedly called Councillor Paterson “a shite” during a private seminar of councillors.

Councillor Moffat was reported for his conduct as chairman of the council’s watchdog scrutiny panel when he told Councillor Paterson to “shut up”.

A third SBC councillor, George Turnbull, a fellow Hawick councillor, was also reported for issuing a press release stating that Councillor Paterson had leaked confidential information and that complaint still stands.

All three gripes were submitted to SBC’s head of legal services Ian Wilkie who acts as monitoring officer for complaints levelled at elected members and advises the standards committee.

After reporting the three councillors Councillor Paterson said: “I’m not a member of the administration or any political group and only care about my constituents, which makes me an easy target for abuse and what I would describe as bullying. I feel increasingly marginalised which should not be the case and I hope my complaints are upheld and lessons learned.”

However, this week he withdrew the complaints against Councillors Cook and Moffat saying: “I am not saying I am happy at the way I was spoken to, but I have been advised I had not a hope in hell of getting the matters taken up by the council’s Standards Committee.”

“Also, on reflection, I feel it would be a waste of council officers’ time and resources to take this further, although I still feel hurt and marginalised.”

Councillor Cook refused to get drawn into a war of words and responded: “It is a measure of the regard in which I hold Councillor Paterson that I would not wish to comment on a private issue at this point in time. It is a measure of Councillor Paterson’s respect for colleagues that his first reflex is to report to the press any matter he contemplates may engender headlines, regardless of the facts.”

Explaining his position Councillor Moffat said he had become frustrated by Mr Paterson’s behaviour: “I have chaired the panel for five years and have always tried to run things in a friendly, informal manner. Mr Paterson has only recently joined scrutiny and his approach has been much more confrontational.

“He had spoken several times already, each time criticising other panel members, and this, I felt, was not only ill-mannered but impeding our progress. When he shouted out that I was favouring another speaker, I felt enough was enough.

“My exact words were: ‘I am chairing this meeting and you have had your say, so shut up’.”