This request is being made with regards to Devon County Council’s standards committee meeting of Monday, July 2 2018, specifically item 37. I am requesting the investigation report to this item is made available.
While I note the council’s decision report, I believe the information is very much in the public interest.
The complaint deals with a senior member of the council, who from the information supplied, was the leader at the time of the majority of complaints. The unethical conduct of a public figure while in their professional capacity deserves to come under public scrutiny.
In weighing the right of individual privacy against the rights of the public to monitor the conduct of its servants, we find that complaints of sexual harassment and consequent disciplinary action are matters of legitimate public concern.
In the interests of balance and fairness it is our judgement the public needs to be able to gauge the severity of the alleged offences, otherwise the council could be open to an accusation of bias.
We would understand the need to redact the report to protect the privacy of the individuals concerned, however we do feel the alleged offences committed should be a matter of public record.
In response to your request please see the investigation report completed by Timothy Straker QC.
Significant parts of the report have been redacted which contain the evidence
given by Employees A, B, C and D. We have explained below the reasons why this information has been redacted and which exemptions from the Freedom of Information Act 200 have been considered applicable:
(a) section 30(2) (obtaining information from confidential sources) because Mr Straker’s investigation was carried out in accordance with Devon County Council’s statutory duty to investigate allegations of improper conduct by councillors and Employees A, B, C and D were told that their identities would be kept confidential. Disclosing the report creates a risk that their identities would be revealed. There is a general public interest in preserving their anonymity which is reinforced by the peculiar sensitivities involved in this case which concerned incidents of sexual misconduct;
(b) section 40 (personal information) because Mr Straker’s report contains the personal data of Employees A, B, C and D and it would be a breach of the first data protection principle to disclose the report;
(c) section 41(1) (confidential information) because Employees A, B, C and D were promised that the substance of the evidence they provided to Mr Straker would be kept confidential, save for use in his report, which is not in the public domain. Disclosing the report would be an actionable breach of the duty of confidence and would be a significant invasion of the privacy of those employees. Devon County Council has published the outline reasons for its decision and therefore the public interest in holding Cllr Greenslade has been adequately served and does not require the detail of the incidents involved to be disclosed.