A committee decided to throw out members of the press and stop a live feed to its public YouTube channel after a councillor decided to “go with whatever you say.”
Three members of Milton Keynes Council’s standards assessment sub committee met virtually on Tuesday to decide what to do about a complaint against Liberal Democrat councillor Kerrie Bradburn (Broughton).
Cllr Bradburn had been accused in the media of creating a fake Facebook account. The sub committee was sitting to decide whether to start an investigation.
Councillors, if they want to hold a meeting behind closed doors, have to vote for a properly constituted motion to exclude the press and public.
The local democracy reporter was present in the Microsoft Teams meeting and was allowed to ask the councillors to put the public interest first and hold the meeting in public.
A similar meeting held earlier in the day had decided not to hold proceedings behind closed doors.
The three councillors were invited to have their say by chairman Cllr Ric Brackenbury (Lib Dem, Campbell Park & Old Woughton). He wanted to exclude the press and public.
But it wasn’t clear what Labour councillor Pauline Wallis (Central MK) wanted to do.
“I just feel this is the investigative thing to begin with, so I think it should be made public if it goes any further. Does that make sense?” She said.
And Cllr Brackenbury replied: “No it doesn’t really, sorry, are you saying the next stage should be public or are you saying you feel we should publish all the papers today?”
To which Cllr Wallis replied: “I’ll go with whatever you say then, if that sounds wrong.”
But Cllr Wallis found herself also agreeing with a Tory councillor who wanted to hold the meeting in public.
After Cllr Saleena Raja (Shenley Brook End) said: “I believe as the complaint is already in the public domain, and it’s in the public interest, we should continue the meeting in the public eye.”
To which Cllr Wallis said: “I agree.”
Cllr Brackenbury then had his say.
“My view for what it’s worth is that not everything is in the public domain,” he said.
“We always balance the public interest against right to privacy and we do not publicise every aspect of the standards process out of fairness for the person being complained against.
“Out of respect for that person and that process we should go into private session, however I completely agree with making a public statement at the end of the meeting.”
When it came to the vote Cllr Brackenbury voted to exclude the press, and switch off the YouTube feed. Cllr Raja voted against.
Cllr Wallis broke the tie by saying: “I agree with you Ric.”
The journalist was then asked to leave the meeting, and the YouTube feed was switched off.
Whatever happened during the secret discussion might never be known, but we do know they referred the complaint for investigation.