A COUNTY councillor who was banned from public office for two-and-a-half years had behaved in a reprehensible and unacceptable way, a QC for the Welsh Ombudsman told the High Court yesterday.
Cllr Patrick Heesom was found to have breached the code of conduct for councillors in serious ways, including bullying, harassment and bringing the office of councillor into disrepute.
Mr James Maurici QC, representing the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales, said Cllr Heesom had a lack of insight into the adverse effect of his conduct on others.
“We cannot but come to the finding that the appellant believed, particularly after he was re-elected in May 2008, that he was all-powerful without the authority to the extent that he felt that he could behave as he wished in terms of officers,” he said.
His involvement in housing matters went far beyond his remit as a councillor.
Mr Maurici said he had been specifically warned as to the limit of his role but notwithstanding that, he sought to influence officers to act contrary to approved policy of the council in housing matters.
Had the officers so acted, it would have had serious consequences, he said.
There had been 14 breaches of the code of conduct over a two-year period, involving nine different sets of circumstances.
He had unfairly sought to blame other people, he alleged.
Cllr Heesom had persistently accused a number of officers of deliberately lying and of creating false documents.
He failed to appreciate the effect of his conduct on individuals and on the good management of the authority.
His conduct contributed significantly to one director seeking early retirement, he said.
Mr Maurici, in the Ombudsman’s response to the appeal, said the breaches were “damning stuff” and much of the allegations were unchallengeable.
It was not accepted that the panel which considered the case against him failed to consider his freedom of speech or political speech as an elected councillor.
The panel had in fact found other allegations not proved on that basis.
The findings were in accordance with his human rights.
The panel had found that his evidence had not been “full, frank and honest” .
He had attacked the honesty of a number of officials, and described some of them as being “liars, fantasists or seriously deluded.”
The length of the disqualification had been totally proportionate to the breaches that had been found proved.
The barrister claimed Cllr Heesom’s on-going lack of appreciation of his own actions was perhaps best illustrated by the fact that when the sanction against him was to be discussed, his counsel submitted to the panel that there should be none – and that his client should be commended for all his hard work on behalf of his constituents.
Cllr Heesom has taken the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales to the administrative court of the Queen’s Bench Division to challenge the decision to disqualify him from sitting as a councillor for two-and-a-half years.
He represented Mostyn on Flintshire Council for more than 20 years.
A tribunal panel last summer found him guilty of 14 breaches of the councillors’ code of conduct.
The appeal hearing is being conducted before Mr Justice Hickinbottom, sitting at Mold.
The panel found that Cllr Heesom had made a number of threats to council officers, attempted to coerce officers, sought to involve himself in housing allocation decisions in respect of his constituents contrary to statutory provisions, acted in an intimidating and aggressive manner towards officers, harassed one officer and adopted bullying behaviour towards three officers.
The appeal hearing is expected to be concluded today and the judge will issue his decision in due course.