Posted: Wed 29th Jan 2020

Ex-council leader breached code by providing interview questions & sending inappropriate sexual messages during work time

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, Jan 29th, 2020

A former council leader did breach the code of conduct for public officials in Wales a tribunal has ruled. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Cllr Aaron Shotton, former leader of Flintshire county council, faced three allegations at Llandudno Magistrate’s Court in an Adjudication Panel for Wales hearing. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He was found to have breached the code by leaving interview questions on his desk for his future PA Hayley Selvester to see, plus encouraging her to send inappropriate and sexual messages during work time. Both were considered breaches of the code of conduct by the panel. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

But he was cleared of a third allegation of knowingly using a council account to hire a car for a night away at a hotel in Manchester with Mrs Selvester, with whom he was having an affair. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Panel chairwoman Claire Jones announced the decision on the third day of the hearings (Yesterday: “Tribunal hears council leader knew a hire car used for a romantic trip to a Manchester hotel with PA was paid for by council“) ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

She said: “We find that Cllr Shottton did use his position inappropriately to confer an advantage on his PA by providing the opportunity to view the questions before her interview. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

“We find the respondent did send and/or encourage inappropriate messages, to include sexual messages, during office hours.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The panel retired for the evening to consider what, if any sanctions to impose on Cllr Shotton who was said by his counsel Joanne Clement to have had an “unblemished 20-year career”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

His suitability as leader of Flintshire was called into question after allegations of an affair with Mrs Selvester broke in June 2018. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

After an investigation by the Public Service Ombudsman for Wales he was forced to face the three charges levelled at him. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Questioned  by counsel for the Public Ombudsman, Gwydion Hughes, Cllr Shotton said he had no idea Mrs Selvester had booked the hire car for their private trip to Manchester in February 2016. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He also said he was “not really engaging” with a WhatsApp conversation with Mrs Selvester in which she said:  “You were supposed to interview me with Shaz you gave me the questions the night before.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said his reply of  “Oh yeah, I forgot about that” – was in answer to a previous question. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

When Cllr Shotton told Mr Hughes they could not see the whole chain of messages, the Ombudsman’s representative said: “That’s partly due to you. WhatsApp chains go on indefinitely.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Cllr Shotton said he deleted the messages so his wife didn’t find them. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Mr Hughes said the couple both lied to chief executive Colin Everett about their affair, to save their relationships and their positions. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said Mrs Selvester, who was sacked by the council for gross misconduct in 2018, had moved from no or low culpability to “full admission of everything”. He added: “That is the natural progression.” ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

He said Cllr Shotton was suggesting Mrs Selvester had been honest about her lack of culpability when questioned by her employers and the Ombudsman to  a position of “dishonest culpability” when she admitted everything and implicated him. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Ms Clement, for Cllr Shotton, repeatedly called Mrs Selvester a liar and said she was trying to “bring down” the former leader because she had lost her job. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Ms Clement said it was for the panel to choose whether to believe “a proven liar” or a man with “a 20-year, unblemished career”. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

The panel chose to believe Mrs Selvester’s account. ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

Cllr Shotton awaits their decision on any sanctions.

By Jez Hemming – Local Democracy Reporter (more here). ‌​‌‌‌​‌‌‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​‍‌​‌‌‌​‌​

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