Deputy council leader on party suspension and bullying claim

The deputy leader of Cornwall Council has spoken out in response to the Liberal Democrats suspending him from the party after he shared a confidential email from a colleague.

Adam Paynter, who has remained as deputy leader and is now an Independent councillor, was told that he would be suspended from the party for 12 months and unable to stand for them in the May elections.

It related to Cllr Paynter sharing an email that had been sent to him by councillor Dulcie Tudor, who was also a Lib Dem councillor at the time.

He shared the email, which Cllr Tudor considered was confidential, with senior officers at the council and she then made a complaint to the Liberal Democrats.

Following a hearing the party found that Cllr Paynter had brought the party into disrepute. Cllr Paynter says he has now applied for an appeal hearing and so the sanctions have been stayed. However he says he will be standing for election in May as an Independent candidate.

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Cllr Paynter said: “First it is important to note that the complaint against me made by Cllr Tudor was of forwarding a ‘lobbying’ email which she had sent to me and six other councillors. The email was about council matters and was not marked in any way as private, confidential or do not forward. It did not refer to bullying at all.”

The deputy leader provided a copy of Cllr Tudor’s complaint which did not refer to bullying.

He added: “Second, I have made an application to the Liberal Democrat party for an appeal hearing and this is now under further consideration and in the meantime all sanctions against me have been stayed. So I am not suspended from the party, I am allowed to take office and could stand as a candidate for the party in the forthcoming elections. I am however remaining as an Independent and standing as such in the forthcoming election, as an Independent.

“I was not asked to answer any allegation of bullying and harassment and did not do so. That was not the complaint alleged. (Had any such allegation been made I would have denied it as I am not a bully and have never bullied Cllr Tudor.)

“I have never denied forwarding Cllr Tudor’s email and I apologised for it and gave reasons why as soon as I knew that she was unhappy about this, shortly after it was sent. I have not and do not accept that it was confidential and one of the many points I have raised in support of my application to appeal is that the forwarding of an email does not meet the threshold of being serious enough ‘to bring the party into disrepute’ and even if it were and even if the email was found to be confidential the sanction of suspension which was requested by Cllr Tudor, and imposed by the complaints panels, was out of all proportion to the alleged offence. There are numerous other matters of procedural irregularities and unfairness which I have also cited.”

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