Decision due on length of punishment for Chirk politician who ‘bullied’ teacher
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
A decision is due to be made next week on whether a town councillor who was found to have bullied a teacher should have his suspension reduced.
Gareth Baines, who sits as an independent on Chirk Town Council, was initially sanctioned by Wrexham Council’s standards committee in June last year.
He is the former chair of the Clwyd South Conservative Association and was the agent for Conservative MP Simon Baynes at the 2019 election.
He was handed a three-month suspension from his post after members heard Mr Baines contacted complainant Rachel Allen’s employers to try and get her into trouble after she raised a grievance against him.
It was alleged that in sending an e-mail to her bosses in November 2019 he had attempted to “smear her name in the workplace”.
Mr Baines later appealed the punishment to the Adjudication Panel for Wales (APW), which recommended in December that his suspension be reduced to two months.
Standards committee members are now due to meet again on Tuesday, February 1 to decide whether to accept the panel’s advice, which is not binding.
Gareth Baines previously resigned as Clwyd South Conservative Association chairman after calling A&E patients “fat mums in pot noodle-stained leggings/pjs” on social media.
In a report, the local authority’s chief governance officer Linda Roberts said: “Councillor Baines appealed the sanction imposed on the basis that it was excessive compared to sanctions imposed for similar breaches locally and that the standards committee had failed to take into account mitigating circumstances he had advanced.
“The tribunal decided by unanimous decision to refer the matter back to the standards committee with a recommendation that Councillor Baines should be suspended for a period of two months.
“This is the final part of the process and deals only with the level of sanction which should be imposed, taking into account the findings reached by the APW.”
The standards committee previously found Mr Baines had breached parts of the council’s code of conduct which require councillors to show respect, not to use bullying behaviour and not to use their position to create a disadvantage for others.
Members said the fact he copied the Education Workforce Council into his e-mail about Mrs Allen was an aggravating feature.
While the APW suggested a reduction in his suspension, it backed other sanctions imposed by the committee, including for Mr Baines to undertake training and send a letter of apology to the complainant.
Once a decision has been made on the length of the suspension, it will take effect from the following day.
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