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Public Services Ombudsman finds former councillor used ‘offensive’ language in Black Lives Matter Facebook post

21 Jun 2022 3 minute read
Pembrokeshire Council’s offices. Photo by joysaphine, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Katy Jenkins

A summary report of the investigation carried out by the Public Services Ombudsman into a Facebook post by a former Pembrokeshire County Councillor described the language used by Paul Dowson as “offensive”.

Mr Dowson, the former county councillor for Pembroke Dock, was found to have breached the councils code of conduct by bringing his office or the local authority “into disrepute” with a social media post “likely to be considered racist” by the council’s standards committee  earlier this month.

Numerous complaints were made to the council and ombudsman’s office about the Facebook post Mr Dowson published in June 2020 relating to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The ombudsman’s investigation found that the post was made “in order to raise concerns about the council’s decision to light up county hall in support of Black Lives Matter.”

“The Member said that he considered the post to fall within his right to free speech because he did not believe he had really offended anybody, and the complaints that were made against him were politically motivated.

“The Ombudsman accepted that the Member had the right to question the Council’s decision to support Black Lives Matter, however the language used by the Member was offensive and went beyond what would be expected of a councillor in a political discussion.

Diversity training

The report also noted “The Member had not taken advantage of opportunities to attend equality and diversity training or social media training.”

The full ombudsman report was presented to the council’s standards committee but is not a public report, an ombudsman representative said.

Mr Dowson told the local democracy reporting service that the complaint made did not refer to a Facebook post and there were discrepancies with the training records, adding he had wanted last month’s hearing in pubic.

“I had earlier stated that I would not participate in a private hearing, and it became clear to me that due to the amount of evidence I had which proved the complaint was severely biased and prejudicial the committee chose to stay in private,” he said.

Mr Dowson was elected with a majority of four votes to represent the Pembroke Dock Central ward in 2017.

In January 2021 Mr Dowson announced he had joined UKIP and would sit as a UKIP councillor on Pembrokeshire County Council.

He failed in a bid to be re-elected in the Bush Ward in last month’s local elections.

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