03:15PM, Friday 07 July 2017
Cllr MJ Saunders had been the subject of complaints about his tweets.
Confusion surrounding the outcome of a complaint made against a key cabinet member for his conduct on social media was cleared up on Wednesday.
Last week Cllr MJ Saunders (Con, Cookham), cabinet member for finance, found himself the subject of several complaints to the Royal Borough over a series of messages he sent on Twitter over the weekend of June 24-25.
Several were directed at the Advertiser and editor Martin Trepte, whom Cllr Saunders labelled a ‘self appointed fire raiser’ and ‘dodgy’.
Further tweets were directed at other Twitter users.
At least two members of the public made formal complaints to the borough about Cllr Saunders’ behaviour, including one on Monday, June 26.
The leader of the council Cllr Simon Dudley (Con, Riverside) tweeted on Thursday, June 29, to say the monitoring officer had determined there was no breach of the council’s code of conduct by Cllr Saunders.
The code warns members against ‘behaving in an abusive or threatening way, or making allegations about people in public’.
However, after Cllr Dudley’s tweet, the complainant was contacted by the monitoring
officer Mary Kilner and asked for more information about the social media messages.
On Wednesday, a council spokesman confirmed there had been no breach of the code of conduct. We understand the complainant was formally told that afternoon.
The complainant had previously complained about Cllr Saunders' conduct in March, also in relation to his behaviour on social media.
Then, the deputy monitoring officer Mary Severin concluded the councillor had not breached the code of conduct but warned he should take care in his exchanges.
The ruling said: “He should not make comments which are clearly likely to be perceived as offensive. Not only will this mean that someone else will complain against him but to make such comments reflects on the good reputation of councillors and of the borough in general.”
A formal complaint has also been made to the Conservative Party HQ about Cllr Saunders, calling for action to be taken against him to save the party ‘further chaos and embarrassment’.
The party was contacted by the Advertiser to find out the status of this complaint but is yet to respond.
A social media policy has now been introduced for councillors at the Royal Borough.
The policy states employees and councillors who have personal social media accounts should not post ‘anything inappropriate about council services, employees, elected members, residents and their families’.
It says: “Be respectful – we have a no tolerance policy when it comes to bullying in the workplace and that includes on social media. Our residents and your colleagues deserve to be spoken to online with the same respect we give them in person, in writing or over the phone.”
It advises not to block other Twitter users unless ‘really necessary’.
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