Mayor sanctioned for attending Remembrance Sunday event while drunk

19 Sep 2019

Local Government, Public Law and Judicial Review

Durham County Council’s Standards Committee has sanctioned the former Mayor of Ferryhill Town Council for attending a beacon-lighting ceremony on Remembrance Sunday while drunk.

Cllr David Farry, who at the time of the incident was the Mayor of Ferryhill, was supposed to be the host of an event marking the centenary of the end of the First World War, when he would lead the town in participating in a symbolic beacon-lighting ceremony.

However, having spent the afternoon at the Working Men’s Club and at the Greyhound pub, Cllr Farry turned up late to the ceremony and was prevented from lighting the beacon due to his intoxication.

A number of complaints about his behaviour were submitted to Durham County Council’s Monitoring Officer, who appointed Matt Lewin to carry out an investigation. Separately, the Council received further complaints from a fellow Town Councillor and from the Town Clerk alleging disrespectful behaviour and bullying.

Cllr Farry denied all of the allegations against him. However, Matt’s investigation concluded that the allegations were true and that he was in breach of the Town Council’s Code of Conduct for Members.

Following a hearing, the Standards Committee found that:

  • Cllr Farry had attended the beacon-lighting ceremony in his official capacity while drunk and had therefore brought his office and authority into disrepute.
  • He had been threatening and aggressive during a phone call and in a subsequent email exchange with his colleague, which was disrespectful.
  • He had bullied the Town Clerk – particular emphasis was placed on a recording of a meeting which the Committee agreed showed the Clerk being subjected to hostile questions and accusations, being talked over, taunted, cut short and not listened to.

The sanctions imposed by the Committee were to formally censure Cllr Farry, to require him to apologise in writing to his colleague and the Clerk, to undergo training on member-officer relations and a recommendation that he be removed from the Town Council’s Personnel Sub-Committee until his dispute with the Clerk has been resolved.

Matt Lewin, of Cornerstone Barristers’ Public Law team, was appointed as the investigating officer for this complaint. He is regularly instructed to investigate allegations of councillor misconduct and to defend decisions of local authority standards committees in court.