The Joint Standards Committee of Maldon District Council has upheld six separate complaints of bullying against Councillor Chrisy Morris. He was also found to have deliberately attempted to undermine the Code of Conduct process, bringing his authority into disrepute.
At a hearing on 6 September 2021, two separate investigation reports dealing with six complaints against Cllr Morris were presented to the Joint Standards Committee.
Four of the complaints had been submitted by fellow members of the Council. The final two – which alleged that Cllr Morris had bullied members of staff – were submitted by the Council's Corporate Leadership Team. With 60 years' service in local government between them, no member of the CLT had ever submitted a complaint against a councillor before.
The allegations included:
• disrupting a meeting of the Planning Committee by repeatedly shouting over the chair and calling her "Cruella"
• calling a fellow member of the council "old" and "past his best" during a meeting
• persistently singling out an officer for criticism with aggressive and intimidating behaviour
• ambushing another officer at a meeting by taunting him while filming the encounter in a video which was subsequently published on Facebook – and then "liking" a comment which described the officer as the "worst kind off [sic] human filth we have in our society"
During one of the investigations, Cllr Morris made repeated attempts to undermine and publicly discredit the process. His behaviour included sharing an extract from a complaint document on his Facebook page while complaining that the Council was "throwing thousands at an investigation that ultimately can't do a thing ..." and livestreaming his investigation interview on Facebook Live – which resulted in the Council having to report a personal data breach to the Information Commissioner.
The Joint Standards Committee upheld all six complaints, finding that Cllr Morris had bullied the members and officers involved and, in doing so, had brought his office or authority into disrepute. Additionally the Committee found that Cllr Morris' behaviour during the investigation process showed contempt for the Nolan principles of "accountability" and "integrity" and also brought his office and authority into disrepute.
Matt Lewin, a member of Cornerstone Barristers' Public Law team, was appointed as one of the external investigators by Maldon District Council.