Barnet Borough Council ignored advice to hear all complaints relating to Mayor of Barnet Hugh Rayner at a disciplinary panel, a Freedom of Information request has revealed.
The Hale councillor was cleared of failing to declare his landlord status when voting on controversial housing policies and of abusing his position at a leader’s panel on Wednesday.
The complaints, brought by GLA member for Barnet Andrew Dismore, related to five budget meetings and business overview and scrutiny meetings between 2010 and 2014.
Cllr Rayner owns a total of 19 properties across Barnet, and the original complaint detailed how he drafted 12 month contracts permitting rent increases without warning.
It also accused him of turning up unannounced and “pressurising” a tenant to sign a lease, and that he failed to declare he received rent on behalf of tenants on housing benefits directly from the council.
However, the authority’s monitoring officer, Maryellen Salter disallowed these parts of the complaint on the grounds they do not fall under the members code of conduct.
But according to a Freedom of Information request, Stephen Ross, an independent person consulted on the matter, disagreed with this view.
In an e-mail to Ms Salter, he said: “The detail and complexity of the allegations needs to be carefully considered with any relevant information in the additional evidence that has been offered and taking into account all the factors, including that this allegation has been placed in the public domain.
“To maintain credibility, I recommend it should proceed to a formal process.”
Cllr Rayner amended his register of interests after the complaint was made to include the fact that he rents out to social tenants – a disclosable pecuniary interest.
Mr Ross said: “This is like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted and has not satisfied the requirements of the code of conduct.”
However, in a reply, Ms Salter wrote: “Each member is required to complete a new register of interest form once they are elected within 28 days of taking office.
“Given he had a complaint regarding his register of interests he took advice on what to include in the new form. That of course doesn’t correct the old form as that was in place during the time of the complaint.”
Mr Ross said this did “not change his opinion”.
He added: “Cllr Rayner’s business activities appear so close to Barnet’s housing provision on what I have seen, to make me uncomfortable enough about the allegations to believe it should be taken further.”
Cllr Rayner refused to comment.
A statement from the council said: “The monitoring officer sought all necessary advice before coming to a conclusion about whether Mr Dismore's complaints were applicable under the code of conduct.
“This includes seeking legal advice and communicating with the independent person on the panel.
“The statutory responsibility for deciding whether a complaint is applicable under the code is the Monitoring Officer's alone.
“After discussion with the independent person the monitoring officer came to the conclusion that three of Mr Dismore’s eight complaints were covered by the code and should be put before the group leaders panel, whereas the other five did not relate to Cllr Rayner’s activities as a councillor, or the code of conduct was not applicable
“All three complaints that did go forward were rejected by the panel on 2 September.”