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Police called to council meeting argument over standards report

Police were called to a council meeting at Maldon District Council last week after a councillor refused to stop saying "point of order".

Cllr Chrisy Morris, who was elected to the council as an independent in May 2019, was challenging the council's consideration of a report that found him to have breached the local authority's code of conduct.

The report was published in early September and listed several complaints made against Cllr Morris from other councillors, which claimed he had been "abusive", "haranguing", "rude", and had disclosed private communications, amongst other complaints.

In a council meeting last week (4 November), councillors voted on sanctions against Cllr Morris in light of the report's findings.

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As the chair of the meeting, Councillor Mark S Heard, attempted to call a vote on the sanctions, Cllr Morris interrupted by repeatedly saying "point of order".

The chair said to Cllr Morris that his behaviour was "unacceptable".

The chair read out rule ten of The Council and Committee Procedure Rules, which says the chair may move that a "member named be not further heard" if they are disruptive.

The rule adds that if the council member continues to behave irregularly, improperly, or offensively, or by wilfully obstructing the business of the council, the chair can move that the member leave the meeting or move to adjourn the meeting altogether.

The chair moved that Cllr Morris shall not be heard, which the majority of councillors seconded.

When Cllr Morris continued to disregard the motion, the chair moved to have him removed.

The chair said the Standards Committee had found him to be "a bully and you are demonstrating that".

He later added that: "You are also a coward because you use the code of conduct to complain about other councillors yet you ignore it yourself".

Cllr Morris, who used a megaphone at times during the meeting, responded by saying "at least I've got the testicular fortitude to sit here and speak my truth".

Soon after, two police officers entered the room, and an officer told Cllr Morris he was breaching the peace.

The council moved to ban Cllr Morris from all committees, including the planning, district planning, working groups and outside bodies committees for 18 months, to 2023. No councillors voted against the move.

The chair asked the members to rise and walk out in protest and closed the meeting.

According to a BBC report, no arrests were made.

In a statement issued after the meeting, Maldon District Council’s Leader, Cllr Wendy Stamp said: “Enough is enough. The public may be seeing Cllr Morris’s disruptive behaviour for the first time at last night’s council meeting. However, this has been a regular occurrence and we cannot tolerate this type of behaviour any longer and put members and staff through any further distress. Our focus as a council is to provide services to residents and to act as the democratic voice....

“His repeated disruptive calls for a point of order were not accepted by the chairman, as Cllr Morris did not state which procedure rule his point of order referred to, despite being urged to by many of the council’s members. The chairman repeatedly asked Cllr Morris to desist his behaviour and having no other option, he followed due process in asking members to vote that ‘the member be no longer heard’ and this was supported by all members without dissension."

Adam Carey

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