Hartlepool deputy mayor Kevin Cranney has been found to have breached the council’s Code Of Conduct after he asked a grandmother if he had slept with her at a council meeting.
The findings of an official council investigation into the incident call on Coun Cranney to make a public and formal apology to the victim.
Coun Cranney and all councillors may also be given equality and diversity awareness training to stress what is expected of them as elected representatives.
Peter Devlin, the council’s monitoring officer, who carried out the investigation said Coun Cranney’s remarks were “offensive” and had caused particular upset to the victim who felt “humiliated and degraded”.
The council launched the investigation into Coun Cranney’s remarks after receiving five separate complaints following an extraordinary council meeting at the Town Hall Theatre on March 12.
Video footage of the incident appeared to show Coun Cranney ask the woman: “I haven’t slept with you, have I?”
He understands that a frank and public apology should be forthcomingPeter Devlin, Hartlepool Borough Coucnil
The meeting had been called to discuss the outcome of a meeting between local representatives and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt about trying to reinstate services to Hartlepool hospital.
But it ended in angry scenes and shouts of ‘Labour out’ from some members of the audience after councillors voted against holding referendums on the hospital issue and holding a vote of no confidence in hospital managers.
Mr Devlin said Coun Cranney had breached the council’s Code of Conduct’s obligations to treat others with respect and failed to meet the authority’s high standards for conduct expected.
He said in his findings: “The remarks made by Coun Cranney are offensive and have caused particular upset to the individual on the receiving end of such remarks.”
Mr Devlin added: “He understands that a frank and public apology should be forthcoming and that through the monitoring officer an expanded letter of apology should find its way to the recipient of these most unfortunate remarks. “I also believe that in conjunction with the council’s chief executive officer there should be discussion as to whether Coun Cranney and indeed all elected members should participate in some form of equality and diversity awareness training.”
Coun Cranney told the investigation his remarks were “off the cuff”, and accepted he had been wrong to make the comment and should apologise.
The woman he made the remark to told Mr Devlin she had not said anything directly to Coun Cranney to prompt the remark.
She wishes to remain anonymous, but said: “I felt humiliated, degraded and insulted. I think he needs to learn how to address people.
“He is a prominent person in the town now that he is deputy mayor. I have suggested he make a £500 donation to Women’s Aid refuge in Hartlepool.”
Coun Cranney, who represents Foggy Furze ward, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Shortly after the incident he told the Mail: “It was off the cuff. In hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, I realise I shouldn’t have but I don’t use any excuse that I was under pressure.
“I shouldn’t have said it.”
The council has also concluded a second investigation into complaints against Coun Cranney over an exchange with Putting Hartlepool First Councillor David Riddle.
It received several complaints after Coun Cranney said words to the effect of “I’ll see you later” to Coun Riddle at the close of a meeting which Coun Riddle took to be threatening.
The exchange followed an extraordinary council meeting on October 13 when there was heated debate around a motion to discuss the future of the then ceremonial mayor, Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher.
One council officer got involved and urged Coun Cranney to “leave it”.
Coun Cranney told the investigation he had felt annoyed at an earlier reference by Coun Riddle to a certain residents’ association.
He maintained he just wanted to ask Coun Riddle what he had meant by the remark.
Coun Riddle told the investigation he did not make any comment directly to Coun Cranney but simply compared esteemed forefathers of Hartlepool, such as Ralph Ward Jackson, with modern day politicians.
Monitoring officer Peter Devlin concluded Coun Cranney’s remark of “I’ll see you later” was ambiguous and it was inconclusive whether he had breached the Code of Conduct.
But he said the relationship between the two councillors was in “urgent need of repair” and there should be conciliation.
Mr Devlin recommended the issue be monitored during the year.