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Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard Dunoon Observer and Argyllshire Standard


ARGYLL AND BUTE Council this week launched an extraordinary attack on two former communications officers who resigned their posts after being suspended.

In the wake of the suspension of Communications Manager Jo Smith an investigation led by John Clayton found that communications officers Dinah MacKay and Janet West had, while testing a new internal video communications system, mocked some council colleagues.

For this relatively minor offence both were suspended, and have since resigned.

We understand their messages were not visible to anyone but themselves at the time.

On Monday the council issued a statement saying that their resignation “concludes matters as regards both officers.”

However, later in the week another statement was issued by the greatly depleted communications team saying: “…in order to set matters in some context, the decision to suspend was founded on strong prima facie evidence of potential serious and gross misconduct around wholly inappropriate and repetitive use of obscene and abusive communication messaging exchanges deemed likely to be harsh and hurtful if read by the colleagues (mostly junior) being discussed.”

We asked the council the following questions:

• Would the officers' messages ever have been seen by members of the public?
• Would the existence of these messages have come to light without Mr Clayton's enquiry?
• Did any of the officers' colleagues actually see the messages?
• Did their conduct impact on service delivery?
• Were they ever warned about their behaviour before being suspended?
• Does the council accept that its strong public words regarding the officers could affect their future employment prospects?

The council declined to answer any of these questions, which we have now submitted as a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

The Dunoon Observer has learned through a previous FOI request, however, that 27 employees have been suspended from Argyll and Bute Council in the past 12 months.
The response to our FOI request revealed that, in the twelve months to April 6, three people had been suspended from the council’s Chief Executive’s Unit, 13 from the Community Services department and eight from Development and Infrastructure.

In 2010 the council employed 5,000 people.

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