An ethics watchdog has been accused of enforcing a “two strikes and you’re out” policy after explaining its decision to allow a disgraced Aberdeen councillor to keep his job.
Hearing chairwoman Ashleigh Dunn said since the Torry and Ferryhill member had not been jailed, they could not remove him from elected office.
Ms Dunn drew ire as she added: “There was no evidence to show the respondent’s conduct was anything but a one-off incident.”
The remarks led to questions asking exactly how many sexual assault convictions would be needed before tougher action was taken.
Now, commission convener Kevin Dunion has provided an answer – saying it would be two.
In a letter to Aberdeen South MP Stephen Flynn, he wrote: “I would ask you to note that if a councillor is convicted of more than one sexual assault, it is likely that they would be automatically disqualified.”
A spokeswoman has clarified that would be because it would likely result in a custodial sentence of three months or more, the prerequisite for automatic dismissal.
But Mr Flynn told The P&J: “What the Standards Commission is saying is that it’s two strikes and you’re out when it comes to sexual offences – that is completely and utterly wrong.
“Donnelly does not deserve a second chance and the Standards Commission shouldn’t have given him one.
“Douglas Lumsden and Jenny Laing’s administration will be kept afloat by the votes of a convicted sex offender – that’s the reality of this shameful situation.”
Having denied the attack on an employee at a civic function in November 2018, Donnelly was found guilty after trial of touching his victim’s face, hair and body and kissing him on the face.
At a hearing in January, Sheriff Wallace sentenced him to eight months supervision, put him on the sex offenders register, and ordered he pay his victim £800 compensation.
The former deputy provost will be able to participate fully in council business again from the beginning of March.
But it has been confirmed he will do so as an unaligned independent – leaving the ruling Tory, Aberdeen Labour and Independent Alliance coalition short of a majority.
When found guilty last December, Donnelly resigned from the Scottish Conservative party but resisted calls from opponents and former administration colleagues to quit as a councillor – voting with the administration on key decisions only days before his suspension in March.
Last night, Conservative council co-leader Douglas Lumsden said: “We have made it quite clear: Alan Donnelly is no longer a member of the Conservative party or this administration.
“And even once his suspension is over, he will still not be a member of this administration.
“As far as we are concerned, it’s a minority administration of 22 and how Donnelly decides to vote is up to him.”
Mr Lumsden urged Mr Flynn to write to local government minister Kevin Stewart, as he has done, to bring about change in the Councillors’ Code Of Conduct.
Donnelly said it was “disappointing” Mr Flynn did not respect the decision of independent Standards Commission.
He added: “I want to move on with my life having served my sentence and I will continue being an independent councillor until May 2022.
“It is factually incorrect to say I am keeping the administration afloat as I am an independent opposition councillor.”