Two Aberdeen councillors are to be hauled before the standards watchdog for berating disgraced Alan Donnelly on his return to the Town House.
Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill and his colleague Steve Delaney will face an ethics hearing in October, having allegedly failed to treat the convicted sex offender with respect.
The allegation against the pair concerns the council budget meeting on March 10 – which marked the re-emergence of the Torry And Ferryhill member after a year-long suspension.
It is understood the acting ethical standards commissioner received only one complaint about the heated debate – alleged to breach rules instructing elected members to “respect colleagues and treat them with courtesy at all times when acting as a councillor”.
Fiery council meeting marked convicted sex offender’s return
Mr Donnelly, a former Conservative now serving as a independent, was found guilty of sexual assault after a trial at the city’s sheriff court at the end of 2019.
Having denied touching his victim’s face, hair and body and kissing him on the face, he was later sentenced to an eight-month supervision order, placed on the sex offenders register and ordered to pay his victim £800 in compensation.
And upon his return from his year-long exile, handed down by the Standards Commission, furious scenes erupted during the annual budget talks.
The two Lib Dems, now facing a panel from the very same commission that barred Mr Donnelly for a year, were clearly irked by his involvement in proposing their spending proposals.
The former depute provost managed to raise his hand to second Mr Yuill’s budget plans ahead of Mr Delaney – much to their visible annoyance.
The tension was palpable before the Liberal Democrat tirade against the returning Alan Donnelly – here is how we reported it at the time:
Drama afoot. Alan Donnelly moving to second Ian Yuill's budget, beating Steve Delaney to ask to. Lord Provost Crockett calls a break, as it's not clear if the dibs stands. #AberdeenBudget
— Alastair Gossip (@AlastairGossip) March 10, 2021
When Mr Delaney, representing Kingswells, Sheddocksley and Summerhill, eventually got his turn to speak in support, he said: “I was rather disappointed at our resident sex offender’s intervention – another of his publicity stunts which is unwelcome.
“Maybe it is just time he realised what everyone else is saying and he just went now.”
Airyhall, Broomhill, Garthdee councillor Mr Yuill, who was at the forefront of a campaign pushing for Mr Donnelly to quit his job over the conviction, later told the meeting the convicted sex offender’s presence was “unwanted and unwelcome”.
At the time, Mr Donnelly denied his backing for the Lib Dem budget was a “publicity stunt”.
Mr Donnelly, who denies his “trivial” behaviour deserved a place on the sex offenders register and has pledged to stand for re-election next year, also refused to make comment.
He said he “looked forward to the truth coming out” at the hearing on October 5.
‘Unwanted and unwelcome’, the council’s ‘resident sex offender’: Disrespectful or freedom of expression?
The Standards Commission hearing panel will have to carefully consider the allegation Mr Donnelly was treated with disrespect against the Liberal Democrats’ freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention On Human Rights.
Guidance produced for councillors on the balance between the two states Article 10 protection is unlikely if they are deemed to have “simply made gratuitous personal comments or to have simply indulged in offensive abuse”.
Mr Donnelly, too, has caused a headache for the ethics authority – highlighting a disconnect between current sentencing rules in the courts and the need for a three-month jail term to automatically remove a councillor from office.
As the only councillor ever referred to Standards for being put on the sex offenders register, a recent push for a rule change to make it possible for those added to the list to instantly lose elected roles can be attributed directly to the fury at his continued public service.