Disgraced Aberdeen councillor Alan Donnelly has been suspended for three months while further investigations into his conduct are carried out by the standards watchdog.
The Standards Commission took the action against the former Tory Deputy Lord Provost, who was convicted of sexual assault but has resisted calls to resign from Aberdeen City Council.
A panel, convened by the commission, found that it was in the public interest to suspend the politician as a result of the serious nature of the complaint against him.
The suspension came on the back of an interim report from Caroline Anderson, the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in Scotland (ESC).
Earlier this year Mr Donnelly was placed under supervision for eight months and ordered to pay his victim £800 after he was found guilty of guilty of touching the face, hair and body of a man and kissing him on the face.
He was also placed on the sex offenders’ register and was referred to the Standards Commission after his conviction.
Councillor’s conduct caused emotional harm
Ms Anderson’s interim report noted the complaint claimed the incident took place while Donnelly was attending an event in his role as a councillor.
She found that an inference could be drawn that the councillor’s conduct caused “emotional harm” to the victim of the sexual assault.
There was also a “a potential impact on public confidence” in the local authority if Donnelly was allowed to continue as a councillor while complaints of “such a serious nature, involving criminal conduct” were outstanding against him.
The suspension is immediate. In the meantime Ms Anderson will continue her investigation into Donnelly which is not expected to be complete for another six weeks.
In particular, the clause stating that bullying or harassment is “completely unacceptable” and that the public must be treated with courtesy at all times.
We decided that it was in the public interest to impose an interim suspension, to maintain public confidence in the ethical standards framework in Scotland.”
Standard Commission Convener Kevin Dunion
Standards Commission Convener Professor Kevin Dunion said: “The Code of Conduct is clear about the standards of behaviour expected of councillors at all times.
“While the allegations against Councillor Donnelly have not yet been fully investigated by the ESC and are, as such, unsubstantiated, they are of a particularly serious nature.
“We decided that it was in the public interest to impose an interim suspension, to maintain public confidence in the ethical standards framework in Scotland.”
Donnelly declined to comment, but he is understood to be considering an appeal against his conviction. A letter from Donnelly’s representative informed the Commission that he did not want to be suspended.
The 65-year-old had resigned from the Scottish Conservatives and was removed from all council committees. But he had resisted calls to stand down.
Earlier this week Donnelly arrived for a full council meeting, where his participation in a vote on local development plan proposals caused controversy.
Councillors registered their dissent at his involvement during the proceedings.
A number of councillors got to their feet to register their dissent at his involvement during the proceedings.
But Lord Provost Barney Crockatt said dissent could only be registered about decisions made by the local authority, but not about who takes part in a vote.