Wales politics

Probe over whether Plaid Cymru AM Neil McEvoy made 'threatening remark'

Neil McEvoy
Image caption Neil McEvoy became an assembly member in May 2016

A Plaid Cymru AM has been probed by the Public Services Ombudsman over whether he made a threatening remark to a council officer, BBC Wales has learned.

Allegations he brought Cardiff council into disrepute have been referred to a tribunal.

It has now emerged the case apparently relates to whether a single comment was made to a council officer in a threatening way.

A Cardiff Plaid spokesman called the investigation an "outrage".

It is understood that Mr McEvoy, who has been investigated in his role as a Cardiff councillor, has denied that the remark - a promise to restructure the council - was threatening.

The investigation, which has been referred to the Adjudication Panel for Wales for a later hearing, came about following a complaint brought by Cardiff Labour councillor Paul Mitchell.

Image copyright Google Streetview
Image caption The investigation concerns alleged events at Cardiff Civil Justice Centre

BBC Wales has now learned the details of the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales investigation, which considered whether he breached parts of the councillors' code of conduct.

Mr McEvoy, who is leader of Cardiff council's Plaid group, was alleged to have made a comment in a threatening manner to a city council officer after a court hearing at Cardiff civil justice centre in July 2015.

The hearing concerned an application to suspend a warrant of eviction of a Cardiff council tenant.

Mr McEvoy went to the hearing to assist the tenant, which was also attended by council officers.

Following the hearing the AM allegedly said: "I can't wait until May 2017 when the restructure of the council happens."

Image copyright Google Streetview
Image caption Neil McEvoy will be fighting the Cardiff council election in May as group leader

The council officer alleged that Mr McEvoy was intimidating, and took it as a threat to her job.

Mr McEvoy is thought to have accepted that he made the comment about restructuring, but argues that he made it while speaking to the tenant about political matters.

His Plaid group proposes to restructure the authority's senior management, and there are council elections taking place in May.

He denied making the comment to council officers, and suggested it was soothing to the tenant to be informed there would be no repeat of the incident.

The investigation examined whether there were breaches of parts of the code of conduct relating to:

  • showing respect and consideration for others;
  • bullying and harassment
  • bringing the councillor's office or the authority into disrepute

Mr McEvoy himself is not discussing the case.

A source sympathetic to Mr McEvoy said: "How does saying that he wants to restructure the council justify sending this complaint to the adjudication panel? It's a farce."

Image copyright Ombudsman
Image caption Councillors in Wales are required to follow the code of conduct

A Cardiff Plaid spokesman said it was their long standing policy to restructure Cardiff council.

He said: "It's an outrage that a government-appointed Ombudsman thinks he has the right to interfere in this process.

"It's also farcical that everybody can talk about this, except Neil".

Response

The ombudsman's spokeswoman said: "Information obtained by the ombudsman during an investigation of a possible breach of the code of conduct for local authority members may only be disclosed for specific purposes under the Local Government Act 2000.

"The ombudsman's report following the investigation into a complaint against Councillor McEvoy has been referred to the Adjudication Panel for Wales for consideration by a tribunal.

"It would not be appropriate for the ombudsman to comment at this time as this may prejudice the tribunal proceedings."

In response to the Cardiff Plaid Cymru spokesman's comments, the ombudsman's spokeswoman added: "The Public Services Ombudsman for Wales is not appointed by the Welsh Government.

"The appointment process is conducted by the National Assembly for Wales.

"The current ombudsman was interviewed by an assembly panel, which was chaired by an elected Plaid Cymru member.

"As preferred candidate he was then interviewed by the cross-party [Assembly] Communities, Local Government and Equality Committee.

"The committee's recommendation was then put to the full assembly for confirmation".

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