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Former Liberal Democrat Richard Moore who quit the party in March, was brought on board to replace Lois Speed and Ben Lawrie, who each stood down in March citing an “unhealthy culture” within the group. Eight Conservatives and seven Independents, all male, now control the council.
However, questions have been raised over his suitability after he was found by a standards body to have acted in an “inappropriate and disrespectful manner” towards two councillors and two council officers in 2018 – a matter over which he quit the administration, but remained as a public representative.
Cllr Julie Bell, one of the women whom Moore acted inappropriately towards, has spoken out to publicly condemn the decision by administration leader David Fairweather to readmit the former Lib Dem.
“I’m angry and disappointed,” she said.
“Not only do they no longer have a woman in the administration at all, they’ve accepted back into the fold a councillor who has behaved inappropriately towards women and has had a suspension issued by the Standards Commission for Scotland.
“For the administration to be all-male is really showing its true colours – that it is accepting someone who treats women inappropriately back into their ranks even more so. It beggars belief.”
The Standards Commission for Scotland ruled that Cllr Moore made “unwarranted and inappropriate physical contact” with Cllrs Bell and Speed, along with two council officers.
The watchdog decided there was enough evidence to show he put his hand down the back of Bell’s top, leant on Cllr Speed’s back as she leant over a table, put his arm around a council officer and touched another the top of her back.
He also referred to them as “lovely ladies” and “dears” – behaviour he insisted was a hallmark of his Yorkshire upbringing but the panel ruled had been “patronising and demeaning”.
This all took place during a formal information session on social care reform in October 2017 at which Mr Moore had been expected to uphold the reputation of his public appointment as a councillor.
Mr Moore – who was also blasted by the Commission for showing a lack of insight into his actions – has swatted aside the criticisms.
The Arbroath West, Letham and Friockheim member added: “The Standards Commission aplied the penalty they thought was appropriate.
“If they had any more concern they would have applied further penalties.”
However, he declined to elaborate on the circumstances in which he was admitted to the administration, and said he quit the Liberal Democrats after 20 years because he had fallen “out of step” with the party.
Administration leader Fairweather appointed Mr Moore during an Angus Council meeting on Thursday at which he also successfully tabled motions to remove Cllrs Lawrie and Speed from a number of committee appointments.
The pair stepped down in March citing concerns with the working culture within the administration.
Mr Fairweather, who denied claims that some members were “shouted down” or “isolated”, offered to resign but was backed by the remaining members of the ruling group.
Mr Fairweather did not respond to multiple requests for comment. Cllr Speed could not be reached for comment.