Cllr David Fairweather has been lambasted as “lacking insight” and “insulting to women” after expressing his “delight” at bringing Cllr Richard Moore back into the administration after a two year exile.
The move gives Cllr Fairweather’s all-male administration a majority of one after independent Arbroath councillor, Lois Speed, and Lib Dem Monifieth rep Ben Lawrie quit earlier this year citing an “unhealthy culture” within the corridors of power.
Cllr Moore quit the coalition in late 2018 after the Standards Commission for Scotland ruled that he had made “unwelcome and unwarranted physical contact” with councillors Speed and Julie Bell, as well as two unnamed female Angus Council officers, at a social care information event.
Cllr Fairweather has declined multiple requests to explain why he kept Cllr Moore in a £3,000-a-year vice-convener position on the licensing board after stepping down in 2018, despite moving to strip Cllrs Lawrie and Speed of positions after they quit the governing group in March.
The pair were removed from a number of roles earlier this month because, he argued, the positions ought to be held by members of the administration.
The leader also expressed his “delight” at welcoming Cllr Moore back, prompting anger from campaigners and victims of his behaviour.
Cllr Julie Bell, one of the women whom Cllr Moore behaved inappropriately towards, says she is “deeply disappointed” by Cllr Fairweather’s refusal to explain his rationale and Moore’s lack of contrition.
“Cllr Moore seems to lack insight and contrition into his behaviour, and I’m deeply disappointed by the leader’s willingness to welcome him back into the administration,” the SNP councillor said.
“This is a slap in the face to the officers and councillors involved in the original complaint, and despite all elected members supporting my motion [in October 2018] to tackle gender-based abuse and to be an examplar organisation against the abuse of women and girls.”
Emma Walker, a campaigner fighting against sexism in politics, said: “Local democracy relies on accountability and transparency, and so do the people it is there to serve.
“Cllr Fairweather is ‘delighted’ that he has given the green light for a return to the council administration for the man who sexually harassed four women in a single day, but in reality it is insulting to women and the public who he is there to serve.
“His refusal to give answers as to why Cllr Moore got to keep a £3,000-per-year appointment, or why he has replaced the only woman on the council administration who stood down as a result of this unhealthy culture, will not deter us from asking the questions over and over again.
“There is a behind-closed-doors culture in politics where men are rewarded for terrible behaviour, whilst women are punished for calling it out.”
Cllr Fairweather, rather than explaining his motives, has doubled down on defending the disgraced ex-Lib Dem, who quit the party earlier this year.
The leader told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “I am deeply disappointed at the continued harassment, victimisation that verges on bullying of Cllr Richard Moore by the press and social media regarding a complaint of nearly three years ago that was subsequently dealt with by the Standards Commission at that time.
“Also the hypocrisy of an SNP member whose own group along with other Cllrs worked with and supported, voted, on motions and amendments during that period with Cllr Moore.
“Equality works for all and that counts for men too.”
Cllr Moore was suspended from Angus Council meetings and his former party, the Liberal Democrats, for three months after the Standards Commission for Scotland ruled he had breached expected standards of behaviour for members of public office.
He now sits as an independent after quitting “personal reasons”. It is understood he has been the subject of complaints to party chiefs in the past relating to his treatment of women.
While Cllr Fairweather has refused to go into details on Cllr Moore’s appointment, others on Angus Council’s administration do not appear to view his behaviour in 2017 as a concern.
Those with knowledge of discussions among the group say the general view is that the disgraced councillor has, in effect, served his sentence.
A source with knowledge of the situation said: “You could say that he [Moore] made a whoopsie, got his punishment, served it and that’s the end of it.”
However, this is unlikely to placate campaigners who see Cllr Moore as another member of the “old boys’ club” that makes up Angus Council’s administration – which is now entirely white and male, with more than half approaching, or in excess of, retirement age.
Cllr David Cheape, who was removed from his post as convener of the Tayside Joint Valuation Board when he quit the administration in 2018, said of Moore’s reappointment: “That’s the way this lot work – it’s jobs for the boys.”
A Scottish Liberal Democrats spokesperson said: “Mr. Moore relinquished his membership of the Scottish Liberal Democrats in March.”