Warwick’s ‘man of the people’ has defended his position after being reprimanded for breaching the district council’s code of conduct over allegations of bribery.
Cllr Bob Dhillon was called before the full council on Wednesday where he was found to have been in breach of Warwick District Council’s code of conduct over remarks made last month.
During discussions over the contentious sale of St Mary’s Land and the racecourse, Cllr Dhillon made outbursts allegedly directed at deputy chief executive, Andrew Jones who is the lead monitoring officer for business options at the site.
During the meeting, the outspoken councillor shouted: “What have you got to be scared of Andrew?” and “how much did they pay you?” before storming out of the chamber.
He said his comments referred to the Jockey Club and proposals to sell off parts of the land which have angered much of the town.
In a recorded vote, 31 members agreed the code had been breached on principles of honesty and integrity, respect for others, not intimidating others, and for bringing the council into disrepute.
He must now make a formal apology to the full council, to Andrew Jones as well as undertake further training on the council’s conduct policy.
But Cllr Dhillon, who is also mayor of Warwick, insisted that the words were ‘taken out of context’ and that he never meant any allegation against a specific officer as claimed.
Speaking to The Courier, he said: “I was simply trying to understand more about what negotiations had been going on over St Mary’s Lands.
“I got frustrated and angry that we were not being given answers and my comments were taken the wrong way.
“I wasn’t making allegations against any specific officers and I don’t think this decision is fair.
“The vote was politically motivated. The Conservative party had already suspended me by the time the vote was taken, so how can it be fair and impartial?
“They are implying I used words in the wrong way and I have been reprimanded for speaking up for Warwick, but what is democracy if we cannot have free speech?”
On Monday, the councillor was suspended from the district council Conservative group for six months.
Cllr Michael Doody, group leader, said: As far a this council is concerned he won’t be acting as a Conservative for the next six months. That decision was taken on Monday.”
Cllr Dhillon’s legal advisor told the council that “nine times out of ten, the councillor got it wrong” with “naive” remarks which he put down to passion and inexperience, and not bullying or intimidation aimed at any one officer.
n At Wednesday’s meeting members discussed St Mary’s Lands after the executive’s decision to investigate matters further was called in.
It was agreed to send the decision back to the executive to be considered ‘openly and transparently’.
Cllr Dhillon told members: “I want a level playing field. People think this decision is predetermined and we need to assure them it is not the case.”
No decisions have been made and the negotiations and debate will continue.