KIRKLEES COUNCIL leader Mehboob Khan will be investigated for misconduct over his handling of public information.
Everyone has the right to request information held by public sector organisations under the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
But an Examiner investigation showed Clr Khan had intervened in FOI responses to prevent information from being sent out.
Following the revelations, many outraged readers called for Clr Khan to stand down immediately.
It took an official complaint to Kirklees Council for an inquiry to be launched and now the assessment sub-committee has decided there is a case to answer.
The Examiner was allowed to see the decision notice produced after the sub-committee meeting and take notes – but we were not allowed to take a copy of it.
The document said that allegations suggested that Clr Khan had prevented people from gaining information to which they were entitled under the Freedom of Information Act.
It continued: “The allegations suggested that the subject member may have compromised the impartiality of council officers responsible for responding to Freedom of Information requests requiring such officers to amend their responses to FOI requests.
“If such contact were found to have occurred, the subject member may have conducted himself in a manner which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office or Kirklees Council into disrepute.
“The allegations also raise the issue of whether the subject member had used or attempted to use his position as a member improperly to confer on or secure for himself or any other person an advantage or disadvantage.”
Clr Khan has denied doing anything and said he was merely trying to put things into context and improve the information sent back to applicants.
He said: “The complaint has now been referred to the monitoring officer and I will, of course, co-operate fully with their enquiry.
“I understand that as part of the process I will have the opportunity to speak to the monitoring officer and explain my position and I look forward to doing so.”
The Examiner asked Kirklees Council if the investigation would be made public.
A spokesman said: “All councils follow the same national guidelines when carrying out a standards investigation.
“After gathering information and interviewing the appropriate people, the investigating officer produces a report and gives their opinion on whether the code of conduct has been breached.
“The report is then considered by a Standards Sub-Committee and becomes a public document if, or when, the committee decides a full hearing into the allegations is to be held.
“It is possible at this next stage for the full hearing to disagree that a breach took place. If the investigation does not go to a full hearing, the report can still be published if it is deemed to be in the public interest.
“Every investigation is different and it would not be appropriate to pre-judge whether this particular report will be published, but that may happen. This investigation is yet to begin so it is not possible to say what information may or may not become public. However, the guidelines encourage openness and transparency. As with all investigations, we will be following those guidelines.”
The Standards sub-committee was chaired by an independent member called Derek Binns, and included Kirklees councillor Nigel Patrick and Kirkburton parish councillor Peter Cunnington.
Clr Khan currently sits on the Standards for England Board – which provides strategic leadership and guidance on organisational matters.Š
A spokesman said while the Kirklees standards board process was ongoing Clr Khan would be “excluded from discussions of the operation and monitoring of the board’s case-handling activities (including contact with relevant officers).
“But is able to continue to take part in discussions of general policy and strategy at the discretion of the board, led by the chair.”