Fort community council was within rights to bar ‘disruptive’ member

Community councillor Mark Drayton who was unanimously booted out of last month's meeting by fellow councillors. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, NO F17 Mark Drayton 2
Community councillor Mark Drayton who was unanimously booted out of last month's meeting by fellow councillors. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, NO F17 Mark Drayton 2

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Fort William Inverlochy and Torlundy Community Council was within its rights last month when it banned one of its members from attending meetings following allegations of unacceptable behaviour.

That is the advice given to community councillors by Highland Council this week after it was forced to intervene following the row which engulfed the community council’s April monthly online meeting.

There was turmoil when over an hour and half of the two-hour meeting was consumed by a heated argument over allegations involving community councillor Mark Drayton, who was accused of sending emails containing derogatory comments to, amongst others, candidates for last week’s council elections.

Several of Councillor Drayton’s fellow councillors had threatened to quit the community council if Mr Drayton did not immediately stand down.

Eventually, and despite Councillor Drayton’s protests that the community council did not have the authority to prevent him from attending meetings, councillors voted unanimously to kick him out of the online meeting and barred him from attending any others in the immediate future.

Chairman Mark Linfield told the meeting as far as he was concerned Councillor Drayton had breached the code of unreasonable behaviour which had been approved for use by the local authority.

However, Councillor Drayton was unrepentant, refuting claims that he had sent emails with the intention of making it look like they had the backing of the entire community council.

He told the meeting at no point had he purported to be speaking on anyone’s behalf other than his own.

However, community council secretary Patricia Jordan remarked that in her more than 20 years as a community councillor she had never experienced a situation like this one involving Councillor Drayton.

Highland Council had later confirmed to the Lochaber Times it was aware of what it called the  ‘highly offensive and derogatory comments’ made by Councillor Drayton both by email and online and said it had  written to him reminding him of his responsibilities as an elected representative.

The police were also dragged into the affair and officers spoke to ‘all parties involved’.

Now comes news from Highland Council this week that the community council had right on its  side when it voted to prevent Councillor Drayton taking any further part in last month’s meeting.

A Highland Council spokesperson told the Lochaber Times this week: ‘Advice on this matter has been provided directly to the Fort William, Inverlochy and Torlundy Community Council to be considered at their next meeting.

‘Anyone who has been elected as a community councillor will remain as a community councillor until the next election, the community council is dissolved or the individual chooses to resign.

‘However, the community council is able to ask anyone to leave a meeting, or prevent someone from speaking at a meeting, if the individual is being disruptive or abusive.’

Asked for his reaction, Councillor Linfield confirmed this was the advice he had received from the local authority.

Community council chairman Mark Linfield. Photograph: Iain Ferguson, NO F17 Mark Linfield 02
Community council chairman Mark Linfield. Photograph: Iain Ferguson,

And he added: ‘I have asked our secretary to circulate the advice given, so the other community councillors are aware.

‘We will be having our meeting as normal next week as advised by the Highland Council.’