Standards probe into ex-mayor by private investigators closed

Election count 2015 West Worthing and East Worthing. Bob Smytherman. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150805-094456008
Election count 2015 West Worthing and East Worthing. Bob Smytherman. Photo by Derek Martin SUS-150805-094456008

A former mayor grilled by private investigators over a standards matter has learned the outcome of his case after councillors concluded the matter behind closed doors – around a year after the probe began.

Bob Smytherman faced questions over failing to register two interests – believed to be roles at a care home and as a school governor, as well as not declaring an interest at a council meeting in February, 2017.

As reported by the Herald last August, Worthing Borough Council called in investigators CH&i Associates – based 250 miles away in Macclesfield – to look into the matter on its behalf.

Mr Smytherman said he had learned in recent days that the case had been discussed in private session by the council’s joint governance committee on May 31 – but claimed he had not otherwise been told he was no longer under investigation.

Minutes of the otherwise public meeting were vague on the matter and did not directly name Mr Smytherman, only referencing a report entitled ‘2017/18 review of member conduct’.

He said: “Given the original complaint was in February, 2017, I feel the whole process – especially engaging private investigators from Macclesfield – was a huge over-reaction to simple omission from my declaration of interests of a two-day-a-month job that could have easily been resolved in-house over a cup of tea.

“I hope in future the council will consider resolving these issues informally before resulting to engaging expensive private investigators.”

Asked about the cost of calling in the Macclesfield investigators, a council spokesman said: “The cost was £2,625 plus VAT and disbursements.”

And on the outcome of the investigation, they added: “The matter has been concluded and the original complaint has been partially upheld in that Councillor Smytherman failed to deal with his declaration of member’s interests correctly. The matter has been informally resolved by way of additional training.”

Mr Smytherman said his register of interests had been updated.

Clarification: This article has been updated to incorporate an amended statement from Worthing Borough Council, clarifying the investigation resulted in the original ‘complaint’ being partially upheld.