Calls have been made for the resignation of a councillor who was paid thousands by a renewable energy company but who then failed to declare an interest while voting on its planning application.
Llanfihangel ar Arth community councillor Haulwen Lewis has been suspended from taking part in council duties for three months, following a hearing by the Adjudication Panel for Wales.
Now former community councillor and retired Western Mail Journalist Steve Dube, who was a colleague of Mrs Lewis for more than a decade, insists she should stand down.
‘Caused deep divisions in the community’
In a statement, he said: “This has been a most contentious and unpleasant affair that has caused deep divisions in the community and the sad fact is that it was completely unnecessary.”
Mr Dube, who lodged the original complaint to the Ombudsman about Mrs Lewis in December 2013, added: “If Mrs Lewis had complied with the Code of Conduct, which exists to ensure probity in public life, none of this would have happened.”
The panel heard that Mrs Lewis had a personal and prejudicial interest in RWE’s plans for Brechfa Forest West wind farm in Carmarthenshire – which was approved by a planning inspectorate inquiry – as she and her husband owned the adjoining land.
Couple paid £25,000, with a further payments expected
The couple had entered into agreements with the company and had been paid £25,000 for access over their land, with further money to be paid in future.
She admitted breaching two paragraphs of the council’s Code of Conduct before the hearing began.
She said she abstained in the vote with her ballot paper left blank.
“When I heard rumours that Haulwen and her husband Tom owned the land I expected that she would declare an interest when the question of the wind farm was first mentioned in council. She did not,” continued Mr Dube.
“I’m told by those who were at the meeting which considered the planning application that Mrs Lewis was specifically asked if she should also leave the meeting when the issue came up.
Land register revealed ownership
“I felt I had to make my complaint when a check with the land register revealed both the ownership of the land in question and the fact that a contract had already been made with the wind farm company.
“She denied any wrongdoing until the very last minute, with complete disregard of the cost to the public purse of an unnecessary hearing.”
Mr Dube added: “I can only hope that Mrs Lewis now does the honourable thing in the interests of the community and resigns from the council.”
Community member Olwen Davies, who has attended the council meetings for the last two years, said the situation was a “very sad one for the community” but she said Councillor Lewis has “to take ownership” of the problem.
“An experienced councillor is fully aware of the code of conduct and should always abide by that code.
‘Respect of the people in the community’
“This was a clear cut decision and I think the person involved has got an ownership of the problem and should deal with that problem for the respect of the people in the community.”
Another resident Robert Jones said Mrs Lewis should stand down.
“Most people in this vicinity agree. The sanctions imposed have been very light, especially as the council does no convene again until September, this has been less than a farce.”
Mrs Lewis has declined to comment.
Llanfihangel ar Arth Community Council Clerk Anita Evans said the council would be unable to comment until after its next meeting in September.
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