A SHAMED Parish Councillor is to be ‘censured’ by colleagues following an investigation into a physical altercation with a local photographer.
Cllr Mike Buckley was sentenced at Manchester Crown Court in January 2016 for downloading indecent images of young boys but has maintained his position on the Saddleworth Parish Council.
But an investigation was recently launched following complaints by Parish Clerk Pam Bailey relating to an incident with a photographer on 2 February 2016.
At their November meeting, the Parish Council heard that Cllr Buckley was entering a public meeting at the Civic Hall in Uppermill about a new Saddleworth School when he became involved in an altercation with the photographer, who wishes to remain unnamed and did not press charges.
A Standards Hearing sub-committee was convened to consider whether Cllr Buckley had failed to comply with the Parish Council’s Code of Conduct after an Investigating Officer had concluded there had been a breach of the Code.
The sub-committee heard oral representations from the Investigating Officer and a written statement from Cllr Buckley.
They noted the Investigating Officer found a breach of the Code with regard to the allegation relating to the altercation outside the Civic Hall but not in relation to two other allegations.
The sub-committee considered that Cllr Buckley failed to treat the photographer with respect and, given that other people witnessed the incident, he had brought his office and the Parish Council into disrepute.
The sub-committee has reported their findings to the Parish Council and recommended that Cllr Buckley be ‘censured’ – given a formal statement expressing severe disapproval.
At the meeting – with Cllr Buckley present – 12 councillors voted in favour of the recommendation but Cllr Lesley Brown voted against and Cllr Buckley abstained.
Cllr Alan Belmore said: “As elected representatives on a government body we are bound by a higher set of ethics. More is expected of us and we have to accept that scrutiny.
“I think what Cllr Buckley has done makes his position as a councillor completely unviable and he should resign.”
Cllr Rob Knotts added: “We should not have a pervert sat on this council.”
But Cllr Keith Lucas argued: “It is about time we had a bit of empathy about a human being. It is about civil rights and everybody is entitled to those.
“Cllr Buckley has been disgraced and he knows that. He has done a great deal of good work for the Parish Council which should not be forgotten. But it has turned into a witch-hunt against him.”
And Cllr Brown added: “I think it is time we all moved on and grew up.”
Cllr Katrina Roman left the meeting due to Cllr Buckley’s presence while vice-chair Cllr Nikki Kirkham and Cllr Steve Hewitt were also absent.
In a joint statement, they said: “We are deeply disturbed that Mike Buckley is now a regular attendee at council meetings.
“We thought as a council we had sought every possible way of removing him from any business. We will not tolerate being in a room with a convicted child sex offender.
“We find it abhorrent that members of the council feel his expertise is more important than the safety of children in Saddleworth and across the world.”
After the meeting, Cllr Buckley expressed his disappointment with the findings of the Standard Hearings sub-committee over the incident with the photographer.
He said: “Had it been anybody else I would have just walked past but with that photographer there at the time I did behave in a way in which I would have not normally. I was under a lot of pressure then.
“I spoke with him the next morning and apologised and I still regard the photographer as one of my friends.
“But I refute I was acting in my capacity as a councillor. I was going to attend the meeting about the school and sit as a member of the public like everybody else.
“The report was heard and I made my case but they chose not to accept that.”
He replied “no comment” about calls for his resignation but added: “I have a job to do and I intended to do that for the time given to me democratically.”
Holly Wood, who has raised complaints about Cllr Buckley to the council, said: “I left the meeting with Cllr Hewitt and Cllr Kirkham, who again defiantly would not share a room with a convicted child sex offender.
“I am pleased to hear Cllr Belmore, Cllr Curley and Cllr Knotts again asked for Cllr Buckley’s resignation. Also for John Rosedale, the Vicar, to walk out speaks volumes.
“The next step is to organise a local referendum. The people of Saddleworth will speak when having to vote again and Cllr Buckley loses his position.
“Maybe then he will realise what kind of an impact he has had on the community.”