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Ex-Suffolk council leader disqualified

PUBLISHED: 10:16 21 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:07 06 July 2010

A FORMER leader of Suffolk County Council misused an electronic system to vote twice during a council meeting, a standards watchdog has found.

Jane Hore, who lost her Labour seat in Lowestoft in this year's elections, has been given a year's disqualification from being a councillor following a decision by the Adjudication Panel for England.

A FORMER leader of Suffolk County Council misused an electronic system to vote twice during a council meeting, a standards watchdog has found.

Jane Hore, who lost her Labour seat in Lowestoft in this year's elections, has been given a year's disqualification from being a councillor following a decision by the Adjudication Panel for England.

Standards for England investigated allegations that Ms Hore had voted twice, using an electronic voting card belonging to another councillor, during a full council meeting last year. The matter was referred for determination at a hearing.

The Adjudication Panel for England found that Ms Hore had brought her office and authority into disrepute by misusing the council's electronic voting system.

Suffolk County Council uses a voting system whereby councillors log in with a smartcard, which is placed into a slot in a delegate unit on the table in front of them, and then vote by pressing a button.

In a meeting on September 25 2008, councillor Bill Quinton, who was sitting next to Ms Hore, had left the council chamber before votes were cast and left his smartcard in the delegate unit in front of him.

Two other members alleged that they had seen Ms Hore, after she had cast her own vote, use Mr Quinton's delegate unit to vote for a second time. Mr Quinton said he had not asked Ms Hore to vote on his behalf and was unaware of her actions.

Members are never allowed to vote twice for a single motion.

The investigation found that the electronic voting system had never falsely recorded a vote, and that the technology involved made it impossible for a vote to be registered in this way by mistake.

Dr Robert Chilton, chair of Standards for England, said: “Although it is fortunate that Ms Hore's extra vote was not enough to affect the council's decision on this occasion, casting two votes was a clear abuse of procedure and seriously undermined the integrity of the democratic process.

“The Adjudication Panel's decision to disqualify the member sends a strong message to the electorate that appropriate action can be taken against members whose ethical standards fall short of expectations.”

After the hearing, Ms Hore said: “My conscious is clear. I know what I did not do. The Standards board does not consider formal evidence. They rely on tittle-tattle. I have no intention of returning to public life.”

Ms Hore was first elected to Suffolk County Council in 1987 and became the leader in 2001. She then became the chair of the council in 2004.

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