OXFORD’S Lord Mayor Alan Armitage has been censured for making an inappropriate remark to a schoolgirl and bringing his historic office into disrepute.
The city council’s standards committee met at the Town Hall this morning to rule on whether or not Mr Armitage has broken the councillors’ code of conduct.
The Liberal Democrat councillor for North ward was accused of making inappropriate comments to a teenage girl at an event in Iffley Road last June.
There were differing accounts of what Mr Armitage is alleged to have said to the girl. They include "It's sexy when you bend down like that", "bending is very sexy, isn't it" and "ooh, that's a bit sexy".
Following an investigation into a complaint against the Lord Mayor, city councillors on the commiittee found it was “highly probable” that Mr Armitage did make the inappropriate comment to one of the members of an under-13 sports team.
Following the meeting, the council issued a decision notice which said: “As the Lord Mayor attended the awards evening in his official capacity the committee also concluded that the inappropriate remark had brought both the office of Lord Mayor and the city council into disrepute.”
The statement added that the committee therefore decided that there had been a breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.
The committee agreed that Mr Armitage should be censured for breaching of the code and that the committee’s decision should be reported to other councillors.
However councillors on the committee said there was “no reason” why Mr Armitage should not continue with the full range of his mayoral duties.
Mr Armitage has also been censured for breaching part of the code which says councillors must treat others with respect.
He disputes the version of events in the investigation report and says he intends to continue his duties as Lord Mayor.
“I regret the whole thing very much,” he said after attending the hearing, which included evidence from a number of witnesses.
Mr Armitage said to both the investigator and after the hearing that while he still maintained his innocence, he could not be sure he didn't utter the word sexy.
The Oxford Mail and the public were banned from the committee meeting on the basis that the schoolgirl and other witnesses could be identified, and that it was not in the public interest.
Following advice from Jeremy Thomas, the council’s head of law and governance, committee members voted that today’s hearing should be held in private.