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Reporter banned from meeting into councillor’s alleged misconduct

Adrian ZorzutA reporter has been banned from reporting on the alleged misconduct of a councillor whose name is being kept secret.

The City of London Corporation refused to allow MyLondon local democracy reporter Adrian Zorzut into a meeting at which a member’s conduct was discussed.

The alleged misbehaviour was referenced in the agenda for a council committee, but further details about the case were subsequently withheld by the authority – despite a written objection by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.

Adrian, pictured, was then denied the right to enter the meeting at which the matter was discussed on 1 February.

The Reach plc-owned title has now called on the City of London to release the details of the claims and accompanying reports in the interests of open democracy and transparency.

Editor Andy Worden said: “The City of London Corporation claims to be committed to openness and transparency – but has no qualms about blocking a reporter from hearing about the alleged misconduct of a councillor. The public has a right to know about the alleged misbehaviour of elected officials and it’s shameful that the City of London has decided to do its business in secret.”

Posting on Twitter, Adrian himself added: “I was banned from a secret meeting about a City of London councillor’s alleged misconduct and had my request for any relevant reports on the matter rebuffed.

“I’m calling on the City of London to lift the ban in the name of transparency and open democracy.

“The public has a right to know what councillors are accused of. As a reporter, I am bound to report on these allegation with accuracy and fairness.

“Guilty or innocent, I am bound to report the matter fairly.”

There are 100 councillors, as well as 25 people elected to the role of aldermen, in the City of London.

In its objection, MyLondon wrote: “The alleged breach is likely to relate to a City of London staff or politically-elected members, whose jobs it is to conduct business in a professional and ethical manner.

“If this has broken and, as a result, had a negative impact on City of London residents or affiliates, then it is of vital importance that the public are made aware.

“All matters relating to the alleged breach, including the outcome of the hearing, should be shared publicly as an immediate point of public interest.”

After initially refusing to comment, a City of London spokesperson said: “We publish material in an open and transparent way as required by legislation.

“The Panel of Independent Persons receives allegations of elected member misconduct, determines whether to investigate, hears appeals, and presents findings to the Court of Common Council for decision.

“All Common Councillors are required to follow a robust code of conduct and the Nolan Principles of Public Life which include acting with integrity, openness, and honesty.”