A SENIOR councillor who was accused of misconduct over a public meeting bust-up has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Cllr Tom Marshall was referred to the Commissioner for Ethical Standards in Public Life in relation to two heated community council meetings which discussed the controversial demolition of a shelter at the town's Douglas Park.

Now the complaint from Largs Community Council has been dismissed, with Mr Marshall cleared of any contravention of the Councillors’ Code of Conduct.

Former chair of Largs Community Council Douglas Blair, who submitted the complaint, stated that Cllr Marshall had 'acted in a disrespectful and disruptive manner'.

The dispute was triggered when community councillors questioned whether the Douglas Park shelter should be demolished, citing fears that anti-social behaviour there could simply be displaced to other locations.

But Cllr Marshall - who'd pushed for the building to be flattened - said local residents were fed-up suffering with noise, litter and drug paraphernalia linked to the shelter being used as a gathering point for youths.

Mr Blair pointed out that the police had not alerted the community council to significant anti-social behaviour linked to the pavilion.

The disagreement led Largs Community Council to say they were 'concerned' at the speed with which the demolition proposal was advanced by North Ayrshire Council officers.

The minute of the meeting recorded that Cllr Marshall intervened repeatedly, stating that Mr Blair’s views were untrue.

Mr Blair responded by saying that he would not accept this statement.

He described Cllr Marshall's demeanour as “very aggressive” and claimed that he had been “shouting in my face”.

In his evidence to the watchdog, Mr Blair said: “He challenged my conduct as a chair and my ability.”

In his evidence, Cllr Marshall stated that a petition had been organised by residents of Bankhouse Avenue to have the pavilion removed, and council officers decided, under delegated powers, that it should be demolished.

Cllr Marshall said he could not recall having interrupted or talked over Mr Blair.

Trouble had subsequently flared at another meeting held a month later.

Mr Blair said: "A deputation of about fifteen residents arrived very loudly.

"Cllr Marshall asked that a resident be allowed to speak but this was refused as the item had not been placed on the agenda."

After the meeting resumed following a brief suspension, the delegation of residents were given the chance to speak and one stated he was 'shocked' at the treatment of Cllr Marshall.

Community councillor Andy Adair however described Mr Marshall's conduct as 'embarrassing' and said that he had 'acted disgracefully'.

Meanwhile the councillor argued that Mr Blair had addressed him in a 'disrespectful and derogatory fashion'.

The Ethics Commissioner found that chair Mr Blair had acted appropriately to ensure that the agenda of business was properly dealt with.

The published findings added that there was an element of discourtesy, in that Cllr Marshall talked over the chair of the meeting.

But crucially the commissioner found his contributions were not personally abusive, offensive or demeaning.

The commissioner said: "It is not the intent of the Code to constrain debate which may at times give rise to disagreement – that is the nature of debate.

"I did not consider that the actions of Cllr Marshall, while discourteous in the sense of challenging the chair’s ruling prior to the suspension of the meeting, were such as to breach the threshold of respect."

Douglas Blair comment to follow...