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TUV man apologises after revealing sensitive council information

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Timothy Gaston admitted his action was not in keeping with the council’s code of conduct

Timothy Gaston admitted his action was not in keeping with the council’s code of conduct

Timothy Gaston admitted his action was not in keeping with the council’s code of conduct

A TUV councillor has been forced to issue a verbal apology at a meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council.

Bannside representative Timothy Gaston was censured by the local authority ombudsman for disclosing sensitive commercial information.

In his apology Mr Gaston said: "I wish to make a statement regarding a speech I made in this chamber on February 13, 2019, regarding the disclosure of confidential commercial information that I shared during an open session of council.

"The information was commercially sensitive and the subject of a closed publication report. The figure that I stated was set aside for the purpose and remedial works of property proposed to be acquired by the council.

"Although this didn't have a bearing on the non-sale, I now accept this disclosure was not in keeping with code of conduct or standing orders of this chamber. I am happy to live and learn.

"I have now completed training with the chief executive about what can be disclosed in public session.

"In the future I will think more carefully before discussing matters of this nature in open session and will specifically check and refer to the publication status of any written reports I intend to rely on."

Mr Gaston must also seek advice and guidance from senior council officers where he is unsure of confidentiality requirements prior to commenting or discussing it in public.

The code of conduct for councillors sets out the principles and rules of conduct which they must observe. It clearly states that councillors must not disclose confidential information. DUP councillor Audrey Wales said that Mr Gaston had called into question the "integrity of not only this council, but every individual councillor".

She added that "we need businesses to know as a council we can conduct our business professionally and confidentially".

"We as a council should see all correspondence regarding this investigation by the ombudsman," said Mrs Wales.

Mr Gaston said that he did what he has been asked to do and called for the discussion to "close this agenda and move on to some proper business".

DUP councillor Paul Reid said: "I think members should listen very carefully whenever they are given a warning that what is said in closed council should remain in closed council. This is an indictment on the member.

"He is a senior member of this chamber and really he should be considering maybe possibly his position."

Mr Reid added: "We have standing orders for a purpose. It is a sad day when elected members do not adhere to standing orders and go out of this chamber and tell public what is going on. Standing orders are there for a purpose and let it be a lesson for all."

Mr Gaston replied: "This was a comment made in this chamber. I had the guts to say it in this chamber when many members have taken it outside this chamber and ran to reporters."

Belfast Telegraph