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“Leave me out of Twitter spats,” says politicians’ behaviour watchdog

“Leave me out of Twitter spats,” says politicians’ behaviour watchdog

Monday 29 October 2018

“Leave me out of Twitter spats,” says politicians’ behaviour watchdog

Monday 29 October 2018

Weighing in on social media disputes between islanders and politicians is not something the States’ behaviour watchdog is interested in, he revealed in a report describing complaints over Twitter spats as “frivolous and vexatious.”

Commissioner for Standards Paul Kernaghan was appointed in September last year to review States Members’ conduct, and last week gave his observations about his first year in office during which he received 13 complaints.

Four were dismissed, while another five weren’t followed up because they were either lacked evidence, were already investigated or fell outside the Commissioner’s remit. 

The ones that did pass the test for investigation included Senator Philip Ozouf’s use of his States credit card for personal spending, as well as a complaint of “inappropriate behaviour” against former Education Minister Rod Bryans.

But one topic that repeatedly popped up was States Members’ conduct on social media. One complaint was made against then Deputy Sam Mézec, but it was found that he didn’t breach the Code of Conduct politicians are expected to follow.


Pictured: Mr Kernaghan says islanders follow the States' proceedings with a strong interest but that it can lead to some undue complaints.

He also commented that he was "reluctant as a matter of policy to intervene or to police disputes and exchanges on social media, and I have dismissed other complaints arising from such exchanges on the basis that they are in my judgment clearly frivolous or vexatious." 

Those comments were reiterated in his first annual report

He said he had noticed that islanders take a strong interest in the proceedings of the States and the actions of elected States members. While he said this was to be welcomed, he added there was "a danger" it could lead islanders to make complaints against States members with no evidence of a breach of the Code of conduct but simply because they disagree over their policy and stated that one particular area of concern was the "use and alleged abuse of 'social media.'"

"I do not see it as my role to adjudicate on 'Twitter spats' between participant on social media, in the absence of aggravating factors," he added. "Thus I have dismissed several such complaints as I have judged them to be frivolous or vexatious." 

However, he assured that, should a States Member use foul language or if there is evidence of malicious intent, he still has the right to investigate.

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