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Summary of racist Facebook post by former councillor released by Public Services Ombudsman

A SUMMARY report of the investigation carried out into a racist Facebook post by a former county councillor has been released by the Public Services Ombudsman.

Due for publication on the ombudsman’s website shortly, the report provides an overview of investigations into a complaint made about Paul Dowson, then a Pembrokeshire County Council representative for Pembroke Dock.

A standards committee hearing was held about the matter earlier this month and members agreed to censure Mr Dowson, adding had he been re-elected suspension would have been a serious consideration.

“Numerous complaints” were made to the council and ombudsman’s office about a Facebook post Mr Dowson published in June 2020 relating to the Black Lives Matter movement and it was considered that it was likely to be considered racist and damage the reputation of the council and office of councillor.

The ombudsman investigation found that the post was made “in order to raise concerns about the council’s decision to light up county hall in support of Black Lives Matter.”

“The Member said that he considered the post to fall within his right to free speech because he did not believe he had really offended anybody, and the complaints that were made against him were politically motivated.

“The Ombudsman accepted that the Member had the right to question the Council’s decision to support Black Lives Matter, however the language used by the Member was offensive and went beyond what would be expected of a councillor in a political discussion. The Member had not taken advantage of opportunities to attend equality and diversity training or social media training,” the summary report states.

The full ombudsman report was presented to the council’s standards committee but is not a public report, an ombudsman representative said.

The ombudsman welcomed the committee’s decision and said: “It is hoped that lessons will also be learned from this case and that it will serve to promote high standards of conduct by elected members in their public roles, both within the Council and across Wales.”

Mr Dowson told the local democracy reporting service that the complaint made did not refer to a Facebook post and there were discrepancies with the training records, adding he had wanted the hearing in pubic.

“I had earlier stated that I would not participate in a private hearing, and it became clear to me that due to the amount of evidence I had which proved the complaint was severely biased and prejudicial the committee chose to stay in private,” he said.

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