Maxine Smith says 'sorry' but hits out at critics after getting one month suspension
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Maxine Smith has hit back at her critics whose complaints led to her getting a one month suspension from Highland Council, saying she accepts the decision but warns trust has been broken among councillors representing the area.
Fresh from being sanctioned by the standards commission, Cllr Smith said she has had to defend herself against 15 different charges which were whittled down to five then down to two, for almost two years.
It appears the issues between Cllr Smith and Cllr Tamala Collier ignited shortly after the 2022 local government elections and also involved allegations made by James Collier, the latter’s husband.
Now the veteran councillors of 16 years will have to sit out local authority business for a period of one month while she awaits trial on May 20 on charges of faking disabled parking blue badges – claims she denies.
“This hearing has been hanging over me for nearly two years,” she said. “It’s been responsible for many sleepless nights and heightened stress levels which at 64 years of age isn’t what I need in my life.
“In early 2022 James Collier (husband of Councillor Tamala Collier) reported me to the Standards Commission for 15 different things, alleging that I’d broken the Councillors’ Code Conduct.
“After their in-depth investigation the commission decided there was only a potential breach in the code with two items.”
The complaint, she said, is likely to have been detrimental to her representing people in the ward as she claims she feared Mr Collier would try to add to complaints when he was attending local meetings.
Cllr Smith said: “For the two years this has been hanging over me I’ve found it very difficult to work with Councillor Tamala Collier due to her husband’s actions.
“This has no doubt had a potentially detrimental effect on my ward as I’ve been unable to attend local meetings for fear of him being there and adding things to his complaints. After his initial complaints in early 2022 he did keep adding things.
“As a councillor for 16 years I’ve held many very senior positions and it’s very sad for me that after all my hard work this is my reward and what people will remember.”
Moving forward the current co-leader of the newly formed Highland Alliance said: “I accept the commission had to sanction me on these issues and one month suspension is more than acceptable to me.
“I did apologise for inadvertently not re-registering my interests on time but they have to do their job. I’m glad to put this behind me as I’ve been a shadow of my former self and highly stressed and unable to do my council job properly.
“In the previous 16 years of me being a councillor the four ward councillors all worked together. We didn’t always agree, but we were able to discuss issues knowing we trusted each other and worked together for the good of the community.”
Cllr Smith also alleges that Cllr Collier tried to refer her to the standards commission again, this time over publishing the voting record at the council – but according to Cllr Smith this was dropped.
“It hasn’t stopped there either,” she said. “In recent weeks Councillor Tamala Collier herself reported me to the Standards Commission because I posted how she voted during full council regarding Park Primary School being removed from the capital programme. They told her it was in the public domain and I had done nothing wrong.
“So going forward I’ve no idea what other things I might be reported for, but I do know that being a councillor in these conditions is extremely trying and stressful and nobody should have to go through this.
“I’d like to thank Martin Smith of South Forrest, Inverness for representing me in this difficult case and my colleagues and reference givers.”