Ralph Cook has been suspended as a city councillor for two months, after he was found to be in breach of the code of conduct by likening Cardiff council’s executive to Nazi Germany.
Coun Cook was accused of misconduct after he described coalition leader Rodney Berman’s Liberal Democrats as “stormtroopers censoring the council” during a February 2009 budget meeting. He is also in trouble for comparing the coalition to 1930s Germany for supposedly quashing opposition debate, as well as a distributing a leaflet describing Lib Dem election workers as stormtroopers mounting a blitzkrieg on his ward in summer 2009.
Adjudication Panel for Wales, sitting in a hearing at the Mercure Holland House Hotel in Cardiff on Tuesday, declared Coun Cook had failed to show respect for Mr Berman’s Jewish descent. In doing so he brought his office as a councillor into disrepute.
Coun Cook insisted to the adjudication tribunal he was “horrified” when he realised the true gravity of his remarks, and that Coun Berman had interpreted his use of phrases like “stormtroopers” as an attack on his Jewish faith. Coun Cook told the three-man panel he had misunderstood the basis of Coun Berman’s initial protests about such language, and took them as a personal attack. Only seven months later did he come to appreciate the personal offence his remarks had caused.
The panel adjourned on Tuesday evening after a three-day hearing to consider the punishment, which could have ranged from a reprimand to a 12-month ban from his seat on the council. Coun Cook could even have been barred for five years from public office. In the end he was given the minimum suspension of two months.
Speaking to Guardian Cardiff after the meeting, Cook, who is councillor for the Trowbridge ward, said he was relieved at the outcome, and pleased the panel had decided his actions were not racially motivated or bullying.
“I fully accept the decision made by the panel today,” he said. “I repeat that I’m extremely sorry for any offence that Rodney Berman may have felt or did feel as a result of my comments in the council chamber and outside the council chamber on 26 February 2009.
“It was not intended personally and certainly was not based in his religious or ethnic background.”
Coun Berman welcomed the decision. He said: “I am satisfied the verdict and sanction took into account the total unacceptability of the language that Councillor Cook used in drawing wholly inappropriate comparisons between Cardiff council’s administration and the Nazis, and recognised that he had done so knowing that it would cause me offence in a manner the adjudication panel has described as ‘personal abuse’.”