“CHILDISH, unprofessional and wholly disrespectful” was how the behaviour of two town councillors has been described, following an investigation into complaints lodged against them.

Three separate complaints about Shaftesbury town councillors Karen Tippins and Peter Yeo were the main items up for discussion during Dorset Council’s Audit and Governance Hearing Sub-Committee meeting last week.

Submitted by members of the public and a fellow councillor, the complaints called for the two members to be investigated for their behaviour, following their actions during town council meetings throughout the year.

Not engaging with a guest speaker and presentation, rude language and hand gestures and calling other council members names were the issues put forward to the county council to investigate.

Investigation officer Jacqui Andrews explained that complaints were logged against Cllr Tippins for not taking sufficient steps to engage with a presentation during a meeting in February, despite being allocated a seat which faced away from the screen, and for calling Cllr Matthew Welch “thick” and an “idiot” during a meeting on April 14.

Cllr Yeo was being investigated for also calling Cllr Welch an “idiot” during the same meeting, which was later confirmed untrue, and for inappropriate language and a hand gesture during a meeting on June 2, which was discussing ‘no confidence’ in Cllr Tippins.

Following an interview with Cllr Yeo, Ms Andrews told councillors that he claimed the actions to be “necessary but appropriate”.

She described some of the above behaviours as “childish, unprofessional and wholly disrespectful” and “bringing [the council] into disrepute”.

It was agreed by the committee that the complaints process would now go to a formal hearing, where sanctions will be imposed on the councillors.

Responding to complaints discussed in the meeting, Cllr Yeo told the Journal that the investigation is “wasting taxpayers money”.

He said: “Cllr Welch made a false code of conduct report against me, the Zoom meeting recording proves I never called him an ‘idiot’ and that I didn’t call him anything. He should be disciplined for making this false allegation.

“In the appallingly improper ‘Vote of no Confidence in Cllr Karen Tippins’ Zoom meeting I had the duty and integrity to highlight that the town council broke British and European Council law by switching off my microphone, and later camera, to try and stop me lawfully intervening to stop bullying. My solicitor has written to town clerk Mrs Commons about this unlawful conduct.

“It is disappointing that one citizen out of 8,500 chose to complain about me standing up to bullies and liars and so tax payers’ money is being wasted on an investigation.”

Cllr Tippins claimed the complaints process is “politically motivated”, and her not looking at a presentation because of a seating plan was “a good example of how petty some of the code of conducts complaints are”.

She added that she had apologised to Cllr Welch for the name calling incident "months ago [but] neither Cllr Welch nor the Dorset Council Officers and staff have accepted this apology and want the complaint to go to formal investigation".

Heard during the meeting, Ms Andrews said that Cllr Welch was "humiliated and offended" by the exchange.

Cllr Tippins argued however that she had issued an apology, had mitigating circumstances, and was baited into name calling by other councillors.

Referring to the April 14 meeting as "uncomfortable to watch", committee member Cllr Susan Cocking said: "[Councillors are] there to challenge each other, not be rude and aggressive and bully people and make them actually feel ‘humiliated’ and ‘offended’.

"To call someone an ‘idiot’ and ‘thick’ and then not apologise – are they in a playground? I just don’t understand where they get their professionalism from."

Describing Dorset Council as "not impartial", Cllr Tippins said to the Journal: "Principal authorities are supposed to reject petty complaints at the initial assessment stage of the process.

“It looks like Dorset Council has resurrected the old standards board regime of pursuing petty, silly, politically motivated complaints against minority group councillors, at the cost to the tax payer.

"[It is] using the code of conduct process as a mechanism to treat councillors differently [and] unjustly by undermining councillors who are not part of the controlling party and turn a blind eye to councillor conduct if they are conservatives.”