How we investigate complaints about Councillors and Board Members of Public Bodies

Find out more about how we’ll investigate your complaint in the sections below.

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Each complaint received will be assessed to determine whether it is one that we will investigate.

You should make your complaint within 12 months of the event/behaviour that you wish to complain about happening.  Please note that if a complaint is within the 12 month period but the date of the complaint is on or close to the anniversary of the alleged event/behaviour happening, the Commissioner may decide that a meaningful investigation cannot be conducted or that it is no longer proportionate or in the public interest to investigate your complaint.

You should submit a maximum of 25 pages of documentation in support of your complaint. If the Commissioner considers that more information is needed, we will ask you for this. Please make sure that you have highlighted the parts of these documents which are specifically relevant to your complaint. If your supporting documentation does not comply with these requirements it may not be accepted. We are mindful of our obligations under the Equality Act 2020. If this restriction causes you difficulty due to a protected characteristic please contact us.

During the Screening stage, we may ask you, or others, for further information.

We aim to complete our assessment of your complaint within 2 months from the date we receive your complaint. If we decide not to investigate your complaint we will write to you explaining our reasons.

Where we decide not to investigate your complaint, the Commissioner’s decision is final and there is no right of appeal.

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If we decide to investigate your complaint, we will write to you confirming the matters we are investigating.

At this stage, we will normally write to the person you have complained about and the Council or public body that they represent. We will normally share a copy of your complaint with them, along with any supporting documentation you have provided. We’ll remove the personal details of third parties from these documents before sharing them. In appropriate cases, your name may be withheld.

We may also contact other people who can help with our investigation.

We may need to interview witnesses. Interviews are conducted informally (usually by telephone or video call). Anyone being interviewed can bring along another person for support. There are more details in our witness policy. If necessary, we can compel witnesses to attend and to produce documents. 

The length of the time it takes to complete the investigation depends on the complexity and seriousness of the concerns. We will complete the investigation as quickly and efficiently as we can.

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At the end of the investigation, we will consider the available evidence and decide whether or not this indicates there has been a contravention of the Codes of Conduct

If we conclude that there has not been a contravention, we will write to you and the person you have complained about informing you of this and giving the reasons for our decision. We’ll also write to the council or public body. 

In the above cases, the Commissioner’s decision is final and there is no right of appeal.

If we conclude that there has been a contravention, the person you have complained about will have an opportunity to review our conclusions and provide comments before we report on the outcome of our investigation to the Standards Commission for Scotland.

In these cases, the Standards Commission for Scotland may decide to:

  • ask us to investigate further
  • hold a public hearing or
  • take no action.

If a public hearing is held, we will present the case to the Standards Commission for Scotland.

You can find out more about what happens on their website, Standards Commission for Scotland.  

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You may decide, at some point, to withdraw your complaint.  Once a complaint has been made, it is for us to decide whether to end or to continue an investigation. Please write to us with the request to withdraw your complaint, giving as much detail as possible.  When reaching our decision, we will take into account:

  • your request,
  • the stage the investigation has reached,
  • the public interest in ending or concluding our investigations and
  • the wishes of any other person who has complained about the conduct in question.