A local authority has been found guilty on maladministration over its handling of a complaint about a proposal to paint an artwork on a lamp post.

Ramsey Town Commissioners had been approached by Leanne Higgins, owner of the Pink Seaweed gallery and art shop on Parliament Street, who wanted to paint a lamp post outside the premises with a floral design, up to a height of 2.5m.

In January this year a colourful woollen wrap placed around the same lamp post was removed by the town hall for ‘safety reasons’.

The suggestion of a painted artwork was debated at a board meeting in August when commissioners voted to object to the proposal and put forward the idea that the shopfront should be painted instead.

But it was the comments made by some commissioners at the meeting that prompted a complaint to the Tynwald Commissioner for Administration by Leanne’s husband Robin.

One board member he had ‘never heard such a ridiculous thing in all of my life.’

A second commissioner, while supportive of the idea of painting the shop front instead, remarked: ‘If it’s painted in normal colours, not flowers and c**p all over it.’

Mr Higgins said the conduct of the proceedings had left him ‘shocked and appalled’.

He accused the commissioners of using the ‘language of the gutter’, of having a ‘casual disregard’ of the code of conduct, of carrying out an ‘improper’ voting procedure and of having a lack of respect, ‘bearing shameless undertones of sexism’ towards his wife.

Tynwald Commissioner of Administration Paul Beckett ruled there was no evidence of failure to follow due procedure or lack of competency that would give rise to maladministration.

He said the remarks made by the commissioners at the meeting were ‘inappropriate, discourteous and lacking in respect’.

But he said taking the debate as a whole, the bearing of the Commissioners ‘was not such as to constitute maladministration’.

However, he found there had been maladministration when it came to how Mr Higgins’ complaint to the Commissioners was dealt with as time limits had not been me.

The complaint was made on August 20 and acknowledged by town clerk Tim Cowin the following day but no further communication was made until the Tynwald Commissioner became involved.

Mr Cowin said he had drafted an answer to Mr Higgins but through an oversight had not sent it.

A substantive reply, including an apology, was sent to the complainant on January 12 this year.

The town clerk acknowledged there were items in the debate that ‘could be improved upon’.

Mr Beckett said he was satisfied with the explanation that this was an oversight, but it nevertheless constituted an avoidable delay.

The Pink Seaweed gallery opened in September last year.