Race watchdogs were furious today after a veteran councillor told colleagues ”Great candidate – shame he’s black” during an interview and kept his job.
Shamed Tory John Major, 79, made the comment after interviewing Hitesh Patel for the £119,000-a-year job as chief executive of Monmouthshire County Council.
Stunned colleagues on the recruitment panel reported him and he was hauled before The Adjudication Panel for Wales.
But despite being found guilty of ”racist, discriminatory and inappropriate” language the controversial former soldier has kept his job on the council.
The adjudication panel also decided not to take action against Major for calling a tanned colleague ”half a wog”.
Outraged equality groups said the adjudication panel should resign from their positions after the decision.
Naz Malik, from the All Wales Ethnic Minority Association, said: ”They are there to carry out justice and fair play.
”If they are saying he was guilty but then fail to impose a sanction, then what are they there for.
”The tribunal has failed us in not punishing overt racism and they should resign for not doing their job.”
Former planning officer Mr Major was part of a panel to choose the new chief executive in 2009.
Hitesh Patel was down to the final three interviewed in front of a mock panel carrying out a role-playing exercise.
After Mr Patel got up to leave the room, cllr Major was heard to say to a colleague: ”Good candidate…shame he’s black”.
Mr Patel, an Asian, quit the interview process before the final candidate was chosen – and has now landed the higher-paid role as business transformation at Swindon Borough Council.
Monmouthshire Labour cllr Armand Watts, also an interviewer on the panel, overheard cllr Major’s comment.
He said: ”Hitesh Patel, I think, was probably the strongest candidate we’d seen in the morning.
”He would have been interviewed by the leader and others. But part of it was going in front of this committee.
”They were tough questions. Immediately he came across very strongly. The consensus of the meeting was he was the strongest we’d seen.
”As he got up and left the room cllr Major turned to one of his colleagues and said: ‘good candidate, shame he’s black’.
”I was quite taken aback by that, to be honest. It was quite unacceptable. I challenged him over that. I don’t think he understood personally what he was saying.
”He wasn’t looking at him on merit. It was on the colour of his skin.”
He added that cllr Major was not even accurate in his bigotry. ”Mr Patel isn’t even black, he’s Asian.”
The day after the remark was made, Mr Patel dropped out the job application process.
The Adjudication Panel for Wales, held at Newport’s Hilton Hotel, found Major had breached the councillor’s code of conduct three times.
They found he had failed to carry out his duties with regard to equal opportunities, failed to show respect and consideration for others, and brough his authority into disrepute.
But despite reprimanding him, the panel let Major carry on representing Caldicot on Monmouthshire County Council.
They also dismissed an allegation that he called a tanned colleague on Magor with Undy Community Council ”half a wog”, because it happened after a council meeting had ended.
Mr Major’s solicitor had earlier told the panel he intended to retire from his seat in May 2012 and had lost out financially because of his suspension by his party.
Afterwards, Major – a founding member of the authority – claimed he had said ”and he’s black”, rather than the comment reported.
He did however admit calling a colleague ”half a wog” in a ”jocular fashion”.
Mr Major said: ”I’m not racist. I represent everyone no matter what their gender, race or deviation – I treat them all the same.”
In a statement after the adjudication decision, Mr Patel, who now earns more than £130,000 as one of Swindon’s top-earning officers, said: ”I believe the appointment process was entirely fair and I trust Monmouthshire County Council to have run it using the highest professional standards.
”My reason for withdrawing my application had nothing to do with the process, or any of the officers and councillors I came into contact with.”