Local authority leaders have urged an overhaul of disciplinary procedures after a disgraced Aberdeen councillor was handed a suspension.
However, as he was given an interim suspension in March, his punishment is backdated – meaning he will be able to return to the council chamber on March 3 next year.
Now leaders from across the political spectrum – including Mr Donnelly’s former Conservative group leader – have called for a radical overhaul of the councillors’ code of conduct.
Douglas Lumsden, who is also the co-leader of Aberdeen City Council and gave evidence at Mr Donnelly’s hearing last week, urged local government minister Kevin Stewart to make changes to the code.
And he described the power granted to the Standards Commission as “inadequate”, saying Mr Donnelly’s victim had been “let down” by the sanction.
In a letter addressed to Mr Stewart, who is also the MSP for Aberdeen Central, Mr Lumsden said: “The Standards Commission’s decision to suspend Councillor Donnelly for only one year shows that those powers you promote as adequate are certainly not adequate.
“There require to be changes to the Code of Conduct to reflect the inability of the Standards Commission to impose a suitable and realistic sanction on councillors who are involved in criminality of a serious nature.
“I think we can all agree that the victim, in this case, has been extremely let down by the Scottish Government and must be deeply disappointed with the decision taken by the Standards Commission.
“You, as the Minister responsible, must learn from this and ensure that the Scottish Government never allows for the Standards in Public Life to be questioned by the victim of a crime or the people that local councillors represent.”
Mr Lumsden’s call was backed by Liberal Democrat group leader Ian Yuill, who has repeatedly called on Mr Donnelly to resign from the council.
He said: “This is something the Liberal Democrats have been calling for quite some time. We are delighted Mr Lumsden agrees.
“It really is time for the Code of Conduct to be reviewed, because I can see no circumstances in which someone convicted of sexual assault can remain a councillor. The code needs to recognise that.
“The sooner a thorough review is carried out the better, and we welcome Mr Lumsden’s position on this.”
Mr Yuill added: “We said the day Mr Donnelly was convicted he should resign. We said the day he was sentenced he should resign.
“We said he should resign last Friday and I will say it again. There should be no place on Aberdeen City Council for Alan Donnelly and if he had any decency at all he would resign.”
Mr Donnelly said: “Having discussed matters with my solicitor we have agreed to accept and respect the Standards Commission findings.
“I now want to put this behind me and move on with my life.”
In response to Mr Lumsden’s letter, Mr Stewart said: “Councillor Donnelly’s actions have been reprehensible. The current Code of Conduct already makes it clear that the behaviour exhibited by Councillor Donnelly is utterly unacceptable. However, it is for the Standards Commission to decide what sanction is appropriate and this already includes the option to disqualify.
“On this occasion they have chosen to suspend Councillor Donnelly. Whilst this might not be the outcome many have wished for we respect that decision.”