Two Birmingham Liberal Democrat city councillors broke the local government code of conduct after entering private property without permission, a Standards Committee has ruled.
Martin Mullaney and Ernie Hendricks said they entered the former tram depot offices at 582 Moseley Road to make a video in order to expose the parlous state of a listed building in Moseley.
But they failed to treat the owner of the premises with respect when they trespassed on his property with a camcorder, the council’s Standards Committee found.
The pair were cleared of a more serious charge of acting in a manner likely to bring the office of councillor into disrepute.
Coun Mullaney and Coun Hendricks, who both represent Moseley & Kings Heath ward, risked the wrath of local government watchdog the Standards Board for England when they entered the derelict building in March.
They gained access through a hole in hoardings, accompanied by Keith Marsden, the former owner of the adjacent Epic skatepark.
The six-minute film, which was immediately posted by Coun Mullaney on the YouTube website, claimed the owner of the building, Safdar Zaman, carried out demolition work without planning permission and had made the building structurally unsound.
Mr Zaman complained to the Standards Board, denying the accusations and claiming that the two councillors had trespassed on his property and made defamatory and offensive remarks about him, which caused his family distress.
The complaint was considered by the council Standards Committee, which has the power to suspend councillors for up to three months.
Both Coun Mullaney and Coun Hendricks argued they were acting in the public interest.
Coun Mullaney accepted they were both trespassing when they entered the building, but told the committee he had become frustrated at the failure of the council planning department’s failure over two years to respond to his concerns about the way the interior of the building had been "gutted" leaving the foundations exposed.
The two insisted they had not been acting in their official capacity as councillors when they made the film.
"I had been raising the matter at the planning committee weekly, but nothing was done. The reason for the video was to force action from the planning department, which has now happened," Coun Mullaney said.
In the video, Coun Mullaney, Coun Hendricks and Mr Marsden are seen exploring the basement of the building and can be heard complaining about "a dangerous eyesore full of rats, pigeons and sewage".
Coun Mullaney added: "I was concerned the rear of the building was structurally unsafe and would eventually subside.
"I have been passionate about saving old buildings, it’s my hobby. Even if I wasn’t a councillor I would still have made the video."
Asked if he had thought about the possible consequences of trespassing, Coun Mullaney replied: "It was a spur of the moment thing. I didn’t think I am in someone’s private property and whether it would stand legally. What was concerning me was that you could actually see the foundations because this guy had gone so far down."
He rejected a suggestion from committee chairman Philip Richardson that his actions had been that of a vigilante.
Coun Hendricks said: "By highlighting this issue in the way we did we showed support and commitment to the wider community. We have raised the bar in terms of public confidence in us to do what is expected."
Submissions on behalf of both councillors were put by Liberal Democrat councillor and MP John Hemming.
Mr Hemming said: "Anyone with a video camera could have gone through the fence and taken pictures of what was going on. It cannot be the case that trespass in the public interest is constrained or subject to the code of conduct.
"It is not in the public interest for people to be worried about minor legal details when they are acting as agents of the law to identify evidence and put pressure on the proper authorities to act."