Allegations of bullying

ALLEGATIONS of bullying and a “personal attack” by a Beeford parish councillor on the authority’s clerk will be examined by the Standards Committee today, Thursday April 12.

An investigation was launched by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council after a complaint about the conduct of former councillor Kerriss Bunch.

The complaint concerned Coun Bunch’s behaviour to the clerk, Ros Turner, during a meeting of Beeford parish council on October 12 2009.

The standards committee of ERYC will discuss the matter on April 12.

Mrs Turner has provided a copy of a letter to ERYC from Coun Keith McCloud, a member of the parish council, in which he described Coun Bunch’s actions and those of another parish councillor towards the clerk at the meeting of October 12 as a “witch hunt”.

He said councillors involved “displayed themselves to be bullies, using intimidating tactics until Coun Robson intervened and only at that point did the chairman bring the meeting to order.”

A copy of the minutes for that meeting show that Coun Robson had declared that if the meeting was to continue in this vein he would leave as it seemed to be “a get the clerk event.”

It will be the second hearing involving the village authority in as many months.

The latest complaint alleges that Coun Bunch – who is no longer on the parish council – had asked the clerk if she had any problems with signatories on the council’s cheques, and had also questioned why she had only sent copies of a letter to the chairman and vice chairman with their agendas and not to another member of the parish council, who was a friend of Coun Bunch.

According to committee documents, the complainant said former Coun Bunch had announced to the meeting that she as clerk had lost parish council funding by sending a late quote to a team at ERYC.

Mrs Turner believed that Coun Bunch “deliberately attempted to mislead the rest of the council and give the impression that I was inefficient at my job and not carrying out my duties in the best interest of the parish.”

A monitoring officer was appointed and following an investigation concluded that there was a case to answer.

It is now for the standards committee to consider the complaint and determine whether former Coun Bunch had contravened the council’s Code of Conduct.

Former Coun Bunch has indicated that she does not agree with the findings in the monitoring officer’s report.

She also said that she categorically refuted the allegation that she made a personal attack on the clerk at the October 12 2009 meeting.

Coun Bunch said minutes record that she asked two legitimate questions and witness statements show that she asked questions in a calm, controlled and quiet manner about legitimate business.

But ERYC Monitoring Officer Mathew Buckley said in a report to be considered by the standards committee: “I conclude that Coun Bunch, through her behaviour, bullied Mrs Turner and her action was not a legitimate challenge regarding the performance of an officer.”