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Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Is the Town Clerk fit to hold public office?

The Town Clerk, Richard White, has alleged that Cllr Martin Brookes has bullied him. We are not being told why the Town Clerk has not been able to undertake his duties for several weeks. The Council won’t even tell us whether the Town Clerk has been ill or not. Oddly despite refusing to disclose this information they voted to exclude the public from a public meeting on 5th May whilst they attempted to frustrate Cllr Martin Brookes from undertaking his representative duties.

The Town Clerk has:

1. Either deliberately misled me and Cllr Brookes about the six months’ rule, or is insufficiently trained or unable to assimilate his training when he misled us by stating that if a Councillor gives his or her apologies to every public meeting for a period longer than six months they may retain public office, provided their apologies have been sent. This is a nonsense. The Local Government Act 1972 (85) states: Look up Local Government Act 1972 (85) and type here.
2. Richard White, The Town Clerk, does not appear to understand Standing Orders or The Local Government Act. He either deliberately misinterprets it or is unable to assimilate any training he has had. Furthermore his insistence that almost everything be headed ‘Private and Confidential’ displays a complete inability to engage in a democratic and transparent process of government.
3. Council accounts were due to be in a state to be given to the Council auditor on 31 March 2010. They are still, so far as I am aware, not in a state to be audited.
4. The Council accounts were due to be audited in April 2010. They are yet to be audited.
5. The Council accounts were due to be passed during the Annual meeting of the Council in May 2010. They are not yet ready to be scrutinised or adopted and will not be ready until audited.
6. When Cllr Brooks stated that he lived in South East Ward, the Town Clerk assured him he lived in North East Ward. Cllr Brookes, acting on this advice, asked someone to stand as a Councillor for his Ward. Cllr Brookes was deliberately misled and he does, as he originally believed, live in South East Ward. Naughty Town Clerk, but nevertheless a successful feint if one is dedicated to frustrating democracy.
7. When I was told that Martin Brookes has been elected unopposed the Town Clerk, Richard White, said he would be adopted as a Councillor the following week ‘provided nothing happens between now and then.’ What could he have meant?
8. The Town Council accepted a building quote for the public loos – a quote which was three years old and therefore out of date. Who was responsible – you guessed it of course The Town Clerk, Richard White. A row has ensued with Rutland County Council over the outstanding £15,000 shortfall. Well done Richard.
9. Bandstand: When the discussion of the contract came up at a Council meeting, the Town Clerk raced through the names of four builders who would be asked to tender in a low key sotto voce manner. So much so that Cllr Joyce Lucas missed this bit of the meeting and then asked who would be tendering for the contract. Cllr Lucas then said: ‘We must be seen to be whiter than white,’ and demanded that an invitation to tender ought to be advertised. Subsequently a tiny advert appeared in the local paper. The contract for around £30,000 was awarded. £4,000 of which, I am told, has gone into provided 31 wooden plywood slats as temporary hoardings – that alone seems to be a vast price. In my estimation each slat and the erection of each slat has cost us, the council taxpayers, £129.03 per 1 m wide slat. Was this contract value for money? Local builders assure me it was not.
10. Richard White is given to shouting at Cllr Martin Brookes and has reportedly said on one occasion of the Council: ‘It’s like football club, you either abide by the rules or get out.’ If one had any confidence that the Town Clerk knew what the rules were and was prepared to administer them without bias that might be all well and good. However the rules appear to be subject to the Town Clerk’s whim and have no real foundation in Local Government Acts or Standing Orders.
11. When I approached the Town Clerk about a series of emails, the Rutland Chat Forum and a particularly offensive series of pictures and text written in my name the Town Clerk said that anything Councillors did in their own time was nothing to do with the Council. Yet paradoxically he has asked Martin Brookes to remove items from his blog. The Town Clerk also denied that ‘Lardboy’ was one of the Chat Forum pseudonyms of Cllr Charles Haworth. This is a small town and I do not believe that this was anything other than an entirely disingenuous and misleading denial.
12. The Town Clerk refuses to talk to Cllr Brookes by telephone, letter or reply to his emails. He would like Cllr Brookes to be banned from visiting the Council Offices altogether. If the Town Clerk is unable to behave with professional detachment he should perhaps consider his position and reflect that the large salary he is given does require a modicum of professionalism, competence and maturity.
13. A procedural audit is urgently required to re=sestablish correct procedures on the Town Council. I urge the Council to ask for just such an audit from the Audit Commissioner.
14. On 5th May, under the Freedom of Information Act, I asked that all references to me made on Council computers be given to me in hard copy. I have yet to receive this information. Again the Town Clerk appears to be of the opinion that the law does not apply to him or the Town Council.

Cllr Brookes has repeatedly asked to be sent a copy of the allegation made against him by the Town Clerk, Richard White. He is, several weeks later, still waiting to be told why he is alleged to have bullied the Town Clerk. The Town Clerk has failed miserably in his duties; appears not to be able to understand or deliberately misinterprets Standing Orders and the Local Government Act and repeatedly tramples over the law with impunity. A mild private criticism of the Town Clerk’s repeated failings does not constitute bullying.

I will now ask that the Council consider this complaint against the Town Clerk’s incompetent, serious and repeated failure to carry out his duties adequately, whilst serving in public office under the following Standing Order:

67 The Council shall deal with complaints of maladministration allegedly committed by the Council or by any officer or member in the manner recommended in Circular 1.86 of the National Association of Local Councils.

The fact that Martin Brookes has not made an issue of the grave errors repeatedly committed by the Town Clerk, Richard White, is surely evidence that any allegation of bullying is entirely a figment of the Town Clerk’s overactive imagination and a displacement allegation, designed to cover his own incompetence in public office as Town Clerk.

A proper investigation should immediately be made of my complaint, not merely by Richard White's chums on the Council but by a higher and more accountable body.

Note - taken from:

The offence today

Details of the offence are set out in November 2007 guidance from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS):
The elements of misconduct in public office are:
a) A public officer acting as such.
b) Wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself.
c) To such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public's trust in the office holder.
d) Without reasonable excuse or justification.

I delivered this complaint to the Council last night, with no real hope that it will be properly addressed. However I was then told that Martin Brookes had been given a copy of the Town Clerk's complaint dated 18th May. So still no idea what was being discussed at the meeting of 5th May.

Perhaps the original complaint is undergoing editing as we speak - or is it? We will never know. Martin Brookes has yet to be furnished with a copy of the Town Clerk's original complaint. I begin to suspect that a legal eagle has given it the once over and said that it just won't do and that he should make a new complaint along proper legal lines. I am told that most of Richard White's complaint is about Martin Brookes' blog. This is laughable considering that the Town Clerk viewed comments made about Martin Brookes by the Rutland Chat Forum and then claimed if Councillors were members of the Chat Forum, under pseudonyms, they were merely acting in a private capacity. It is inconceivable that the Town Clerk did not know who the members of the Rutland Chat Forum were and are. Oakham is a town of around 10,000 people and the ruling clique know precisely who everyone is. Richard White is connected via DNA and political ties to this clique and has a vested interest in protection to and loyalty of the clique, which he often appears to place above his duty as a Town Clerk.

One can't run with the hounds and when the fox finally makes a complaint against you then turn around and cry 'Foul.' The vendetta pursued by Rutland Chat Forum ought to be made public and the IP addresses furnished to us as a matter of urgency. Then we will really see who has bullied who

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