ANGRY scenes erupted at a parish council meeting amid calls for a councillor to resign after being found guilty of bullying.
The furious scenes come after five code of conduct complaints were made against Cllr Don Jerrard.
An independent panel – East Hampshire District Council’s governance, audit and scrutiny sub-committee – found him in breach of six of the complaints.
He did not breach the rules on one complaint, it found.
The complaints refer to incidents which occurred in July, September and December 2017, as well as January 2018, at parish council and NDP committee meetings.
The complaints were lodged a year ago but hearings into Cllr Jerrard’s conduct were postponed three times,
At the December meeting, of the parish council, members of the public showed their frustration and outrage after chairman Michael Croucher said he was prepared to discuss only the “additional training” recommendations made by the district council scrutiny watchdog.
After restricting public question time to just 15 minutes, Mr Croucher claimed only those recommendations could be discussed in an open session.
That was despite the 20-page document relating to the hearing being in the public domain.
He added “anyone can make a mistake” and that “there are always two sides to bullying”.
The EHDC sub-committee stated Cllr Jerrard was censured for “failing to uphold and promote high standards of conduct when holding public office”.
It added: “The sub-committee believes it is incumbent on all councillors to ensure the public have confidence and trust in their elected members, and is disappointed Cllr Jerrard’s actions were not in keeping with this belief.”
The findings accused Mr Jerrard of:
n a lack of openness and transparency;
n failing to remain objective;
n failing to engage in a respectful and courteous manner or listening to the interests of all parties;
n failing to work together with officers, and
n conducting himself in an unacceptable manner.
It said Cllr Jerrard should be “formally censured” and that “all members of the parish council, including Mr Jerrard, receive further code of conduct training”.
Alasdair Cameron, a former member of the neighbourhood plan steering committee, said: “I was surprised and particularly concerned by the complete indifference shown by Cllr Croucher and a number of the parish councillors to the fair and balanced report and recommendations by EHDC on the recent and continuing unacceptable behaviour of Cllr Jerrard.
“Cllr Croucher neither acknowledged nor accepted the report.
“In my opinion, he has lost all credibility as a fair, reasonable and responsible chairman and, indeed, his integrity may well have been brought into question.
“Sadly, a majority of those councillors present acted in a similar manner.
“While the present state of affairs continues, it is difficult to comprehend how this parish council has any credible standing in our community.”
Former parish council chairman Jane Ives addressed Cllr Croucher at the meeting and said: “I’m concerned about the seeming lack of transparency and responsibility regarding the recent code of conduct decision.
“There is a very human cost to what has happened in this council this year and I felt that at the last meeting there was no acknowledgement of the hurt and distress caused to at least five people.
“A simple acceptance from the chairman of the facts would have been welcome and an acknowledgement, at the very least.
“The parish council’s standing orders clearly say that members of the public can make representations and we were all closed down during last month’s meeting.
“However, you assured me, chairman, and it is in the minutes, that the council would uphold its statutory duty to maintain high standards in public life.”
Mrs Ives asked the chairman what steps he, or the council, have taken in asking Cllr Jerrard to desist from intimidating members of the public or other councillors.
Mr Croucher said any decision taken had to be made by all councillors, that legal issues were to be considered and that a parish council or its chairman did not have the power to dismiss a councillor, after calls were made for Mr Jerrard’s resignation.