Cabinet member of Fenland Council and parish council chairman both hear outcome of conduct committee investigation
22:31 26 March 2014
A parish council chairman and a Cabinet member of Fenland District Council have both been found guilty of trying to quash discussion about enforcement action against a former business associate.
Councillor Steve Emery, chairman of Manea Parish Council and Councillor Pop Jolley, Fenland Council portfolio holder for leisure and also a Manea parish councillor, now face possible censure by the conduct committee of Fenland Council.
Both councillors “discouraged” another parish councillor, Alan Fielding, from raising the issue of an illegal building being put up in the village by Tommy Savage in Old Dairy Yard.
Stephen Pearson, a solicitor appointed by Fenland’s chief executive Paul Medd to conduct the investigation, concluded that both councillors tried to “put off” Cllr Fielding from raising enforcement issues.
“It does seem that Cllr Fielding was not treated with respect when he sought to bring forward an issue of relevant concern raised by parishioners,” said Mr Pearson.
“He was ‘put off’ from raising the issue by councillor Emery and councillor Jolley, irrespective of the precise words used.”
Both councillors were therefore in breach of the council’s code of conduct, said Mr Pearson who also said Cllr Emery had brought “his office or authority into disrepute”.
The solicitor’s findings, due to be considered by the conduct committee next Wednesday, discuss the importance of councillors being able to “bring forward legitimate matters of concern” raised by parishioners.
And he said he would expect a council chairman to have such a matter placed on the agenda.
“To seek to prevent or dissuade members from bringing legitimate items forward for discussion, for whatever reason, would seem clearly to be inappropriate,” said Mr Pearson. “It would be regarded as bringing the chairman of the parish council and the parish council itself into disrepute. I find this allegation proven in respect of Cllr Emery.”
He found a similar allegation against Cllr Jolley “not proven”.
Cllr Emery was also found guilty of a third charge, of using or attempting to use his position “to confer an advantage or disadvantage for yourself or any other person.”
Mr Pearson said it was clear Cllr Emery “sought to use his position to prevent this major planning breach issue from seeing the light of day. This is particularly concerning as the individual had a history of committing breaches of planning control and had a historical business relationship with councillors Emery and Jolley”.
Whilst finding this charge against the chairman proven, he said in respect of Cllr Jolley “on balance I find this allegation not proven”.
He said of Cllr Jolley that “it does appear that he has been involved in the matter to some degree by virtue of being engaged in discussions with Cllr Fielding which had the effect of preventing matters being discussed at the parish council”.
Cllr Emery, a parish councillor for 30 years and chairman for the past 14 years, described the complaint as “ridiculous” and said accusatory statements by Cllr Fielding and another councillor, Mark Archer, were “inconsistent”.
He also said at no time had Cllr Fielding or any other councillor been discouraged from raising enforcement issues and he said he had acted “both pragmatically and respectfully”.
He confirmed to Mr Pearson that he was a self employed building worker who in the past been employed by Mr Savage but had done no work for him for a year.
He found the insinuations against him” distasteful”.
Cllr Jolley said he, too, had previous business arrangements with Mr Savage but “would not allow any historic relationship to affect his treatment of council matters”.