May 25 2013 Latest news:
By John Elworthy
Friday, March 15, 2013
A TORY councillor cleared by a conduct committee after innocently downloading pornographic images when a virus got into his computer, has been suspended from his Fenland Hall group.
Council Leader Alan Melton bowed to pressure from fellow Conservatives unhappy that the committee had ruled no further action should be taken against Councillor Kit Owen, a former Cabinet member and five times Mayor of March.
Some councillors – angry at the committee’s decision- emailed and contacted Cllr Melton to demand the suspension and although Cllr Melton refused to comment I understand councillors attending a meeting of the executive committee of NE Cambs Conservative made it clear to him he needed to do more than the conduct committee had proposed.
Fellow March councillor Peter Tunley was most outspoken in his criticism of the committee’s ruling arguing that” the message that has been sent out as a result of this decision is the wrong one and has done nothing to enhance the credibility of the group.”
In his email to Tory councillors – leaked anonymously to this newspaper – Cllr Tunley, a former officer at Fenland Hall but who took early retirement 13 years ago, said that had an employee been accused of a similar “indiscretion” in all likelihood he would have faced dismissal.
Cllr Tunley said it was not enough for Cllr Owen to resign from Cabinet and that “clearly, given the seriousness of the accusations, he should be been suspended from all activities of an elected member until such time as the conduct committee had deliberated.
“The process has not been transparent and sends the wrong message.”
Cllr Tunley also said the Conservatives should “look wider to the president (sic) this decision has set for the future. Has the authority of the chief executive been undermined?”
Councillor Martin Curtis also chipped in with an email questioning “whether I would have received the same treatment from Alan (Melton) if this had been me- not that it ever could have been!
“Our group should be in no doubt that my status as a persona non grata means that I would have been absolute toast had it have been me.”
Cllr Owen is expected to remain suspended from the group until next month when his colleagues will get the chance to quiz him further.