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Thousands spent on probe amid resignations at seaside parish council in wake of allegations

PUBLISHED: 12:18 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 12:18 06 August 2020

Kathryn Wendt chair of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council which has been through an 'awful time.' The parish includes the beach at Scratby and Ormesby St Margaret on the Broads  Picture: Liz Coates/Nick Butcher

Kathryn Wendt chair of Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council which has been through an 'awful time.' The parish includes the beach at Scratby and Ormesby St Margaret on the Broads Picture: Liz Coates/Nick Butcher

Archant

A parish council rocked by resignations says it wants to move on and draw a line under a “bullying” saga.

Scratby and California village sign.

Picture: James BassScratby and California village sign. Picture: James Bass

Ormesby with Scratby Parish Council has seen three members resign in the wake of allegations which have reportedly cost the council over £5,000.

Adrian Peck stepped down after four years at the helm on July 1, followed by two other members.

A confidential report seen by this newspaper reveals the then parish clerk submitted a bullying grievance in January.

An independent probe upheld two of the claims against two members - Kathryn Wendt and Christine Lee - who dispute the findings.

Families enjoy the sands at Scratby during lockdown. Access has recently been improved thanks to the parish council's efforts putting in a new ramp, replacing old wooden steps Picture: Liz CoatesFamilies enjoy the sands at Scratby during lockdown. Access has recently been improved thanks to the parish council's efforts putting in a new ramp, replacing old wooden steps Picture: Liz Coates

One related to the circulation of heavily amended minutes to all councillors by Mrs Lee in December 2019, although the report notes she believed she was helping the clerk.

The other related to an email sent by Mrs Wendt in July 2019 to do with the clerk’s duties, which was sent to all allotment working party members.

Although her intentions were “professional” it constituted bullying because of the effect on the clerk, the report states.

It concludes none of the councillors had any malicious intent.

Mrs Wendt, who was elected to the chair on July 14, said she did not accept the findings that bullying had taken place.

“We have gone through an awful period and we are working really, really hard to get over it,” she said.

She said she regretted that Adrian Peck and later, Steve Scott-Greenard, had resigned, adding there was no animosity between the parties.

Meanwhile Mrs Lee said the council had come out stronger and members had pulled together.

She said the saga related to an employment issue.

“But we have done the right thing and gone through a procedure,” she said.

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“We have adopted relevant policies to make sure it does not happen again.

“It is upsetting for everyone involved, but we are in a much better place.

“We have a new mandate to start afresh.”

The clerk had since resigned saying she did not want to take the issue further.

The grievance was raised in January and investigated in March.

Because of lockdown the parish council could not hold a grievance meeting until June 30.

Mr Peck resigned the day after saying he believed some councillors no longer had confidence in him.

On July 14 during a virtual council meeting held over video platform Zoom Mrs Wendt was elected to the chair and Mrs Lee to vice chair by nine votes to four.

Afterwards Steve Scott-Greenard resigned after two and a half years, stressing he was still a borough councillor and “here to help.”

Mr Peck, who had been on the council for more than eight years, said: “I really enjoyed doing the job. I really put my heart and soul into it.”

He added he was grateful for the nice things people had said.

The parish council said in a statement: “We cannot as a council comment on confidential employment matters.

“However, in terms of council business, following an internal review meeting which related to the handling of one such matter, Adrian Peck resigned as chair and councillor on July 1, 2020 as he felt he no longer had the confidence of the majority of the council.

“Steve Scott-Greenard resigned as a councillor on July 15 following a parish council meeting on July 14 where he stood as a candidate for the vacant chair.

“We are sorry to lose Steve as he supported the community tirelessly during the Covid-19 outbreak, and we thank both Adrian and Steve for their public service.

“The current chair and vice chair were both voted in on July 14 with a strong majority mandate from their fellow councillors and they look forward to continuing to serve our community openly and honestly, as our parishioners expect of us.”

Reinhard Wendt, the chair’s husband, resigned at the end of July, meaning there are now three vacancies.


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