'I've never been so appalled' - Claims of personal attacks threaten parish council
PUBLISHED: 06:00 17 July 2019 | UPDATED: 06:12 17 July 2019
Sarah Lucy brown
Tensions ran high at a parish meeting amid accusations of abusive behaviour, threats to resign and pleas to resolve rifts.
Wickham Market Parish Council's discussions on Monday were again marred by rows - just a fortnight after councillors met to discuss "unacceptable" emails.
The arguments involve two of the council's newer members - Lisa Sanders and Fiona Parker - as well as parish clerk Jo Peters and chairman Dick Jenkinson, whose work they have criticised.
Minutes from the July 1 meeting refer to Ms Sanders' emails to the clerk and further correspondences from Mr Jenkinson to Ms Sanders. Ms Peters was said to have been "extremely stressed" by the emails Ms Sanders sent her. But Ms Sanders said she had been "extremely angered" by those she received from Mr Jenkinson. Councillor Fiona Parker said she had been "disgusted" by Mr Jenkinson's emails.
Mr Jenkinson told the meeting he had written to Ms Sanders to prevent "unacceptable behaviour". He said Ms Parker had been mentioned because the information she requested from the clerk was making life "very difficult". Ms Parker replied she would not have to request the information if it was made public.
Discussions were also held about the chairman's responsibilities, council communications and meetings with landowners relating to the neighbourhood plan.
Despite calls for calm, tensions remained at the latest meeting.
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Mr Jenkinson read a letter from a member of the public who said his emails to Ms Sanders had been "abusive". They criticised Mr Jenkinson's body language and said he wanted Ms Parker and Ms Sanders off the council. They added the clerk was "less than efficient", as she let batteries run flat on a recording device at a meeting.
Mr Jenkinson then read a statement from the clerk, which said "personal attacks" had undermined her role.
"I have never been so appalled, embarrassed and upset by aggressive, unprofessional behaviour than I was at the recent extraordinary meeting," she said.
Ms Peters said the criticism she faced was upsetting her and her family and affecting her work.
Ms Sanders then accused council members of talking about her behind her back, referring to an email councillor Patrick Roper had mistakenly sent her.
Mr Roper apologised for the email. He said the "ill-feeling" was worse than in all his eight years as a councillor and warned he and colleagues were considering resigning. He praised the clerk and chairman and criticised those "running them down". "Please let us try to work together without always finding fault," he said.