Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Bullying claim rejected as political huff and puff

ALLEGATIONS of harassment and bullying against a Henley town councillor by a former mayor have been

ALLEGATIONS of harassment and bullying against a Henley town councillor by a former mayor have been thrown out as political “huff and puff”.

South Oxfordshire District Council has decided to take no action against councillor Dylan Thomas.

Ken Arlett, chairman of Henley’s UKIP branch, had complained that several emails from Cllr Thomas amounted to “harassment and bullying” and were designed to ruin his good name in breach of the councillors’ code of conduct.

Cllr Thomas, a former army officer who is a member of the ruling Conservative group, denied the allegations.

Margaret Reed, the district council’s monitoring officer, decided not to pursue the issue, saying there was likely to have been “some collusion” between Mr Arlett and the legitimate recipients of the emails, most of whom appeared to be councillors.

She said: “Cllr Thomas believes that this is a co-ordinated attack of harassment against him between Mr Arlett and another complainant who is a current councillor.

“He says that the emails were not actually sent to Mr Arlett and that they had in fact been ‘leaked’ by the councillor in question.”

She said there was no need for action if the complaint was not significant enough to justify spending public money or if it appeared to be a relatively minor or was politically motivated.

Mrs Reed concluded: “The complainant is politically active in the local area and therefore the same ‘high bar’ applies to dealing with his complaints against councillors as it would between two councillors. He is not just a ‘member of the public’. The emails supplied do not appear to have been addressed to Mr Arlett and therefore there is likely to have been some collusion between him and the legitimate recipients of the emails, most of whom appear to be councillors.

“The entire nature of the emails, whether to or from Mr Thomas, is of political point scoring. The monitoring officer considers this matter to be one of political ‘huff and puff’.”

Cllr Thomas said Mr Arlett’s complaint was a “load of codswallop” and claimed that he had nothing better to with his time.

Mr Arlett, of Elizabeth Road, said he would appeal, adding: “It’s absolutely ridiculous what they have come up with.

“There was absolutely no collusion with anybody else whatsoever.”

He claimed the wording of the decision was similar to one made last year.

On that occasion Cllr Thomas was told he had no case to answer over a complaint made by an official of the opposition Henley Residents’ Group. This arose out of a council meeting in June 2015 which was discussing the joint Henley and Harpsden neighbourhood plan.

Mrs Reed, who decided to take no action, said: “There is clear scope for political debate, huff and puff and ‘knockabout’ in a political setting.”

Mr Arlett said this week: “It seems to me they must have a template and they change a few words.

“Everybody wants to close ranks at the moment and do nothing. Everybody wants an easy life.”

Mrs Reed also decided to take no further action over a complaint made by former mayor Lorraine Hillier against Cllr Thomas and one made by him against her. Both had denied the allegations.

• In June police said no further action would be taken against Mr Arlett after Cllr Thomas lodged a complaint relating to a claim of alleged “verbal abuse” by Mr Arlett at the mayor-making ceremony in May.

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