THE MAYOR has launched a staunch defence of the town council’s handling of its suspended town clerk after it emerged the process has cost more than £11,000 so far.
A Freedom of Information request issued to the council from resident Alistair Macmillan – a former town councillor – revealed the investigation into Richard Chapman’s conduct had cost £3,500 in temporary staff and overtime and £8,000 in consultancy and professional advice.
There are also likely to be additional fees incurred by advice given to the appeals panel after the town clerk has contested the original verdict that he ‘breached council policy’.
Mayor Roskams said: “I would say to those who question the cost of this process to ask themselves whether they believe we had a choice but to carry out the investigation that we did.
“I am very proud of the fact that when faced with allegations of wrongdoing we did not – as other bodies have in recent times – ignore the matter or seek to hide it.
“We treated the matter seriously and we took the action that we were required by statute to take. I will apologise to no-one for that.
“Those questioning the cost should consider too the potential risks and costs to the council had we failed to take the matter seriously and had we failed to take action.”
The mayor also responded to concern the matter has taken so long after Mr Chapman was suspended in October and took a swipe at former councillors saying previously there was ‘effectively no procedure in place’ to allow a complaint to be raised against the chief officer.
“I can think of no other organisation in which this would have been acceptable, and only those who sat on the council before I did will understand why this was the case.”
In his FOI, Mr Macmillan also questioned the council’s decision not to disclose ‘specific charges’ until the result of an appeal, claiming it was a ‘breach of English justice’.
Once more Mayor Roskams said he would not respond to any questions which undermined the process currently taking place or the human rights of current staff.
He added just because someone worked in public office it did not mean every aspect of their working life was ‘fair game’ and they were entitled to the same degree of privacy as everyone else.
Mayor Roskams was due to address the matter during the town council’s annual general meeting which took place as the Observer went to press yesterday.