Rutland County Council meeting to bring councillors up to date with legal action over members

Peaceful protest by Rutland Anti-Corruption group outside the Rutland County Council offices in Oakham.  From left, Rutland county councillors, Dave Richardson, Nick Wainwright and Richard Gale.'Photo: MSMP031212-003ow
Peaceful protest by Rutland Anti-Corruption group outside the Rutland County Council offices in Oakham. From left, Rutland county councillors, Dave Richardson, Nick Wainwright and Richard Gale.'Photo: MSMP031212-003ow
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Councillors will be brought up-to-date with the latest on a council’s pursuit of legal action against three members at a meeting next week.

A special meeting of Rutland County Council is being held on Monday to discuss a monitoring officer’s report that highlights the current progress of the council’s legal action against Coun Richard Gale, Coun Dave Richardson and Coun Nick Wainwright.

At a meeting in January, Rutland County Council voted to take legal action against the three councillors, who had formed the Rutland Anti-Corruption Group, after allegations they had made against the council.

Councillors voted to seek an injunction to prevent harassment of the council’s chief executive and other officers by the group; to support staff wishing to take legal action in their own name for harassment by the group; to introduce a single point of contact through the council’s internal e-mail and to authorise sufficient funds to support these actions.

Since January’s meeting, the Rutland Anti-Corruption Group has disbanded because its three members have joined the United Kingdom Independence Party.

The monitoring officer’s report says that since January, the three councillors have continued the same pattern of conduct that led to the concerns being raised before.

The report says that since January the three councillors have made accusations of corruption against officers and members both internally and to external third parties without any apparent justification.

It adds that the councillors refused to accept the single point of contact arrangement, and although they did send some correspondence through this route, they also continued to contact individual officers, and continued not to use a specialist e-mail system.

The report also says that allegations made on the website 4Rutland were “seriously defamatory of officers responsible for the leadership of Rutland County Council”. A statement on the website says the views expressed are those of Coun Gale, Coun Richardson and Coun Wainwright.

The council wrote to the councillors demanding an unequvicaol retraction and an apology and the removal of the statement from the website.

Group leader Coun Gale said this week that the statement had been removed from the website as a “goodwill gesture”.

The council had asked for the councillors to respond to their concerns by Wednesday, however Coun Gale said they had not done so because they were seeking advice from a specialist solicitor.

Coun Gale said the group had not always used the single point of contact arrangement because the council officers had not always responded to them via it themselves.

He claims the council has contacted members of the group via their personal e-mail addresses and private mobile numbers.

Coun Gale said: “Nothing has changed since January and we want to resolve this. People need to hear both sides of the story.

“We want a level playing field here.

“All we want is the truth and openness for the public to understand.”

The report also mentions the group’s refusal to use scrutiny panels and not taking advantage of the opportunity to raise questions and move motions at council meetings.

The reports says: “The behaviour complained of has continued and the press release issued upon them becoming UKIP members airs matters publicly, and with the apparent support of a national political party.

“It is appropriate to commence legal proceedings for defamation and/or harassment, as the continued actions of these councillors is upsetting to officers, and damaging to their reputations, and to the reputations of the authority as a whole.

“Attempts to resolve the matter by correspondence have been unsuccessful, hence legal proceedings may need to be issued to resolve the matter.”

Monday’s meeting takes place at the council offices in Catmose, Oakham, at 7pm.

To see the officer’s report in full, visit www.rutland.gov.uk