Ex-mayor suspended over behaviour

A FORMER mayor has been suspended from office for three months after a committee decided his behaviour towards a town clerk was “totally unacceptable”.

A FORMER mayor has been suspended from office for three months after a committee decided his behaviour towards a town clerk was “totally unacceptable”.

Ian Mason, 61, a Needham Market town councillor, appeared before a panel from the Standard's Board for England yesterday .

He was alleged to have bullied town clerk Josephine Lea, causing her distress and to have failed to treat her with respect.

Last night the committee ruled there had been two breaches of the Code of Conduct and that Mr Mason should be suspended from office for three months with immediate effect - although he is entitled to appeal.

The accusations centre around Mr Mason alleging that in December last year the town council co-opted a new councillor in an improper manner.

This led to a long running dispute with the town clerk, who Mr Mason accused of logging inaccurate minutes and being in “cahoots” with five for six councillors, which he branded as “the A Team”.

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He said through this “clique” the group were able to assert a disproportionate influence on the business of the council.

He subsequently issued a newsletter questioning the role of the clerk and other council members, believing members of the public should be made aware of what was happening.

The committee heard how the dispute lasted for some weeks and came to a head in March this year when Mr Mason gave a report to the town council in which he admitted there was now a “war” between him and the town clerk and claimed that as she held the pen she had the means to “blacken” him.

“We are in a street fight with no rules, no bells, no referees,” he said. “The person who said the pen is mightier than the sword did not take me on.”

His actions caused fellow councillor Brian Annis to report him to the standards board for improper conduct.

Mr Annis claimed Mr Mason had made an untrue statement in the newsletter and had damaged the reputation of the town clerk.

In a report, compiled by investigating officer Peter Cox and read out at yesterday's hearing, he said Mr Mason had adopted a bullying attitude towards the clerk and was rude and aggressive on several occasions.

The panel ruled a breach of the Code of Conduct in relation to the issuing of the newsletter and in Mr Mason's attitude towards the town clerk which they said was “totally unacceptable”.

However they added there was substance to some of Mr Mason's claims and there was an “element of insularity” in the way Needham Market Town Council conducted its business.

Last night Mr Mason, who has served in public life for 23 years including time as a Mid Suffolk district councillor, said he would not be appealing against the ruling.

“I expected nothing less. From the off I said I was guilty because I did post a newsletter saying there was skulduggery going on and I did criticise the clerk,” he said. “I won't be appealing and I'll now have three months off but I won't walk away.

“I'll stick at it because I want to make sure the man on the street gets a fair chance. Increasingly in local government it is getting harder and harder to do this but I won't give up.”

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