Long Melford: Police called to council meeting after councillor loses temper

POLICE had to be called to a parish council meeting in a picture postcard Suffolk village after a councillor lost his temper with the clerk, a standards committee heard.

Richard Michette, who was suspended from Long Melford Parish Council earlier this year for threatening a member of the public, has again found himself before a standards committee after more complaints were made about his behaviour.

Mr Michette was banned from meetings for six weeks back in April after he was found to have lost his cool during a council session in July 2011, threatening to “thump” a man who had insulted his wife and calling him a “little s***”.

Following a hearing last month into the latest complaints against Mr Michette made in January and February - before he began his suspension - the chairman of the Babergh and Mid Suffolk Joint Standards Committee said Mr Michette had damaged the reputation of the council and his behaviour had been “extremely disappointing”.

The frustrated committee chairman said that only a change in local government rules in July had prevented a likely second suspension for Mr Michette in the space of a few months.

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The standards committee met on August 23 in Needham Market to consider complaints received from two people about Mr Michette’s conduct.

Former parish clerk Linda Goodban alleged that Mr Michette had attempted to bully and/or intimidate her and use his position to secure her dismissal. Mr Michette’s fellow parish councillor David Walters had also made complaints about his behaviour during meetings.

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After hearing the evidence, the committee found Mr Michette had failed to treat the clerk with respect by publicly criticising her and raising issues over her accuracy.

It also found he had brought the council into disrepute by becoming “so agitated” on February 21 that police assistance was called and the parish council meeting had to be suspended while he was calmed down by officers.

He was also found to have used behaviour towards the clerk that became “increasingly intimidating and amounted to bullying”.

The committee cleared Mr Michette of failing to treat the parish council chairman with respect and bullying him and also of trying to secure the dismissal of the clerk and attempting to intimidate her.

Joint standards committee chair Elizabeth Gibson-Harries said: “After reviewing the independent investigation report, the committee felt that the functioning and the reputation of Long Melford Parish Council has once again been detrimentally affected by the actions of Mr Michette.

“The outcome has resulted in Mr Michette being reprimanded over his behaviour following his breach of the code of conduct. The committee have also instructed Mr Michette to urgently attend training on the code of conduct.

“The committee were extremely disappointed in Mr Michette’s behaviour and prior to the change in legislation, the committee felt that this could have been a cause for a second suspension.”

The parish clerk has now left her post and the chairman has stood down for unrelated reasons.

Last night Mr Michette said he did not accept the findings of the committee and had written to the council monitoring officer to raise his objections.

He added: “I’m here to represent the people of Long Melford, not a cosy club of a parish council.”

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