Apology for councillors a year after 'bullying' allegations
- Credit: Sonya Duncan/Breckland Council/A
Two councillors who were accused of "harassment, bullying and intimidation" have received a full public apology.
Taila Taylor and Ed Tyrer, of Attleborough Town Council (ATC), were first hit with the allegations in February last year.
The claims had apparently been made against the pair by council staff, but no concrete evidence was ever revealed.
It left the divided council in chaos, with eight members signing a motion to remove Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer from committee duties and seven in opposition.
They were, however, reinstated in July and, on Tuesday evening during the council's annual meeting, received a formal apology for the "hurt, suffering and stress" caused.
It was read on the council's behalf by mayor Phil Leslie, who also confirmed ATC would cover legal costs incurred by both councillors and pay damages.
"ATC offers a profound and unreserved apology to councillors Taila Taylor and Edward Tyrer for the publication of defamatory statements concerning false allegations," read Mr Leslie.
"The false accusations were made in the context of a malicious campaign to remove councillors Taylor and Tyrer from several committees and working groups of the council.
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"Indeed, on February 27, 2020, members of the council passed an unlawful motion to remove both councillors from positions held within the council and prevent them from being appointed vice chairman or mayor.
"Following the issue and success of judicial review proceedings by councillor Taylor, both councillors have been vindicated of all allegations."
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Reacting to the significant moment, Mr Tyrer thanked the council, adding: "It is so good to see new councillors here today because this is a fresh start and there is an awful lot of work we need to do.
"I'm just relieved this whole sorry mess has gone. It should never have happened, but we learn from it."
And Miss Taylor extended the apology to the people of Attleborough.
She said: "This has been a weight for them to bear as well and the cost incurred does, at the end of the day, fall back to them."
When and why did the saga begin?
Trouble at the town council first erupted early last year, when police were called to an extraordinary meeting at the town hall.
Disputing the motion against Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer, more than 50 people crammed into the chamber before the building was evacuated over fire fears.
Claims of "bullying" emerged a week later and were publicly backed by ex-mayor, Tony Crouch.
The accused councillors continued to strenuously deny any wrongdoing, the latter labelling them "completely untrue and unfounded".
But within days they were officially stripped of their committee roles, a decision made during a meeting the press and public were barred from attending.
In a subsequent meeting, it was revealed the council had spent £660 in taxpayers' money on the security staff, as well as £14,000 on legal bills.
With the divided town council in disarray, a parish meeting saw 200 people demand a referendum which could ultimately have led to the entire council's resignation.
The referendum, or parish poll, was put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic and has still not taken place.
Nevertheless, as Mr Leslie was elected to replace Mr Crouch last summer, it was confirmed Miss Taylor and Mr Tyrer had been reinstated to their committee positions.
And, capping off months of controversy, town clerk Gina Lopes was sacked in January following an investigation by the council's disciplinary sub-committee.
A new era
Elsewhere at the meeting, Mr Leslie was elected unanimously for a second term as mayor and Mr Tyrer unanimously as deputy mayor.
Mr Leslie has previously said his mayorship should be used "to mark the beginning of a new era" at ATC.
The resignation of Beverley Bulmer from the council - the outgoing deputy mayor - was also announced on Tuesday night.
Following his re-election, Mr Leslie said: “It is a tremendous privilege to represent our town. I feel the burden of it some days and it has been incredibly hard work, but it has been worthwhile work that makes a change.
“Work that has a positive outcome is work worth doing.
“I commit to continuing the work that has started and hope to continue to reap the rewards and the blessings that we have seen over the last months.”
It is a hoped a judicial review investigation report - providing further details on the events of the last 15 months - will be made publicly available next week.
The final document is set to consist of around 140 pages.
Mr Leslie has called its forthcoming publication "the conclusion of this saga".