Allegations of sexism and bullying have thrown Deal Town Hall into crisis – and could cost council taxpayers thousands of pounds.
Deal Mayor Cllr Marlene Burnham and three of her fellow Labour councillors face calls to step down after town clerk Lin Dykes resigned and left her job in September following a grievance panel decision which upheld her claims of bullying and sexism.
She is now likely to be entitled to compensation.
In a document leaked to the Mercury, a string of allegations accuse Cllr Burnham of bullying, sexism, breach of confidentiality, and making light of Mrs Dykes’ concerns about being overworked.
Conservative MP for Deal Charlie Elphicke has now weighed in, telling the Mercury this week: “Any councillors found to be responsible for bullying and sexism are unfit to hold office and should immediately resign.”
Deal businessman and political activist Andy Maple agrees, and is calling for the councillors to be surcharged too, so the taxpayer avoids footing the bill of any potential settlement.
Cllr Burnham has not commented on the allegations against her and her colleagues.
In a joint statement, she said the town council was sorry the town clerk has left, but it would be “inappropriate to comment”.
Marlene Burnham in the town hall
The document leaked to the Mercury is a transcript of an appeal panel hearing on August 5, which was called after the bullying and sexism allegations were upheld by a grievance panel.
But Mrs Dykes claimed the response she received from the panel did not reflect the seriousness of the allegations.
The report says Cllr Burnham told Mrs Dykes that councillors would be “more comfortable if she was a man.”
The report also says that Cllr Ian Kilberry, leader of the town council’s ruling Labour group, spoke to Mrs Dykes “very sharply” in public, which she considered further bullying.
The report also says that Cllr Kath Blackburn was rude to town hall staff.
It is understood that another town councillor, not named in the report, has been involved in the allegations.
It is believed Mrs Dykes has consulted the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service with a view to taking her case to an employment tribunal, but a spokeswoman for the employment body said: “We cannot comment on individual cases.”
See this week's East Mercury for more stories on the crisis at Deal Town Hall.