Fenland Council leader John Clark to face conduct committee hearing over how he handled a complaint about unauthorised use of land

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

A panel of councillors will decide on June 14 whether a full inquiry will be held into a complaint made against council leader John Clark.

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams.

Garage at the side of Alpha street. Picture: Steve Williams. - Credit: Archant

Fenland District Council’s conduct committee will be told by chief solicitor Tom Lewis that a ‘pre-screening process’ agreed Cllr Clark may have breached the councillors code of conduct.

He said that committee chairman Councillor Sam Hoy and two independent lay members of the committee had conducted an “extensive discussion” before deciding Cllr Clark may have breached the code and so the complaint should be considered by the full committee.

The issue revolves around a complaint made to Cllr Clark about unauthorised use of a piece of land in Alpha Road, March. Cllr Clark is alleged to have told the man running a business from there the name of the person who complained – without revealing to the complainant he was also the owner of the site.

The report by Mr Lewis, who is also the council’s acting monitoring officer, says the council received a complaint from Alan Gowler about the alleged breach; Mr Gowler is not related to anyone involved in the case but argued it was an issue of wider interest.

Cllr John Clark

Cllr John Clark - Credit: Archant

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Mr Gowler told Mr Lewis that confidential information had been passed on and there was also a potential breach of data protection laws.

Cllr Clark wrote to Mr Lewis that “although I did share the complaint with my tenant, having reflected on this, it may not have been the most appropriate course of action.”

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He said that “from the very outset and based upon the potential for planning enforcement action” he had made it clear that he was dealing with the issue as landlord and not as leader of the council.

“I immediately reported this issue to the council portfolio holder of planning in order that any appropriate enforcement could be pursued by planning officers,” he said.

Cllr Samantha Hoy. Octavia Hill.(Con)

Cllr Samantha Hoy. Octavia Hill.(Con) - Credit: Archant

On data protection issues, Cllr Clark said: “As the complaint was not marked private and confidential and a swift response to the complaint was requested, I have taken action as landlord to resolve the issues quickly.

“I don’t believe this is a breach of the data protection law, nor a criminal offence.”

Mr Lewis says that in considering the case, the conduct committee should is the complaint about something which happened “so long ago that there would be little benefit in taking action now”.

He said councillors should also consider whether the complaint is “too trivial to warrant further action”.

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