OYEZ: Three councillors face probe into allegation they ‘fixed’ the appointment of former mayor as town crier

THREE March councillors have been accused of ‘fixing’ the appointment of fellow councillor and former mayor Bernard Keane to win the role of town crier.

So seriously has Fenland District Council been forced to take the complaint that chief solicitor Ian Hunt has carried out a six month investigation into the allegations.

His 32 page report, to be presented to the council’s conduct committee tomorrow, may not spell the end of the affair. With no independent member yet found for the committee it is likely to be next year before the matter is resolved.

The complaint was brought by former independent council candidate Reg Kemp in July who complained that town councillors Kit Owen, Jan French and Andrew Pugh “used their position in their official capacity” to “secure an advantage” for Cllr Keane.

He claimed the councillors “colluded” to ensure Cllr Keane won the new role, excluding someone he felt better able to do the job, i.e. magician, juggler and fire eater Robert Freeman who promotes himself as the Jolly Jester and runs a website entitled www.thejollyjester.com.

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Mr Kemp claimed that councillors opted for Cllr Keane because he promised to return all proceeds for shop openings, talks, etc, to the mayor’s charity. Mr Freeman, as was normal for town criers, expected to retain such payments as a “perk of the job” said Mr Kemp.

Mr Kemp says the idea of a town crier was his and he felt the selection method – a ‘cry off’ in a public alleyway near the town hall -was unfair and should have been open to the public.

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Town clerk Clive Lemmon said Mr Freeman, though hot favourite, did not interview well.

“I have never sat through a more embarrassing encounter,” he said.

He said the complaint was “vindictive and deliberately sets out to undermine anything that this council attempts to achieve”.

Cllr Owen said both candidates had “cried to a satisfactory standard”. The town council gave it to Cllr Keane because of his “performance and responses at interview.”

He said Mr Kemp and Mr Freeman did not like the outcome but “that’s called sour grapes. Hardly magnanimous.”

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