Around 15 people, including councillors, attended a protest outside Thanet council’s offices in Margate yesterday (August 27) following the reporting to the Standards committee of Labour councillor Karen Constantine by council chief executive Madeline Homer.
Cllr Constantine was joined by councillors including Green Party member Cllr Becky Wing, former council leader Iris Johnston and members of Ramsgate Action Group.
The lobby also received endorsements from councillors who couldn’t attend.
Suspension and councillor statement
The report against Cllr Constantine was made after she spoke to The Isle of Thanet News about employment law and the need for councillors to be able to have an overview of staffing matters and a policy that promotes impartiality and clarity.
The reason for his suspension has not been confirmed by Thanet council. Mr Willis has been with the authority since 2015.
But the suspension has been heavily criticised.
Cllr Constantine was ordered to retract her statement but has refused. She said she “would not be bullied” and has since sought legal advice.
Emails and complaints
RAG members also claim the council’s monitoring officer has been intercepting emails from the group to councillors.
The protest was also to highlight grievance complaints that The Isle of Thanet News understands are under investigation.
Cllr Constantine said: “As a trade unionist and councillor, I cannot countenance the idea that any TDC staff might be the subject of bullying, harassment or victimisation or accept the assertion that such matters are none of my business as an elected member.
“So, it is astonishing that I have been threatened by the Chief Executive for simply asking a question about whether TDC has the appropriate procedures for dealing with such matters. But I will not be bullied out of my principles or stopped from defending the legitimate and legal rights of any staff who may find themselves in this situation.”
Ex-council leader, Iris Johnston added: “Councillors don’t only have a duty of care to voters, they have a duty of care to TDC staff which is why I was so determined to be here to show my support for Karen and the stand she has taken.”
Councillor Becky Wing said: “Speaking for every Green councillor in Thanet, I can assure you we were elected on a platform of openness and transparency at TDC. This is anything but. Threatening councillors or staff cannot be allowed and councillors must be able to hold the management team must to account.”
Steve Coombes, chair of Ramsgate Action Group, added: “I also have been the subject of attempts to stop me asking questions. The outrageous suspension of Tim Willis, an S151 officer of proven diligence and integrity, is a matter of paramount urgency. ”
“If no other means can be found, TDC should immediately be put into “Special Measures.”
A second protest is also due to be held outside the council offices on September 5 at 6pm, just prior to a full council meeting.
This has been organised by resident Alan Chapman to highlight concerns over top officers at the authority and over issues such as asset disposals, emergency spending on Ramsgate Port and toilet closures.