A Thanet Green Party councillor has responded to a blog accusing him of ‘a lack of truthfulness’ over the sale of his house in Minster and ‘a move’ to France while still serving as a district councillor.
Former councillor Ian Driver published two posts highlighting the sale of the property 14 months ago by Cllr Trevor Roper and his failure to notify the council’s Monitoring Officer, which can constitute a breach of the Members’ Code of Conduct.
Mr Driver wrote: “Failure to update his register of interests and to include in the register information which is knowingly untrue, is a breach of TDC’s Member Code Conduct and depending on the circumstances it is also a criminal offence which can lead the perpetrator to be disqualified from office.
“To continue to claim, in his register of interests, that he is living in a property which he appears to have sold to someone else, and not to have declared where he lives now, might be seen by some people as an effort to deceive and mislead the voters of the Thanet Villages ward who elected him to office in 2019.”
Mr Driver goes on to say that Cllr Roper made a social media post on May 15 this year which included a geolocation tag placing him in the area of Fontenille Saint Martin D’Entragues in southwest France.
A second post by Mr Driver says Cllr Roper had responded to say he was in France and had forgotten to update his details with the council.
Mr Driver questioned this on the basis of councillors having received training for the code of conduct and an exchange of emails between the councillor and TDC Democratic Services about making the update.
Thanet Green Party has responded to say they are ‘puzzled’ over the ‘vicious attack’, which they describe as ‘distorted, inaccurate and based on half-truths’.
They say Mr Driver, a former Green and Labour Councillor, is known for his hard-hitting citizen journalism, but also for personal blog attacks on individual councillors.
Cllr Tricia Austin said: “In the past we’ve challenged Ian about his inappropriate personal attacks on Labour colleagues. Evidently he’s now decided it’s our turn.”
A statement issued by the party says: “After selling their house in Minster last year, Cllr Roper and his wife Karen rented in Ramsgate for a few months and later stayed with relatives in Maidstone.
“During this time he continued with his council duties as usual, including attending many parish council meetings in his Thanet Villages ward, for which he has chalked up nearly 100% attendance since his election in 2019. When travel was allowed again, the Ropers went to France to realise their retirement dream of buying a French property – only to find themselves stuck there by increasingly restrictive Covid rules and trouble obtaining vaccinations.
“Cllr Roper continued to attend online meetings and undertake other duties from a distance, but could not return from France – so when physical meetings restarted in May, he was unable to attend.
“Mr Driver’s blog claims Cllr Roper has behaved ‘deceitfully’ – but colleagues insist he has deceived no-one, and his only error was forgetting to update TDC’s Register of Members’ Interests to show he had sold his Minster property.
“Cllr Roper had contemplated resigning as a councillor when he was first stuck in France, but was persuaded by colleagues to wait to see if things improved so he could return. Unfortunately, concerns about the new variant and ever stricter quarantine rules have prevented this.“
Cllr Roper said of the research carried out by Mr Driver: ““We face so many serious issues in Thanet: perhaps Ian could have put all this effort into pursuing Southern Water or Gladman Developments, rather than stalking me online and then jumping to unwarranted conclusions?”
Leader of the Green group on TDC, Cllr Mike Garner, added: “Trevor is an excellent local councillor whose attendance record compares favourably to most other councillors’, even when his recent inability to attend meetings is included. He’s always been responsive to residents’ concerns and receives great feedback from people in his ward.
“He is very unhappy about the current situation, and has told us and TDC officers that if it persists he will feel obliged to ‘consider his position’ as a councillor, which would be a great loss to all of us.
“Whatever decision he makes will be with the best interests of residents in his ward in mind, and not as a result of the deeply regrettable online campaign against him.”
Since the blog publication Cllr Roper has updated his details with Thanet council. However, Mr Driver said he will be submitting a complaint to the Green Party and to Thanet council’s standards committee.
He added: “(Trevor) had received two official reminders from TDC that he must update his register of interests if his circumstances had changed. Despite promising TDC in September 2020 he would do so, he did not make the necessary changes to his register of interests.”
Mr Driver has called for Cllr Roper to resign.
A spokesman for Thanet council said: “”Cllr Roper has now updated his register of interests, the council is taking no further action and considers the matter closed.”