EASTFIELD Parish Council needs to be trained on how to better conduct its business after concerns were raised at a hearing yesterday.
The meeting of Scarborough Council’s Standards Committee investigated whether Cllr Carole Gerada, who was first elected to the parish council in May, had brought it into disrepute by disrespecting her fellow councillors.
Members ruled that she had breached the code of conduct by carrying out a sustained email campaign alleging dishonesty and misappropriation of funds – but said there was insufficient evidence to support two alleged confrontations in public because they heard conflicting versions of events.
The hearing lasted more than nine hours and Michael Goode, the committee chairman, recommended that Cllr Gerada received training on how to conduct herself as a parish councillor. He added that they had decided against a temporary suspension.
He said: “Parish councillor Gerada failed to treat her fellow parish councillors with respect.”
Mr Goode added that the way the parish council conducted its business justified questions being raised. He said: “It’s not our wish that Cllr Gerada should resign. She should receive some training on conducting herself as a parish councillor. The committee have seriously considered suspension. But we do expect the campaign to stop.”
He said that there should also be training for the whole of the parish council on openness, transparency and accountability.
Cllr Gerada said she had concerns that the parish council’s accounts were not accurate, and there was also confusion over funding for community groups, which was why she wanted answers. She said: “How was that being disrespectful in asking for information?”
She added that she believed she had done the right thing and was raising the concerns of Eastfield residents who had elected her.
Members heard how Cllr Gerada had copied in numerous recipients into emails – including the Audit Commission, local government organisations and various journalists – when she made her allegations and as a result of her behaviour many of her fellow councillors refused to work with her.
Parish councillor Graham Elliott said: “It is because of all the funding accusations she’s brought against us over the past 18 months. I can’t even go into the street without getting questions.”
Cllr Gerada said that she felt bullied and intimidated, often reduced to tears, during parish council meetings and was shouted down when she tried to voice her concerns.
But Cllr Brian Simpson, a borough councillor and parish council chairman, said she had only been heckled once. He added: “There was one instance where a member of the public said something when Cllr Gerada spoke. I called for order in the public gallery. That is part of being an elected councillor.
“Cllr Gerada has the same opportunity to speak as any other councillor. I definitely wouldn’t say that Cllr Gerada is heckled every time she speaks.”