Tribunal told director felt undermined by Flintshire councillor

Reporter:

Andrew Boyd

A FORMER senior council employee yesterday gave evidence against a councillor who allegedly bullied her.


Susan Lewis, Flintshire Council’s former director of community services, told a tribunal investigating allegations of misconduct against Mostyn councillor Patrick Heesom that she felt undermined by him.


During cross-examination by Michael Murphy, representing Cllr Heesom, Mrs Lewis said many of the difficulties in her relationship with the councillor stemmed from when she became director of community services in 2008.


Her responsibilities including housing, a role which Cllr Heesom, executive housing member at the time, believed she was not qualified for as he had written to council chief executive Colin Everett opposing her appointment.


“I didn’t understand why he was against me,” she told the tribunal at Northop Country House Hotel.


“He didn’t really know anything about me, how I worked or my background so it made it even more perplexing that he had made that decision about me.”


One of the key incidents between the pair came over a visioning day at Clwyd Theatr Cymru in November 2008 and the authority’s planned policies for housing wardens.


Mrs Lewis said she arrived to find all 70 county councillors had received a document from Cllr Heesom about the issue, which she felt undermined her role.


Believing she had been deliberately omitted from those who received the document and objecting to its content, she said: “I was quite devastated by it.”


Cllr Heesom was said to have issued an apology, but stood by comments expressed in the document.


The tribunal also heard difficulties in the pair’s relationship stretched back to a council scrutiny committee meeting in February 2007 when Mrs Lewis was social services director and Cllr Heesom was said to have described the department’s attendance record as “shambolic”.


Mr Murphy said minutes for the meeting did not show a use of “shambolic”, instead “shambles”, and he added they also mentioned no press or public were present so the criticism was not in the public eye.


Mrs Lewis made a written request for early retirement in March 2009 and said the “impact of the bullying” from Cllr Heesom was a key reason why she felt no longer able to continue in her role.


Mrs Lewis wrote: “I am no longer willing to be criticised in front of colleagues, subordinates and the Press in public meetings.”


She said her dealings with Cllr Heesom had changed her attitude towards attending meetings, having previously enjoyed them.


“Cllr Heesom brought about that change in me where I could no longer face going to public meetings,” she told the tribunal.

The tribunal is proceeding.

See full story in the Leader

Leave your comment

Share your opinions on

Characters left: 1500

Most Read