Honiton businessman urges town council to dissolve and reform following latest row in lengthy list of public spats
PUBLISHED: 09:40 19 February 2020 | UPDATED: 12:45 19 February 2020
A respected Honiton businessman has called for the town council to voluntarily dissolve following the latest public spat to rock the authority.
Alan Rowe MBE, who until this year ran Alan Rowe Barbers in High Street, has penned an open letter to town councillors urging them to quit and put themselves up for re-election.
The letter was sent after a town meeting, held on February 10 this year, was adjourned after town clerk Mark Tredwin was accused of covertly adding an item to the agenda.
The row is the latest in several unsavoury incidents to blight the town council, which is currently chaired by Councillor John Zarczynski.
In his letter, Mr Rowe said he acknowledged there are councillors who have the town's best interests at heart.
However, he said positive work can't happen if others are 'obstructive, bullying or just not doing the job and taking the easy route'.
Mr Rowe said: "Our town needs a caring, supportive and progressive council to take it forward at the same time preserving its history... I think we have come to a point of necessary action where our town council is concerned, and a motion put forward that all seats should be put up for re-election."
Mr Rowe's proposal is the second concerning Honiton Town Council in three years.
In 2017, former town councillor Graham Smith tried to dissolve the council - just one week after Ashley Delasalle quit minutes into her mayoral term.
Mrs Delasalle, who beat Cllr Zarczynski to the mayoral chain by two votes, blasted the council as 'broken' and 'diseased with negative energy' in a blistering resignation speech.
She also said she had witnessed 'harassment, bullying and intimidation' of fellow councillors and council employees.
In the months to follow, one-third of councillors on Honiton Town Council would resign from the authority.
The following year, the council had somewhat rebuilt - but at times, tempers still flared.
During a particularly fiery meeting on April 9, Cllr Zarczynski and former town councillor David Perkins clashed over a damning audit report, which revealed several 'serious failings in governance and procedures' at the authority.
At a council meeting in December 2018, councillors were asked to consider a motion on whether the contents of an email sent by mayor Councillor Henry Brown should be public.
Cllr Brown, who had pipped Cllr Zarczynski to the mayoral seat by one vote, had been accused of watching adult content in meetings when serving as deputy mayor.
Cllr Brown had sent an email to colleagues in which he strongly refuted the claims and said he had been made subject of a 'string of false allegations'.
In the email, Cllr Brown said it was 'quite clear' he was being targeted for political reasons, and he had sought legal advice.
He added that if any councillor attempted to 'continue along this line of bullying and intimidation' without a 'shred of evidence', he would sue for defamation.
At the December 2018 council meeting, Councillor Caroline Kolek, mother of Cllr Brown, said an attempt to 'humiliate and embarrass' Cllr Brown had been made.
More conflict would come in the January 2019 meeting of the council, when the issue was discussed by councillors in open session.
A 40-minute debate, which saw Cllr Brown involved in several charged exchanges with colleagues, ended in the council unanimously resolving to support the mayor.
Following Cllr Brown's choice not to stand for re-election in May 2019, Cllr Zarczynski won back the mayoral seat, which was not contested.
During that month's meeting, town councillor Mike Jones quit the authority on the spot, voicing fears that the authority will be 'plunged back into the void'.
Mr Jones made an impassioned speech to the town council, which he branded as 'alienated' and 'so focused on previous historic decisions'.
His resignation was accepted by Cllr Zarcyznski, who thanked him for his service, but questioned his choice to resign after he was re-elected to the council.
At Honiton Town Council's meeting of February 10 this year, there were chaotic scenes after clerk Mark Tredwin withdrew from the meeting.
Mr Tredwin cited doctor's orders as his reason for leaving after Cllr Zarczynski said a report was 'sneaked on to the agenda'.
The accusation was made after Cllr Kolek questioned whether a meeting of Honiton Town Council's human resources committee had been held illegally on February 10.
Mr Tredwin confirmed the meeting was held 'ultra-vires' - meaning 'beyond the powers'.
Cllr Zarczynski said the item was placed on the agenda without his knowledge as he and the clerk sat down to agree the agenda.
A motion to dissolve the HR committee was then made, and seconded.
Cllr Zarczynski said he could 'see now why this was sneaked on to the agenda', prompting Mr Tredwin's withdrawal.
Before the meeting was abruptly closed, Cllr Kolek said illegal meetings had been held and walked out.
Following the meeting, Cllr Zarczynski told the Herald he was 'extremely disappointed' with the outcome of the meeting.
He said: "I wish to apologise to all the members of the public in attendance especially members of the public awaiting approval of much needed grant funding applications."
A continuation of the adjourned meeting will be held on Monday, February 24, from 7pm. There will be no public questions and no new items on the agenda.
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