Honiton mayor defends himself over email threatening to sue colleagues for 'adult content' allegations
PUBLISHED: 16:03 16 January 2019 | UPDATED: 16:29 16 January 2019
Honiton’s mayor has defended the contents of an email he sent to his colleagues after being accused of watching adult content in previous Honiton Town Council meetings.
Councillor Henry Brown strongly refuted the allegations, supposedly made when he was deputy mayor, which he described as ‘false’ and a ‘political attack’.
In an emotive council meeting on Monday (January 14), Cllr Brown was strongly challenged by councillors Jill McNally and John Zarczynski – the latter the former mayor of Honiton - as he stood his ground over the contents of his email.
At a meeting of Honiton Town Council in December last year, a bid to discuss the email behind closed doors was foiled following a vote.
As a result, heated conversations between Cllr Brown and two former mayors - Cllr Zarczynski and Caroline Kolek - took place.
The email was then debated at Monday’s meeting of Honiton Town Council, with members being careful not to discuss the allegations themselves.
However, several members of a packed public gallery quizzed the council on why the subject should have even been debated in an open meeting - but the discussion still took place.
An excerpt of Cllr Brown’s email reads: “I am writing to you now because I have recently been subject to a string of false allegations which suggested I had been viewing inappropriate adult content in council meetings.”
It added: “I have sought expert advice on this today and over the weekend and it seems quite clear that I am being targeted by some for political reasons.
“I was attacked and targeted when I first became mayor and this seems to be continuing.
“I will not be bullied...”
The email continues: “I’m going to make myself very clear now and I ask those who are taking this approach to take this very seriously - if any councillor attempts to continue along this line of bullying and intimidation without a shred of evidence, I will sue for defamation... I have briefed the local press and I am ready, if necessary, to go public about the way I am being treated.
“I hope this will not be necessary as I think we should agree that this council really does not need any more bad publicity at this time.”
Cllr John Zarczynski said there were ‘strenuous efforts’ made by himself and others to sort the issues out when they first surfaced, but advice was ‘ignored’ by Cllr Brown.
He added that he was ‘not aware’ there was an agenda against Cllr Brown, his former deputy, to damage him, and challenged the mayor to explain himself. Cllr Jill McNally said by ‘carefully naming no-one’ and sending the email to every councillor, Cllr Brown had staged a ‘personal attack’ against each and every one of us’.
She added: “He threatens to sue for defamation – I will not stand for that. He mentions bullying, which is serious. I have never bullied him or intimidated him.
“I have never seen him being bullied – if I had seen bullying, I would have taken action.”
Cllr McNally said: “I believe he owes us all an apology for this outburst, which is all I can call it.
“I regret that I feel he has pushed me into saying what I have had to say publicly now, but I won’t be leaned on and I won’t be threatened.”
Cllr Brown, who is Honiton’s youngest-ever mayor, said he believed the allegations were a way of pushing him aside and ‘playing’ on his vulnerabilities.
He added that he used the tools available to him at the time to defend his character.
“I stand by the contents of the email,” Cllr Brown added. “I shouldn’t have sent it at the time I did.
“Hindsight is a wonderful thing when you have your back to the wall and feel you are being bullied.”
Cllr Kolek said: “I think any young person with an allegation made against them with no evidence, no dates, no details, would come out fighting like you have.
“I challenge anybody in this room to have done differently.”
Several councillors urged the council to heed the last line of Cllr Brown’s email [“I urge everyone to focus on serving our community...], which received applause from members of the public gallery.
Cllr McNally asked the council to move past the issue, and she was prepared to support the mayor now the matter had been debated.
The town council unanimously supported her proposal to move on and support the mayor.