TEMPERS flared at a packed meeting of Petworth Town Council when members of the public demanded a formal apology to beleaguered former clerk Jean Huggett.
They say Mrs Huggett had been ‘hounded’ by the new council regime. The claim came after an audit report which said councillors had ‘allowed the clerk to run the financial and probably other procedures without sufficient effective oversight’.
Andrew Howard who served with the council for 16 years, for most as vice chairman or chairman, said he ‘never had any issues’ with Jean’s management of the council’s financial affairs, adding: “If that is the case then it is the council and its successive chairmen, and not its clerk who are responsible. Hounding an elderly lady, living alone, without giving her proper recourse to reply is nothing short of immoral.
“In the light of her long, loyal, hardworking, and only partially recompensed service, I just wonder what can be done to undo the savage mistreatment she has received. A deep and heartfelt public apology to her might be a good start.”
Former chairman of finance and vice chairman of the council Gordon Allan, who resigned last year, said: “The draft report came to a full council meeting to which the public and press were not invited.
“No-one who was involved during the two year period was invited to give evidence. It had not been properly researched and validated. Once in the public domain the damage is done. In publishing this report without further scrutiny is a serious error of judgement.”
Anne Simmons, who was a councillor until May, disputed claims that records were missing. “The information was here, I know it was. It was in this office,” she told the council.
Chairman Chris Kemp said the town council ‘couldn’t possibly comment’ until a letter of reply had been received from Trevor Leggo.
Mrs Huggett later said the report was ‘biased’, and said there had been a ‘vendetta to blacken my name and pour scorn on the record of the council.’
She now wants a formal apology.
“During my 13 years as clerk to three different councils there has never been a complaint against me,” she said.
“It is important the public be made aware of the facts. All signed minutes of the council and its subcommittees were present in the filing cabinet and dated back to 1894. If they are not there, where are they?”