Rogate parish councillor told to apologise

A parish councillor said to have made ‘derogatory remarks’ about a parish clerk to a Scout commissioner breached a code of conduct for councillors, a Chichester District Council sub-committee decided.

A formal complaint against Cllr Sarah O’Brien-Twohig, a member of Rogate Parish Council, was made by the then chairman, Peter Moss.

The council’s hearings sub-committee formally censured her, and told her to submit written apologies to former Rogate parish clerk Ian Croucher and to John Slater, District Explorer Scout Commissioner of the Petersfield Scout Organisation, to whom the comments were alleged to have been made.

A report presented to the sub-committee said the complaint followed a meeting at the Fyning recreation ground in April last year.

Simon Coyte, chairman of the Petersfield District Scout Council, alleged that Cllr O’Brien-Twohig had acted inappropriately by making derogatory remarks about Mr Croucher – ‘namely, that he was corrupt.’

“The complaint emanates from events alleged to have taken place at a weekend in April 2011, when Petersfield District Scouts entered the recreation ground in order, it is said, by prior arrangement with Rogate Parish Council, to rebuild existing firepits and carry out general tidying of the area,” said the report.

“It is asserted that on arrival they were approached by local residents and parish councillors who stated that the works must not proceed.”

Cllr O’Brien-Twohig told the hearing she was never speaking on behalf of the parish council.

“All we could say was that a decision would have to wait until the next parish council meeting. I acted in nothing but good faith.”

District council litigation lawyer William Johnson, who investigated the case, said his conclusion was that Cllr O’Brien-Twohig either acted, or gave the impression, she was representing the parish council. But he accepted she had said the matter would have to wait until the next parish council meeting. The scouts decided not to do the work at that time.