Council bullying probe reveals ‘wide-ranging’ issues at Peacehaven

The Peacehaven Town Council offices at the Meridian Centre
The Peacehaven Town Council offices at the Meridian Centre

“Wide-ranging problems” have been uncovered in an investigation into allegations of bullying at Peacehaven Town Council, a report says, and action is required.

Claire Lacey, Peacehaven Town Manager, has claimed the actions of three members of the council had undermined her position at work.

All three have disputed Ms Lacey’s allegations, and two have since resigned.

An investigation by ch&i associates for Lewes District Council has recommended action to tackle “long-standing personal conflict and poor working relations” at the town council.

Ms Lacey’s allegations include that:

- Cllr Brian Gosling bullied her during an altercation in her office and hired a human resources company to investigate a complaint against her without authority

- Cllr Jean Farmiloe “slagged her off” and discussed confidential business in public as part of a conspiracy to force Ms Lacey out of her job

- Cllr Jackie Harrison-Hicks, the current mayor, sent her inappropriate e-mails

- Councillors refused to sign cheques, which prevented Ms Lacey from doing her job

Mr Gosling and Mrs Farmiloe no longer sit on the town council.

Former mayor Mrs Farmiloe has denied making some of the comments and told investigators Ms Lacey was herself “a bully with a venomous nature”. She said her resignation was not connected with the investigation.

Mr Gosling and Cllr Harrison-Hicks have also disputed Ms Lacey’s accusations and said she was difficult to work with.

But the investigators found it was more likely than not that Ms Lacey had been subject to “unacceptable conduct”.

The report concluded that the councillors’ actions amounted to “a collective effort to undermine [Ms Lacey’s] position with a view to removing her from post”.

The report has recommended consultants review how the council deals with complaints.

It also said there should be training for councillors and officers, plus guidance on dealing with disagreements.

Lewes District Council’s Audit and Standards Committee will decide whether to request this action plan when it meets of Monday, November 19. The report said “the decision to take informal action should in no way lessen the gravity of the serious conduct issues”.