Emma Evans, councillor for Buckingham Ward in Shoreham, has been accused of breaching Adur District Council's code of conduct after she branded Lancing parish councillor Geoff Patmore a 't****r' on Facebook.
The incident occurred on June 10, 2019, among comments on a post in The New Shoreham By Sea Facebook group, according to a report to Adur and Worthing councils' joint governance sub-committee.
The report said Mrs Evans, cabinet member for the environment, was responding to a post from a group member whose husband had allegedly been bitten by a dog off its lead in Buckingham Park.
After a back and forth between Mrs Evans and group members, the report said Mr Patmore commented: "Why aren't ADC enforcing the legal requirement of dogs must be on a lead Emma Evans Wasdunn you are the ADC Cabinet member responsible."
Mrs Evans responded six minutes later, according to the report, with: "Geoff Patmore as usual popping up to try and point score politically, even when sat at my dying dads bedside you didn't letup. You're a t****r and as you know I don't respond to your constant posts tagging me because it's like giving attention to a badly behaved child...now carry on stamping your feet and accusing me of not doing my job and I'll just go back to ignoring you."
Mr Patmore filed a complaint to Adur District Council two weeks later, on June 24, and in an interview with officers said there had been no political element to his question, but he was concerned for the safety of children who may have been using Buckingham Park.
He said Mrs Evans' response to his question, both as a resident and a parish councillor, was 'disrespectful and demeaning towards him' and added he was unaware of her father's ill-health.
According to the report, Mr Patmore said he would accept a public apology from Mrs Evans instead of an investigation – an option the Conservative councillor declined.
In her defence, Mrs Evans confirmed she had called Mr Patmore a 't****r' but accused the parish councillor of being 'obsessive' about some topics and sometimes tagging her into conversations twice a day.
She had taken to not responding to his posts, she told council officers, but was unsure why she had responded on this occasion. She speculated it may have been because Mr Patmore had made an incorrect assertion about the dog controls in Adur and, if she did not respond, this would go unchallenged.
The report showed three Adur councillors submitted witness statements defending Mrs Evans, including Mrs Carol Albury who said she believed Mrs Evans' choice of word was referring to the way the Facebook thread had been conducted - that comments had been 'tossed' around, and quoted the Oxford English Dictionary definition of 'a person or thing that tosses something, language, objects etc.'
Adur District Council leader Neil Parkin, who will appear as a defence witness at the committee meeting on Thursday, January 16, said he had been forced to block Mr Patmore on Facebook after he had 'trolled' him, the report said.
An investigation by the councils' senior lawyer and deputy monitoring officer, Louise Mathie, determined that although Mrs Evans was responding from her personal Facebook account, she was conducting Adur District Council business and, as such, was subject to the council's code of conduct.
Ms Mathie also found Mrs Evans' comment 'failed to show respect' towards Mr Patmore and did not 'promote or maintain high standards of members'.
She concluded Mrs Evans had breached the council's code of conduct.
The councils' joint governance sub-committee will consider the case, and whether there is a requirement for any disciplinary action, at a meeting on Thursday, January 16.