THIS is the full recorded transcript of the public forum discussion at Wednesday’s Lyme Regis Town Council on the drugs find issue at the Anning Road playing field teen shelter and social media exchanges between councillors:
Virgil Turner: As a well established member of the community of Lyme Regis, I would like to raise several matters of deep concern to the council’s attention this evening.
Following a recent frightening experience, whereby my son Noah found a packet of pink pills at the teen shelter in Anning Road, Councillor Cheryl Reynolds accused me of planting the packet there.
In the first instance this was sent to my partner on her phone. Councillor Reynolds then supported her accusation by making the same claim to two members of the council that very evening, in these very chambers, of which I have evidence in the form of a signed statement.
She then went on to clearly deny these claims on social media and apparently vocally to other members of the community.
Councillor Reynolds did attempt to back pedal by sending a text message to my partner, saying that on the phone she did not speak as a councillor but as a family member. Her tone in a phone conversation and the text message was certainly not that of a family member and her response to the phone call that evening was to call the police, as a councillor, to see if she had more success with them than I did.
With concerns growing in recent months about anti-social behaviour at the teen shelter, Councillor Reynolds encouraged me to communicate with her the behaviour and disturbance to our community. On one occasion I did so by text message. Councillor Reynolds replied and informed me that she had dealt with the youngsters and they were not that noisy and perfectly reasonable when she spoke to them. She also said the police had agreed that talking to them and working out another way was the answer.
Unprompted and coincidentally, the same youngsters called me on the evening that Noah found the pills to say that Councillor Reynolds had a right go at them to keep quiet and ‘bloody behave’ themselves.
I have heard evidence that Councillor Reynolds used the derogatory n-word, now used as a racist term to describe black people. Having been trained thoroughly by the fire service in equality and diversity, I know I would be struck off for using these terms, whether meant in a positive or demeaning way.
I am concerned that the councillor who is representing and working with people of all ages and ethnic minorities in this community is quick to make slanderous accusations and judgments without due thought, is offensive in speech, attempts to hide or deny the truth and is deceitful.
I would like my concerns investigated and I would like this statement to be taken as a formal complaint. I have a copy of the signed statement in case it gets lost in this office, the text message sent to my partner and a copy of the social media page where she denied that she accused me of anything.
I would like you to consider this and deal with it as you see fit and I will also back it up with a complaint to the monitoring officer.
Councillor Jeff Scowen: In response to chief fire officer Virgil Turner’s comments and accusations, I’d like to ask the council and, in particular, the town clerk whether this will be given due care and attention and be properly aired, because on the April 4 as Virgil alluded to, the n-word was spoken in council.
Nothing’s been done, nothing’s been said, it has been buried. Please do not ignore that, it should be brought to the public’s attention, we should look at it and these new allegations.
Secondly, I received a letter, we all have, a letter about social media. It’s actually directed at me. It says actions on social media adversely affect the council’s reputation. Hang on, what Councillor Reynolds has done, that really affects the council’s reputation far more than airing things on social media.
At the end here – this is written by our dear mayor – it says ‘respect each other’. Come on, there’s double standards here. I don’t want a cover up, I want these things aired.
Are we going to do anything about these serious, serious allegations made against our respected chief fire officer or are we going to allow them to be buried like the n-word was on April 4?
Councillor Brian Larcombe: Naturally the issues that have been raised are of grave concern and I have been on the receiving end of behaviour you wouldn’t expect to get within the council chamber.
The letter we all had, firstly who wrote it? Secondly, as it’s been sent to all councillors, why does it use singular language and not collective language? It says ‘when you became a councillor’, ‘you undertook’. Why doesn’t it say ‘when we became councillors’, ‘when we undertook’?
I take exception that I’ve been a councillor for 25 years and I’ve never received a letter like this before.
The Mayor, Councillor Michaela Ellis: The letter was written with the help of the town clerk because I wanted to make sure everybody understood and respected the rules of the code of conduct.
Councillor Larcombe: If it’s written to all of us on the council, did you take stock of the fact that you yourself are one of the ‘yous’ referred to in this letter?
Councillor Ellis: Yes, I did, and I have a copy of the letter myself as well.
Councillor Stan Williams: I must support what Brian has said. When I got my letter I was a bit concerned that it was a personal letter, I had a horrible feeling that perhaps it was just addressed to me and I was the only person getting one.
I am concerned that the discipline in this council has been dreadful. The chairman’s job is to keep things under control with support of the town clerk and someone has mentioned one of the very serious occasions when they both sat there and said nothing about it at all.
I have never been, until this council, treated badly. I find I am treated badly on several occasions, I get a considerable number of interruptions.
I do think we need strong chairmen, a strong town clerk, people who make sure the discipline is done and that councillors are allowed to have their say.
Councillor Ellis: You’re right, it’s down to the chairmen to chair their meetings and I am having a meeting tomorrow afternoon with the chairmen so we can take this forward.
Councillor Derek Hallett: Mr Turner is a respected member of this community and should be supported all the way. Let’s hope that this council is going to do something about it.
Let’s now come to this letter. Councillor Owen Lovell is absolutely infuriated about the letter, he’s not here tonight but he wanted me to make the point that he’s absolutely infuriated because he thought he’d been singled out.
I have been here when Councillor Reynolds has behaved dreadful. I have asked her three times to apologise to people, and I’ve asked you [the mayor] to ask her to apologise, which you’ve failed to do.
You talk about respect but it’s not been done, there’s no respect. When I had two heart operations and a heart attack, when she was asked to sign my card her words were ‘no way, hope he has another one’.
Councillor Scowen: That’s terrible!
Councillor Hallett: It is dreadful.
Councillor Ellis: Councillor Hallett, do you have a question? This is councillor’s question time.
Councillor Hallett: Yes, you madam, have called a meeting of the chairmen tomorrow. That rescinding motion [to keep the teen shelter in place] was signed by four chairmen. You should be doing things in front of all 14 of us and letting all 14 of us having our say, not just you and your cronies.
Councillor Ellis: The idea of having a chairmen’s meeting is to discuss how the meetings are chaired and if needs be I will hold a meeting with all councillors.
Councillor Scowen: I just want to finish off with this letter. There’s one member who’s vocal and very engaging on social media, particularly Facebook and particularly recently, who started a new group with over 500 members in a few days, called Pride of Lyme. And that’s me!
Was there any input in this letter from Councillor Reynolds?
Councillor Ellis: None at all.
Councillor Scowen: I find that very, very hard to believe. Half the councillors aren’t on social media. What’s the point of writing a letter when half of them aren’t on social media? That leaves seven that you’re writing this letter to. Out of that seven it’s only me that’s been active. This letter was aimed at me without a doubt.
Councillor Ellis: Councillor Scowen, this letter went to everybody. I have even had an email from Councillor Reynolds this morning as she thought she’d been singled out by the letter, she knew nothing about it.