A Preesall town councillor has been found to have breached code of conduct rules after making a series of unsubstantiated claims about a “missing” council bank account allegedly containing £2,000.
Coun Pat Greenhough, co-opted to the Preesall Town Council in 2013, had alleged she overheard a conversation involving then town clerk Jan Finch, stating a Santander account had been closed with the money transferred into the account of the Friends of Preesall Park - at the request of last year’s mayor Coun Phil Orme.
The issues surrounding the claims led to Ms Finch’s resignation in May 2016 shortly after she had won an internal grievance procedure.
Following continued allegations about the supposed bank account she made a formal complaint to standards watchdogs.
Now after a detailed standards investigation, understood to have cost around £3,000, standards watchdog councillors on Wyre Council have backed the probe which shows there is no primary evidence of the bank account ever existing and no evidence of such a transaction with money being paid to the FoPP.
The issues were reported in full to a meeting of Wyre standards committee at the Civic Centre, Poulton, last Tuesday; councillors voted to recommend to Preesall Council that it “note” and minute the findings that a breach of the town council’s code of conduct had taken place.
I am grateful to those town councillors who supported me
Coun Greenhough did not attend the meeting and the hearing was held in her absence.
Addressing the committee, independent investigator Mike Dudfield said he had ‘no corroborating evidence’ to support Coun Greenhough’s claims that she had called Santander bank where an official called Samantha had confirmed the existence of a Preesall Council account containing the £2,000 and its closure by Jan Finch.
His report detailed evidence from a stand-in town clerk who had sought further clarification with Santander’s business banking associates who confirmed there were “no details of a current or historic account having been held in the name of the town council.”
Speaking about the accusations directed at Jan Finch, Mr Dudfield said: “They (Coun Greenhough) don’t understand why she would be upset - I find that very strange.”
The committee, chaired by Coun Barry Birch, ruled Coun Greenhough has breached the code by “not promoting and supporting high standards of conduct” in the manner in which they she pursued her arguments concerning the existence of the Santander account and surrounding issues.
Wyre’s standards councillors also gave a vote of confidence to Ms Finch saying there “is no evidence of any wrongdoing by Jan Finch.”
This week Ms Finch said she was delighted her name and reputation had been cleared by Wyre Council’s standards committee.
She added: “The vast majority of town and parish councillors are sensible, right thinking people who would not dream of making serious allegations against someone without a shred of evidence.
“For Coun Greenhough to tell Preesall town councillors that Santander had stated, in a telephone call, that I had closed a bank account was bad enough.
“But for her to continue to make such statements, even after Santander had written confirming that there had never been an account in the town council’s name, simply beggars belief.
“If, to quote her words she has been through “sheer, sheer hell” what on earth does she think she, and her former colleague who resigned in October last year, have put me through?
“I am grateful to those Preesall town councillors who supported me and who are there to do the best for their community and to Wyre Council for the professionalism with which my code of conduct complaint was handled.”
In response to the meeting’s conclusion Coun Greenhough said she had not attended the hearing on medical advice and had sent a medical note from her doctor to the borough council.
She added she did not want to comment.
For the full report see http://www.wyre.gov.uk/meetings/meeting/608/standards_committee