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Councillor 'chased' around town over confidential papers

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A councillor has claimed that he was chased round Margate by an unknown person in a Thanet DC van after a dispute involving the removal of confidential papers from the town hall.

Ian Driver (Green) also said in a complaint made to council monitoring officer Steven Boyle that acting chief executive Madeline Homer obstructed his departure from the building and that a council security officer tried to escort him back inside from the street.

Thanet has strongly disputed Cllr Driver’s version of events.

The row began at a meeting of the overview and scrutiny panel called to discuss the future of the defunct Pleasurama amusement park site in Ramsgate. Papers relating to this were debated in the confidential part of the meeting.

Cllr Driver said that because he is dyslexic he needed to take the papers away to have sufficient time to read them, and that nothing in them in his view merited their being declared confidential.

In his complaint to Mr Boyle, Cllr Driver said: “I am utterly astounded by the reaction of the council’s acting chief executive, Madeline Homer, to me taking the papers.

“As you know, she chased me down the back stairs…shouting loudly at me to hand back the papers.

“She placed herself in front of the exit door…preventing me from leaving the building for 2-3 minutes.”

Cllr Driver said that once he left the building a council security guard told him he had received a telephone call to apprehend him and bring him back to recover the papers.

He said the guard and two democratic services officers then pursued him to his car, and after driving away he was “followed at close range by what I believe to have been a council van for about two miles. Fortunately I was able to give the vehicle the slip at the St Peters roundabout.”

A Thanet statement said Cllr Driver had “appeared to deliberately mislead the committee” by removing the confidential papers from the meeting, having switched them with “a set of pre-prepared false papers”, which he had claimed was the confidential report.

“The acting chief executive requested Cllr Driver return the confidential papers to avoid further action,” the statement said.

“No physical attempt was made to prevent Cllr Driver from leaving the building. The council’s security provided a further opportunity for Cllr Driver to return the confidential papers before he drove away. There was no vehicle pursuit of Cllr Driver.”

It added that he may have breached the members’ code of conduct.

The papers in question were “legally privileged documents from third party advisors”, the statement added.

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