An experienced councillor is suing his own council for thousands of pounds in damages over claims a senior officer accused him of misusing his position.
Conservative businessman Gary Ian Robinson, who is the landlord of a block of offices, had applied for a small business interruption grant on behalf of his tenants when the COVID-19 pandemic struck but this was initially rejected by Havant BC.
In a May 2020 letter, Havant’s then head of legal services and monitoring officer, David Brown, said an email sent by Cllr Robinson raised concerns that he was using his position to ‘deflect officers from administering the scheme for qualifying businesses while attempting to gain greater benefit for yourself’.
Cllr Robinson, a former chairman of a council scrutiny committee, has now brought a claim against his council at Central London County Court for ‘malicious falsehood and/or alternatively negligent misstatement in respect of certain statements’ in Mr Brown’s letter.
According to the claim, Mr Brown’s letter accused Cllr Robinson of ‘acting fraudulently, corruptly and dishonestly in respect of his actions and communications with the council’ and ‘indicated that the claimant had inappropriately misused his position as a councillor to obtain personal enrichment’.
The claim added that ‘untrue statements’ published within the council caused Cllr Robinson ‘serious reputational and financial damage’.
Cllr Robinson, who has already decided not to stand for election in May, is claiming £16,260 for ‘direct pecuniary loss’ and damages of up to £10,000 for ‘injury to feelings, reputational damage and emotional distress’.
Havant’s defence said Cllr Robinson’s claim made ‘wide-ranging and serious allegations of malice against council employees’ including chief executive Gill Kneller, chief financial officer Lydia Morrison and Mr Brown.
It denied that Ms Kneller had been malicious and that Mr Brown’s letter contained malicious falsehood.
A council statement read: ‘As the case is ongoing and currently remains before the court, the council is unable to comment any further at this time.’