Former Hickling parish clerk hits back in deleted emails row

PUBLISHED: 06:30 08 September 2012

The boat capsized on Hickling Broad on Sunday afternoon.

The boat capsized on Hickling Broad on Sunday afternoon.

The former parish clerk at Hickling has hit back strongly in a row over deleted council emails.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb called for an investigation earlier this week following a Hickling Parish Council meeting when it was claimed that 3,000 emails had been deleted from the council computer.

Parish council chairman Sandra Clarke had read out an email - one of a number they had been able to recover - sent by senior North Norfolk Council officer Nick Baker to Shirley Sainsbury, then parish clerk.

In it, Mr Baker, a strategic director at the authority, wrote: “I am not sure if your PC at home is yours or the parish council’s. If the latter, you may want to wipe all charity stuff off it.”

Mrs Sainsbury replied: “Yes, I have already started the process, but thanks anyway.”

Mr Baker and Mrs Sainsbury were and remain trustees of the village hall charity which is embroiled in a bitter legal dispute with the current parish council.

The email was sent in May last year after a parish election when several trustees left the council; Mrs Sainsbury was about to leave the council and hand over the computer to a new clerk.

However, Mrs Sainsbury, of Stubb Road, Hickling, last night insisted Mrs Clarke had presented “a totally inaccurate picture of my actions”.

She said: “The email she read out at the public meeting was a personal email exchange between myself and Nick Baker, a village hall charity trustee.

“It is true that I removed a number of emails before I handed the computer back because I had used it - perfectly legitimately - for personal emails and for correspondence in connection with my other role as secretary of the charity.

“I had a duty to keep these charity emails confidential, as would have been the case if the emails had been received on behalf of any other organisation for which I was working.”

She said she was appalled her personal and private correspondence as well as confidential charity correspondence had been put into the public domain.

“I did not knowingly or intentionally delete anything to do with the parish council and

I want to make it clear that Mr Baker did not advise me to delete anything other than personal and confidential information,” she said.

In response, Mrs Clarke said Hickling Parish Council had been the corporate trustee of the charity until February last year so correspondence and documents relating to the hall, including advice from the council’s solicitors, were a matter for the council.

She said: “Mrs Sainsbury was the clerk and I had been asking her for the information up to when the contract for the hall was signed.”

Tuesday’s meeting was told that the council had been unable to process two freedom of information requests because of missing emails.

The council voted to write to the National Association of Local Councils and North Norfolk council for advice on what to do next.

Mr Baker was unavailable for comment despite attempts to contact him by the EDP.

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