Independent councillor hits out at unresolved issue of suspended town clerk

Cllr Dave Patrick.

Cllr Dave Patrick. - Credit: Archant

An independent councillor has described the nine month and unresolved suspension of Wisbech town clerk Erbie Murat as a 'fiasco that's gone on too long'.

Erbie Murat, Wisbech Town Council clerk

Erbie Murat, Wisbech Town Council clerk - Credit: Archant

Dave Patrick, one of two independent members of the Conservative controlled council, said: 'Mr Murat has now been suspended for nine months and there still seems no end in sight to this.

'Whatever the outcome it is a breach of natural justice to allow this matter to stay unresolved.'

Mr Patrick formed part of an investigation committee set up by the town council to look into the allegations surrounding the suspension of the 62 year-old town clerk on January 7.

'We delivered our report nearly three months ago and yet there is still no end result,' said Mr Patrick.

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'I have not been in touch with Mr Murat but I am concerned at the amount of money this whole affair is costing the taxpayers of Wisbech. It should have been finished ages ago.'

Susanah Farmer, Mr Murat's deputy who has been acting town clerk since his suspension, said that a brief reference to the continued suspension had been made to councillors last week.

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Mrs Farmer said the mayor, Samantha Hoy, had reported that the council 'was still awaiting information from staffing issues investigators.

'An extraordinary meeting of Wisbech Town Council will be called when this report is received.'

In January council leader David Oliver issued a brief statement saying that Mr Murat had been suspended following a brief meeting with him earlier that day.

He said then that he had to make 'the hard decision to suspend him for matters of misconduct for a period not to exceed 30 days.

'I will contact you shortly with a date for an extraordinary meeting to discuss the way forward.

Mr Oliver has refused to make any further public comment.

Some of the delay has been caused by a period of illness by Mr Murat which delayed some aspects of the investigation. However last month he turned up for work, declaring himself fully fit and reporting for duty, but was reminded he remained suspended and returned home.

Mr Murat has held the post of town clerk for five years and has steered the council through a period of considerable change. He has overseen rapid IT transformation of council business and was instrumental in encouraging the council to pursue ownership of the market place from Fenland Council.

But Mr Patrick said the delay in resolving the issue with the town clerk believes 'far too much time has now gone by to take any action. I feel it is incompetence that the ruling group has not brought this to a conclusion sooner.'

Earlier this year Mr Murat published his own rebuttal of the claims he said had been put to him during the investigation.

The ongoing saga been full of many twists and turns, not least the surprise decision by Mr Murat to refer a complaint against Mr Oliver, and fellow councillor Jonathan Farmer, to the conduct committee of Fenland District Council.

However after a brief debate the committee felt the complaint could only be heard once the employment issue had been resolved.

Fenland councillor solicitor Ian Hunt told the committee: 'There is a process going on within the town council. However this in no way precludes the complainant coming back with a fresh aspect if that other channel does not prove satisfactory.'

In written evidence the conduct committee Mr Murat revealed he had been told by Mr Oliver that 'on January 7 you committed acts of misconduct listed in the staff handbook that every employee is expected to follow.This has not been the first time you have done this either.'

However Mr Murat claimed before the conduct committee that Mr Oliver and Mr Farmer had 'bullied, harassed, intimidated, threatened and victimised' him.

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