Shaftesbury Town Council yesterday announced the resignation of town clerk Claire Commons amid claims by two councillors she had quit because of persistent ‘bullying’ by a fellow councillor, reports Richard Thomas.
But other councillors claim she has simply handed in her notice to move to another job, pointing to the fact she is remaining in post until mid March 2022.
Gillingham News asked Mrs Commons for her version of events but she has not so far responded.
Claire Commons became the seventh town clerk in three years to the troubled council when she took over the role in 2017 and the announcement of her departure has been the subject of a string of accusations and counter-accusations on social media after a joint statement was posted on Thursday afternoon by Shaftesbury mayor Councillor Andy Hollingshead and his deputy Councillor Alex Chase.
It read: ‘It is with great sadness and regret that we announce that we have received and accepted the resignation of the clerk, Mrs Claire Commons. Claire has been an outstanding public servant and has worked tirelessly for the town council over the past 14 years. As clerk she has steered the council through a very rocky period to today where the council is recognised as gold standard and acknowledged by Dorset Council and fellow town and parish councils as a beacon of good governance and good delivery.
‘As citizens of the town we have all benefited from Claire’s exceptional stewardship. However, as citizens, it is only right that you also know why Claire is leaving. This is because of a relentless and vindictive campaign of bullying by Councillor Karen Tippins, which is a matter of public record. At the Dorset Council Audit and Governance (Hearing) Sub-Committee of the 20 September 2021 the panel unanimously agreed that her behaviour “amounted to bullying and harassment over a period of time”.
‘This orchestrated campaign of bullying has been conducted in many forms directly and indirectly; at public meetings, by email, by insinuation and by proxy. The result is that after two years of this Claire has decided that enough is enough. It is terribly sad that we have lost such a dedicated public servant through the actions of this individual but it is important that this is public knowledge. It is time the truth was told.
‘We wish Claire and her family the very best now and in the future. She will be a very hard act to follow and we are sure we speak for all when we say that we are extraordinarily grateful for all she has done for the town, and we will miss her and her wise counsel and stewardship.’
Gillingham News asked Councillor Hollingshead for further clarification of the statement and the circumstances of the town clerk’s departure but he declined to do so.
Councillor Karen Tippins commented: ‘I wish Claire Commons well in her new role and I am not going to comment on malicious statements made by councillors with a political agenda.’