A husband and wife from Sandown who have taken an interest in how the local council is run have both been warned to cease asking questions or be labelled ‘vexatious complainants’.
In October this year, the Sandown Mayor, Cllr Jacquie Mereweather, accused Colin Midmore of “attempting to destabilise the Council” and claims his enquiries were “pure nonsense”.
He had most recently written to the Sandown Town Council (STC) to ask:
“Please could you advise under what authority an Extraordinary Town Council Meeting was held last night without the required public notice?”
Put “into the hands of the police”
In an email response which OnTheWight has seen, Cllr Mereweather told him,
“This is bullying and harassment and has got to stop.
“We are putting this matter into the hands of the police as harassment is a criminal offence.”
Midmore: Action “seems a bit extreme”
Six plus weeks later and Colin confirmed to OnTheWight that he had not received any communication from the police. He told OnTheWight,
“They are not happy because I ask difficult questions and run Sandown HUB, but it does seem a bit extreme to put it in the hands of the Police.”
‘Vexatious complainant’ threats
Last week Colin’s wife, Jane, received a letter (also seen by OnTheWight) from locum clerk, Valerie Taylor, warning that she could be treated as a ‘vexatious complainant’ if she ‘continues with her behaviour’.
Jane says that she’s only ever asked two questions to Sandown Town Council, 1) for an update on the launch of the new Website and 2) when the individual items over £500 would be updated on the STC Website. Neither have been answered she says.
Definition of persistent or vexatious complaints
Looking at the policy for dealing with persistent or vexatious complainants, it’s far from obvious as to why Jane’s questions fall into that category.
OnTheWight has asked the Locum clerk the reason behind sending Mrs Midmore the threat of being dealt with under this policy and will update once we hear back. We hope the Locum clerk will outperform the terrible response rate of the current Clerk to our press enquires.
The policy sets out the definition as:
The term vexatious is recognised in law and means ‘denoting an action or the bringer of an action that is brought without sufficient grounds for winning, purely to cause annoyance to the defendant’.
As the warning from the clerk refers to behaviour “in writing and on social media”, it’s possible she has joining together enquiries to the STC with comments being made on social media.
Outstanding complaint against the Mayor
Colin told OnTheWight that he has an outstanding complaint, filed with Isle of Wight council, against Cllr Mereweather, alleging non-declaration of a pecuniary interest during the Sandown Community Partnership (SCP) row. Since then Sandown Community Partnership has disbanded, citing “unsubstantiated adverse comments against them”.
OnTheWight asked the IWC whether the complaint is still under investigation or concluded.
Avoiding answering a simple question, the IWC Monitoring Officer replied,
“It is the policy of the Monitoring Officer whose role it is to deal with such complaints not to comment on any issue that may be referred to her until such time as an initial assessment of the complaint has taken place, a decision has been made on how to deal with the complaint and this has been conveyed to the relevant parties.”
Awaiting response from Mayor and Clerk
We have also posed questions to Sandown Mayor and the locum clerk and will update once we hear back from them.
Full details of the Sandown Town Council’s Habitual or Vexatious Complainants policy can be found on their Website.