RACISM, sexism, homophobia, Holocaust denial, anti-semitism – a row over emails sent by the chairman of Sambourne Parish Council reached boiling point at a public meeting on Monday evening.
Despite Stratford District Council putting a ‘confidential’ notice on a report into the emails sent by Dr Chris Clews, whistleblower Philip Bond, a former police detective and also a Sambourne resident, said every right thinking person would be appalled by their content.
“If this is what we’ve turned into, then God help us,” he said.
His comments came after a stormy and packed parish council meeting, which descended into a shouting match and then chaos before eventually being abandoned.
At the heart of it were the emails.
Campaigners were demanding that Coun Clews resign, but, following a high profile investigation by the standards and monitoring officer of Stratford District Council, the recommendation was that he should apologise for the offending remarks, which he did.
He then said he would step down as chairman at the next parish elections.
His statement brought a wave of anger from the majority of onlookers who became more enraged when carefully vetted ‘questions from the public’ – submitted in advance – skirted the email issue.
It was too much for some, amid cries of “if we sent emails like this at work, we’d be sacked!”
Above the row local resident Roland White demanded answers before fellow resident Neil Snape started to read out the offending emails.
As pandemonium broke out the meeting was abandoned.
Speaking afterwards Coun Clews, who has been parish chairman for some 20 years, said he was most definitely not a Holocaust denier but someone with an interest in the Second World War.
He said: “Many of the emails were sent when I was not acting as chairman of the parish council.
“They were personal views and so were ruled out by the monitoring officer because I was not in capacity.
“They were private emails leaked to weaken my position in Sambourne.
“Of course I regret those emails.”
Mr Bond, the whistleblower, had some years earlier resigned from Sambourne Parish Council over a dispute over new ‘gateway’ signs to the village, money which, he believed, would have been better spent on flood protection in the village.
He said: “I can honestly say that in more than 30 years in the police force I have never witnessed such arrogance in someone.
“Dr Clews clearly think this is his personal fiefdom run exclusively by white males who do not understand the diverse society we live in today.
“If they are representatives of human society then that disturbs me to the core.”
An independent observer from another district council, who did not wish to be named, said: “They haven’t had an election here for years and people have just gone along with it.
“In local government you should not have a chairman serving more than three years but if you cannot get anyone to do the job they end up doing it for life. If no one is willing to stand they will get more of the same.”
A spokesperson for Stratford District Council said: “There has been a thorough investigation which established that a significant proportion of the most offensive emails written by Mr Clews were done so privately over a long period of time with the complainant.
“The finding after a significant investigation was that they were not sent in his capacity as a councillor.”