PEMBROKE Dock councillors have been accused of hypocrisy following the resignation of the town clerk due to alleged “constant harassment and bullying” from some of the members.

At the October 5 meeting of the town council, all members unanimously supported a vote of confidence in clerk Sarah Scourfield, including those accused of bullying her.

Mrs Scourfield, who previously served as assistant town clerk, resigned from her post on September 28, saying: “After eight years of working with the town council I have decided it’s time to move onto pastures new, I have enjoyed the role within the town council, but the constant harassment/bullying behaviours and pressure received from certain councillors has pushed me into making this decision.”

Part of the alleged bullying is understood to be in connection with a series of emails about items in previous minutes of the town council.

She declined to withdraw her resignation at the October 5 meeting, despite an impassioned plea made by Councillor Brian Hall begging her to stay in her role, and a unanimous vote of confidence in her, also proposed by Cllr Hall.

Mrs Scourfield is the second clerk to resign over alleged bullying, her predecessor, Moira Saunders having resigned for similar reasons.

At the October meeting, Pembroke Dock Central county councillor Paul Dowson, as a member of the public, asked: “Given that this is the second allegation of bullying within Pembroke Dock Town Council; what processes have been put in place after the first allegation, and why did they fail this time?”

Councillor Joshua Beynon raised concerns about a lack of adequate policy in tackling the issue, stating he had been in contact with the monitoring officer.

Member of public John Lloyd asked: “Are the councillors concerned resigning on the matter?”

He was told that none of the alleged bullies had offered their resignation.

He added: “People that bully other people should be asked to resign; it is not something that should condoned and allowed to continue, and it has happened on a previous occasion.”

Mr Lloyd later said: “This is absolutely disgraceful from a body of people that we have voted for; we are losing a principled person.”

Mayor Cllr Jane McNaughton said: “The clerk did try to report it to County Hall and was told to ‘man up’ and try to deal with it; that is one of the big problems.”

Following the unanimous vote of confidence and plea to reconsider, Mrs Scourfield said: “Thank you very much, but I can’t see things changing; things that have put me in this position I can’t see changing.”

Personnel committee member Cllr Dilys Burrell said it was “looking in to all these things” to “see what we can put in place to stop this happening again”.

Deputy Mayor Cllr Gordon Goff highlighted the hypocrisy of some of the councillors present following the unanimous vote of confidence.

“Our clerk has had the full backing of us, but there are these councillors who are niggling, and yet they gave a vote of confidence tonight in public. You should be ashamed of yourselves.”

His views were echoed by Councillor Margaret Murton, who said attempts had been made to tackle the alleged bullying, with a request to meet one of the un-named councillors accused of bullying.

“In Personnel we have tried extremely hard, whether you believe us or not, to resolve this issue.

“When you have people on the council who refuse to say sorry and refuse to attend a meeting you are finished, you cannot drag them to a meeting; that is why we have sadly been brought to this.

“When they won’t even apologise in a small room, stubbornness and pride is a factor; we’re only ordinary people, we’re not special; why do some people believe they are?”

Following the public meeting, the matter was further discussed for more than half an hour in a private and confidential session.

Mrs Scourfield is expected to stay on in her role until early November, and the position has already been advertised on the town council website.

Speaking after the meeting, former Pembroke Dock clerk Moira Saunders said: “I resigned from the town council in March 2014, having being in the employ of the council since October 2008. I took over from my predecessor in June 2009. I left in 2014 after a great deal of bullying and harassment from some councillors. The pressure I was under was, at times, intolerable; this was explored by the Personnel committee and recorded at the time, but little was achieved. To protect my mental health I felt I had no option but to resign. I am only sorry that this attitude was continued and that Sarah had to endure the same treatment by these few councillors.”

Following the meeting, Cllr Josh Beynon posted on Facebook: "I am deeply saddened at the resignation of our Town Clerk, Sarah Scourfield. Sarah has always been professional, helpful and kind during my short time on the council. Bullying and harassment should not be tolerated in any workplace and I am ashamed to be a part of an organisation where accusations made are not taken seriously in any light.

"At a meeting of council the matter was discussed with a vote of confidence in the clerk with all members voting in favour. It is shocking that those accused of bullying do not realise their mistakes and could not vote publicly with honesty on the matter. Today I have formally written to the Town Clerk as a member of the personnel committee asking for her to explain the details of the complaint and those involved in order for us to investigate. I want to assure the public that these allegations will be investigated and I will not rest until this matter is resolved.

"Pembroke Dock Town Council needs a long hard look at their policies and procedures given the previous clerks resignation in 2014 under similar circumstances. Bullying and harassment wouldn’t be tolerated in a school so why should it be tolerated elsewhere?"

County Councillor Paul Dowson also posted on social media: "I have recently communicated with Sarah the Town Clerk in order to build a relationship with the town council and i have attended the last 2 meetings as a member of the public, There are many good councillors in the chamber and im happy to realise that many of them are committed and motivated towards whats best for the town.

last night was a brilliant example how the old fashioned closing of ranks and protect your own people behaviour is no more. I brought the bullying subject to the meeting with a question to council as a member of the public. I expected to be asked to leave however nearly all present tackled the subject with vigour and distaste for the bullies.

Bullying is not acceptable in any way shape or form and rather than go into the subject in detail i will refer to Cllr Joshua Beynons earlier post and state that i fully agree with everything he said on the matter."

He went on to say: "I find it very disturbing and unbelievable that the alleged bullying was able to repeat itself and went unchecked after the first incident. I asked the council about measures and safeguards put in place following the first incident and discovered that there were not any put in place. The town clerk sought help and support from the only officer within the council with the remit to deal with it. She was allegedly told to get a thicker skin and her complaint was not taken as genuine or serious. absolutely outrageous and unbelievable if this is the case."

He added: "This if true amounts to assisting the bully and giving them permission to continue. I have written to this officer asking for an explanation.

"Valuable hard working people have had their careers ruined as a result of bullying. there are some very good commendable people on Pembroke Dock town council and they are proving this by tackling this matter out in the open in the name of all that is fair and just. This bully sits amongst them refuses to accept any wrongdoing refusing to mediate refusing to apologise in what can only be described as complete arrogance. The Town Council are on your case my friend and as an added incentive to do the right thing , so am I. we all know how this is going to end should it be proven. i suggest you fall on the proverbial sword.

"In the mean time i take my hat off to Pembroke Dock town council, I salute you for not shying away from this issue. Pembrokeshire is changing bare with us people of Pembrokeshire we have got your back. the old ways and old days are behind us now."