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Tory 'soap opera' in bid to expel district council chairman
8:00am Thursday 28th February 2013 in News
MEMBERS of Wyre Forest Conservative Association voted to throw the district council chairman out of the party after hearing a catalogue of misconduct allegations including sending a constituent a bar of soap to “wash his mouth out” after a confrontation while canvassing.
The bizarre incident was one of 12 allegations against Stephen Clee put before the executive council of the association and which led to a decision to expel him in September.
It is understood Mr Clee took a shortcut under the window of the constituent’s home while delivering leaflets in the Bewdley area, and was challenged by the owner. Mr Clee, one of the longest serving district and county councillors in Wyre Forest and in his second year as council chairman, ignored him but posted him the soap the next day.
This prompted the constituent to write to Prime Minister David Cameron to complain.
Mr Clee chose not to speak on the charges against him at the executive meeting, but provided a written response to the allegations, including the soap-in-the-post incident.
He claimed the man used the F word several times and stated: “I ignored this outburst but when I returned home posted a bar of soap to him thinking it might clean his mouth out.
“It was not done in a vindictive way. I accept with hindsight that this may not have been the most appropriate way to deal with the situation but I was so embarrassed and upset by the tirade of abuse.”
The executive council, attended by more than 60 party members, was told that Mr Clee’s behaviour over a period of two to three years had brought him two serious disciplinary warnings and a final written warning from the local party and was serious enough to consider expulsion.
The association has repeatedly refused to comment on the vote to sack Mr Clee but details have now come to light.
According to documents seen by The Shuttle, the executive made no specific findings on the allegations. But after a three-hour hearing, there was a majority vote to expel him for conduct described as “not fitting to that which is expected from a councillor and member of the association.”
After appealing against the ruling, Mr Clee attended a hearing in London in December when the national party refused to back the executive’s decision.
So he remains an association member and is expected to defend his county council seat under the Conservative banner in the May elections.
The list of allegations against Mr Clee in the documents seen by The Shuttle included:
- Undermining the party’s successful 2010 general election campaign to get Mark Garnier elected as MP for Wyre Forest which led to a severe warning from the association. This involved omitting the prospective candidate’s literature from leaflets in Bewdley, claiming there was no campaign strategy and forecasting that Mr Garnier would not win the election.
- Producing an Aggborough & Spennells newsletter for the 2012 district council election campaign, which was “incorrect in a number of issues”. One involved featuring a photograph of two council employees, potentially compromising their position and breaking a long-standing election rule which all local parties have signed up to. This led to another warning after a complaint was made to the district council’s chief executive who is also the district returning officer.
- Behaving poorly towards another consituent who had asked for support over the Kidderminster Library gallery issue. This was highlighted in an article in The Shuttle and, it was claimed, led to the resignation of two local party members.
- As treasurer of the Bewdley branch, failing to provide annual accounts for 2010 and 2011 and not explaining why 16 stubs – six of which were subsequently found to have been made out to him – were missing from branch cheque books. Another allegation involved an expenditure of £229.71 for postage, which Mr Clee admitted had not been authorised, though it was spent on party business. There was no suggestion of dishonesty or any missing money. Bank statements for 2007-2011 tallied up correctly when subsequently obtained.
- Sending an “abusive” email to the association chairman which led to a final disciplinary warning.
- Sending an “abusive and distressing” text message to the chairman on another issue.