A former March mayor has been accused of making racists comments about Muslims and is now due to appear before Fenland District Council’s conduct committee next week.
Councillor Martin Field claims fellow March town councillor Kit Owen’s behaviour at a Christmas lights committee meeting in June was sexist and racist and brought himself and the council into disrepute.
However, Coun Owen has denied the accusations calling them “vexatious and politically motivated”.
Coun Field claims Coun Owen insinuated his remarks about Muslims having “sharp knives” was him having “fun”.
Attempts to resolve the dispute between the two councillors failed and the matter is now due to go before the conduct committee on Thursday (5) to determine whether or not Coun Owen breached the code of conduct.
Coun Field’s initial complaint was in two parts and a pre-screening of the process carried out by the conduct committee’s chairman, the council’s independent person and the deputy independent person dismissed the sexist allegation.
However, they decided that a breach of the member’s code of conduct may have occurred in relation to the allegations of racism.
In his complaint Mr Field states: “During the meeting it was being discussed who should be providing the refreshments for those helping out at the Christmas lights switch-on. Various suggestions were made then Kit said ‘we should ask a Muslim because they all have sharp knives’.
“No other reference had been made to knives or Muslims at the meeting. I immediately challenged him and told him he was being deeply offensive. He said ‘Oh, I’m sorry, but who have I offended?’ I told him ‘humanity’. His apology was clearly not entirely whole hearted and an apology is of no use if he does not intend to change his behaviour.
“Later after the meeting was over he said ‘I’m clearly not going to be allowed to have any fun with you around’ which suggests that he considers racism and sexism simply to be ‘fun’.”
Coun Field said he raised Coun Owen’s behaviour at a town council meeting in July “expecting him to be admonished”. But Coun Field said: “He once again behaved as though I was simply spoiling his fun. Although he repeated an apology, and a note was added to the minutes that ‘all councillors were reminded not to be racist or sexist’ (who would have thought such a thing needed to be stated?). He has made no commitment to not behave like this again. I am concerned that he will bring the council into disrepute again.”
He added: “We live in a diverse community whether he likes it or not, and he is supposed to represent everyone, no matter their gender or ethnicity, equally. I believe that, at the very least, as a consequence of his actions he should make a public statement to this effect; that he has considered his behaviour, agrees that it was unacceptable and undertakes not to make racist, sexist or otherwise offensive comments again whilst he is a councillor.”
However, in a written response to the complaint sent to Carol Pilson, Fenland’s corporate director and monitoring officer, Coun Owen said: “I am very disappointed that I am having to respond to what I believe is a vexatious and politically-motivated complaint.”
He also claims there are “anomalies” in Coun Field’s recounting of what happened but said: “At that meeting, I did apologise to him if I had offended him in any way, although I also added that I didn’t know how I had offended him if he would not repeat what I was supposed to have said.
“How can he state at a main town council meeting that the comment was made outside of a meeting and yet lodge a complaint to Fenland District
Council claiming the opposite? His accurate recollection of the event has, at the very least, to be called into question. “All Councillors that I have spoken to concerning this matter back my version of events and, therefore, I believe that these complaints should be thrown out forthwith.”