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Inquiry into councillors' spat

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An independent investigator has been hired by Leicester City Council to look into allegations that a councillor wrote an anonymous leaflet criticising another politician.

The authority has turned to Macclesfield-based investigations firm CH&I Associatiates to look into a complaint made by Aylestone's Labour councillor Adam Clarke against Liberal Democrat Nigel Porter, who represents the same ward.

Coun Clarke has accused Coun Porter of criticising him in a leaflet, put out in January in Aylestone, about controversial plans for bus lanes along the A426.

However, Coun Porter told the Leicester Mercury he had nothing to do with the document and that he felt the accusation was politically-motivated.

Coun Porter is one of only two non-Labour councillors on the authority.

He said: "Adam Clarke's allegations are completely unfounded.

"This is Labour trying to shut me up because I am an opposition councillor. They want to silence me because I am often critical of they way they do things.

"If I wanted to be critical, I wouldn't do it anonymously.

"I have nothing to hide. I refute the allegation because there is no basis for it.

"The investigation will find no evidence that I did it, because there is no evidence.

"I am perfectly comfortable about that."

Coun Porter said he was concerned about the cost to the council of hiring an independent investigator.

He said the council's own officers could carry out the investigation or ask colleagues from another authority to take it on to ensure independence.

The council has refused to make any comment on the investigation and would not say how much CH&I are being paid to carry it out.

The Mercury spoke to CH&I investigator Belinda Shaw, who has been assigned the case, but she said she could not comment on it.

The council hired her colleague, Jon Wigmore, in 2011, to investigate former Lord Mayor Robert Wann when he was accused of using his position to get parking tickets quashed.

That investigation cost £375 a day for 15 days.

Coun Clarke declined to comment on the matter, saying: "It wouldn't be appropriate for a councillor to comment on an ongoing standards investigation."

Ms Shaw is also investigating alleged comments made by Coun Porter to Labour member and group chairman Patrick Kitterick in a discussion they had following a council meeting in March.

Coun Kitterick told the Mercury he could not comment but did say he had not intended for the matter to become part of an official complaint against Coun Porter.

A city council spokeswoman said: "We don't comment on investigations before they are complete as the subject member deserves to have the complaint against them carefully scrutinised before it is aired in a public forum.

"The vast majority of cases are resolved by the monitoring officer early on.

"However, the law is clear that in appropriate cases an investigation must be commissioned.

"Almost every local authority uses independent investigators to do this so that officers aren't accused of being biased in the interest of their own elected members.

"The cost of an investigation would depend on its length and the amount of work needed, and we would more likely be able to publish details of cost once an investigation was complete."

The Leicester Mercury is to submit an Freedom of Information request to find out how much the council has paid to private investigators to investigate complaints against councillors.

Inquiry into councillors' spat


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