A report detailing sexual harassment claims against a Devon county councillor has claimed female staff felt it necessary to visit him in pairs.
The report obtained by the Gazette, written by Timothy Straker QC, details allegations made against Brian Greenslade of incidents in the early 2000s.
Much of the report, detailing the nature of the complaints, was obscured to protect the identity of complainants.
The report claims Councillor Greenslade referred to one complainant as ‘a fat, stupid girl’ and had also patted a female North Devon Council worker on the head.
Councillor Greenslade has heavily refuted the claims after he was censured by Devon County Council (DCC) in July this year following the £20,000 investigation.
Councillor Greenslade said he could offer no explanation to why he had come to be seen someone of whom female employees should be wary, and suggested the four complainants had been under pressure to produce stories.
He claimed the chief executive ‘was desperate that he should resign’.
While much of the details from the four female council workers have been redacted, the report states the allegations first came to light due to an anonymous email.
The email, received by chief executive Dr Phil Norrey on November 2, 2017, was headed ‘sexual harassment’ and urged him to look into the behaviour of Councillor Greenslade in the early 2000s.
‘Deliberately touched her’
In his report, Mr Straker said he interviewed Dr Norrey, who spoke of one incident in the autumn of 2007 involving a ‘young woman’ who was upset by ‘pestering behaviour by Councillor Greenslade’.
“The young woman, as part of her duties, took [redacted] to Councillor Greenslade, the leader of the council,” reads the investigation report.
“It is apparent that there would have been a substantial disparity in position between a young woman [redacted] and the leader of the council.
“The young woman told Dr Norrey that Councillor Greenslade used suggestive language and deliberately touched her.
“This made her very uncomfortable, indeed she said she was at her wits’ end.
“The young woman made it plain that she wished the conduct to stop but that she did not want to be part of any form of process or pursue any formal complaint.”
Mr Straker went on to say Dr Norrey did ‘what was proper in the circumstances’ and raised the matter with Councillor Greenslade.
“The Councillor’s first response was to describe the young woman as a fat, stupid girl or words to that effect,” said the report.
“Second, that he, the Councillor, meant nothing by it and it was just friendliness.”
Councillor Greenslade said in 2006 he had given one female officer, on more than one occasion, a ‘hug and a kiss’ and that it was ‘obvious she wanted recognition’ but that she had initiated the contact herself.
He denied referring to her as a stupid and fat girl.
No further action was taken following this complaint, though Councillor Greenslade was warned by Dr Norrey that should he continue to behave in this way his career would end ‘in disgrace’.
Mr Straker said when he interviewed Councillor Greenslade about the allegations he denied them and said the female worker stayed for a chat and embrace ‘at her volition’ after he gave her a Christmas card.
‘Patted her hair’
Dr Norrey said he received no further complaints following the allegation in 2007, but observed female officers ‘did not particularly welcome his coming into the office’.
“Dr Norrey did observe that Councillor Greenslade would, in plain sight, greet female staff by giving them, for example, hugs,” the report said.
As part of his investigation into the county council allegations, Mr Straker interviewed Mike Mansell, chief executive of North Devon Council (NDC).
Councillor Greenslade told Mr Straker that Mr Mansell was ‘no fan of his’ and ‘would relish putting the boot in’.
Mr Mansell recalled while Councillor Greenslade was leader of NDC he ‘developed an obsession’ with a female employee, and that his presence ‘appeared to bother’ her.
“He was described as having patted her hair,” said the report – something Councillor Greenslade denied and said would have been ‘rather odd’.
Councillor Greenslade said it was ‘not unusual’ for female officers to ‘come up to him and give him a kiss’ and that he had observed this with others too.
“Going beyond was seen by Councillor Greenslade as harmful; he said there had to be a boundary,” said Mr Straker.
Mr Straker concluded: “I gained the impression of someone who was looking for ways to minimise or belittle the accounts of his conduct and to put forward matters of no particular relevance such as questioning the precise location of some of the events described or the dates on which they occurred.”
Mr Straker concluded the accounts given by the complainants were truthful and that Councillor Greenslade had committed sexual harassment.
Councillor Greenslade continues to deny these claims and said he would be discussing appealing the allegations with his lawyers.