A COUNCIL leader has been cleared of wrongdoing following accusations of bullying.

An independent investigation carried out by solicitors Wilkin Chapman on behalf of Braintree Council found Graham Butland did not breach the authority’s code of conduct regarding allegations made against him by fellow councillor Jo Beavis.

Mrs Beavis had submitted two complaints against Mr Butland last year in which she claimed she had been bullied and intimidated by the Tory leader.

The complaints were submitted after Mrs Beavis had herself been the subject of an investigation in 2018 into the misuse of public funds.

The probe found Mrs Beavis had breached the council’s code of conduct when handing out grant money to a company where she was a director.

Mrs Beavis resigned as a district councillor in February 2019 following the investigation and paid the grant money back in full.

She was then re-elected an Independent councillor in the local elections three months later.

Mrs Beavis had submitted her own complaint against Mr Butland in February 2019 in which she alleged he had influenced the investigation into her misuse of grant money.

Mr Butland had been alerted to the matter by a whistle-blower and then referred it on to the monitoring officer at Braintree Council.

The investigation concluded Mr Butland had acted appropriately and he had not influenced the outcome in anyway.

Mrs Beavis also claimed she had been the victim of three-years of bullying from Mr Butland while she was a member of the Conservative Party.

She cited her removal from a cabinet position in 2016 and meetings where she claims she was ‘interrogated’ as examples.

Mrs Beavis had reported the matter to Essex Police and the Conservative Party but both organisations deemed no further action was necessary.

The investigation by Wilkin Chapman found Mr Butland had acted within his remit as council leader to remove Mrs Beavis from the cabinet and eyewitnesses present at meetings between the two parties did not back up claims of bullying and intimidation.

Solicitors also dismissed allegations of further bullying as part of a second formal complaint made by Mrs Beavis in December 2019 following a council meeting.

Speaking about the findings, Mr Butland said: “Clearly it is a huge relief that this matter is now over. It’s been 20 long months since the allegations were first made.

“Had there been any truth to them, I would have felt obliged to resign not just as leader, but also as a district councillor.

“There is no place for bullying, intimidation, harassment, or even stalking, which I was accused off.

“I refuted all the allegations made by Mrs Beavis and although I am delighted with the outcome, I am disappointed it has taken so long to resolve this matter.

“I am also sorry this has cost the taxpayer a considerable sum of money.”

The cost of the investigations into Mrs Beavis and Mr Butland was more than £18,000.

Mrs Beavis said: “The investigation into my complaint about Mr Butland concludes a four-year case that commenced in 2016, following a Conservative Party selection meeting.

“The findings concluded there would be no further action and the case has now been formally closed. This period has been both challenging and expensive. I have paid more than £17,000 for my solicitor fees.

“I do not plan to take any further action. I was first elected a councillor in 2003 and I intend to continue my work and be a strong voice for local people.”