Chamber chairman speaks out about his ‘terrible time’

THE Chairman of a Morpeth business group has spoken of the ‘terrible time’ he has been through relating to the dismissal of an official.

John Beynon told members of the Morpeth and District Chamber of Trade his views about the crisis surrounding the dismissal of former Secretary and Treasurer Val Pope, who has now dropped plans to take legal action against the group.

He said an emergency meeting of the Chamber’s Committee was called on October 21 following a discussion between Mrs Pope and Debbie Anderson after a full Chamber meeting three days earlier.

Mr Beynon said Mrs Pope had used “foul language” to both himself and Mrs Anderson over the More in Morpeth campaign after Mrs Anderson, on behalf of Dransfield Properties, said she had bought two internet domain names for the promotion. Mrs Pope’s husband and then Chamber member Dave had also purchased two such names.

He added: “At the Committee meeting on October 21, Stuart Lishman said there had been seven previous committee meetings to discuss Val Pope’s inappropriate behaviour, and Debbie Anderson’s was the third official complaint I had received in six months about her conduct.”

He said the others were from a Chamber member and the Greater Morpeth Development Trust.

Mrs Pope sent Mrs Anderson a hand-written letter to apologise on November 1 and on November 18 Mr Beynon invited Mrs Pope to speak to ‘a small group of senior Chamber members’, but she declined.

She then offered to resign in return for a financial settlement of £8,000, plus payment of work done but not yet billed, a month’s pay in lieu of notice and payment of her legal fees. But there was a legal dispute over her employment status and she was informed that her contract would be terminated at midnight on November 27.

Mr Beynon said that a further emergency Committee meeting was called in December when Mr Lishman said Mrs Pope would accept £1,000, but members rejected it.

He said: “It has been a terrible time for the Chamber because of the amount of time and work we have spent on this.

“There have been hundreds of emails and dozens of calls and meetings on this issue. Money has been wasted on this and projects have either been stopped or put on the back burner as a result. I even considered walking away from it all, but was persuaded to stay on.

“Now it’s important that after tonight’s meeting we move on from this whole episode.”

Mrs Pope denies that she used foul language to Mrs Anderson and says she didn’t speak to Mr Beynon at all after the meeting except to ask him to sign a cheque. She added that she was unaware of there being seven other committee meetings to discuss her behaviour.

“At no time whatsoever was I informed of any official complaint against me and I would still like to see exactly what Mrs Anderson’s alleged complaint said,” she added.

“I am fully in agreement with the remarks previously made by former Chairman Mr Lishman and former member Stewart Todd about the way that business has been conducted over the past 12 months.”