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Council clerk accused of stealing wins £19,000 for constructive dismissal

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A 68-year-old council worker in Shropshire has won £19,000 compensation after resigning in protest at being accused of stealing.

Peter Hurlstone, a chartered surveyor, worked as a clerk for Shifnal Town Council for over 20 years. He says he felt forced to resign after Councillor Adam Teecey said he had "unlawfully" appropriated oak panelling from the town's dilapidated former magistrates' court.

Councillor Teecy made the accusation in a letter distributed to other councillors.

Mr Hurlstone alleged that civic leaders discussed the contents of the letter in a closed-door meeting, but made no other effort to investigate the claims or reprimand Councillor Teecy.

After seeking legal advice, Mr Hurlstone resigned and launched claims for unfair constructive dismissal, breach of contract, and unpaid holiday pay.

Following a three-day hearing, an employment tribunal in Birmingham ruled in his favour. Tribunal chair Fiona Monk said: "Given the serious nature of the allegation and the manner which it was circulated, along with the failure of the respondents to adequately deal with the matter when it was brought to their attention and remedy the damage to Mr Hurlstone, we consider there can be no possible argument it was anything other than unfair constructive dismissal."

After reading the verdict, Mr Hurlstone said: "I am very pleased that the matter has now been concluded. Councillors Briscoe and Teecey, by their actions, have effectively cost the council taxpayers of Shifnal nearly £19,000.

"They should consider their positions, do the honourable thing and resign from the town council."

Councillor Teecy had told the tribunal it was "unfortunate" the letter had been made public. "That information was put across incorrectly," he said. "It's there in writing, therefore I hold my hands up as a town councillor ... I did write that. It was based upon frustration of many other things, as a last resort to get people's ears to prick up."

Apparently Councillor Teecey's confidence in the clerk had been "fairly low" -- partly because of the panelling taken from the magistrates' court and partly because Mr Hurlstone was involved in a boundary dispute his partner Karen Crangle.

Councillor Teecey also said he had apologised to Mr Hurlstone about writing the letter, but did not follow this up in writing because he thought "the matter had been settled".

Shifnal mayor Ron Jowett said he was "saddened and dismayed" the case had gone so far. He added that Mr Hurlstone would be paid out of the public purse and a full council meeting would be convened to discuss how to pay the money.

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