New Deputy Mayor appointed before botched vote

Obvious tensions, chaotic scenes, an accidental vote and a councillor locked in a toilet – this was what greeted residents who tuned into the first virtual Honiton Town Council meeting last night.

Welcome to the “new normal” – Owl

Joseph Bulmer 

It was the first meeting of Honiton Town Council since the Coronavirus lock down began, it was also the first time the council has held a meeting online.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic councillors voted to suspend an Annual General Meeting of the council. Council AGMs usually involve the election of a new mayor and deputy mayor but due to the current circumstances councillors voted to suspend the meeting.

This means that the current mayor, John Zarczynski, will keep his position for another year. However, due to the resignation of councillor Duncan Sheridan Shaw earlier this year councillors had to elect a new deputy mayor.

Councillor Carol Gilson was voted in as the new deputy mayor, with six councillors voting in favour of her appointment, two against and one abstention.

Councillors Taylor, Gilson, Dolby, Coombs and Carrigan appeared to be tuning into the meeting from the same house with each councillor taking it in turns to be in the hot seat. This congregation of councillors in one house was criticised by a fellow councillor and by a member of the public.

After the appointment of councillor Carol Gilson as deputy mayor proceedings turned to the issue of re-establishing the council’s HR Committee.

Councillors Kolek and Pollington requested that the committee be made up of all members of the full council due to a number of recent high profile resignations. This proposal was quashed by their fellow councillors.

Councillors then voted on re-establishing the HR committee under a previous frame of reference, meaning that the HR committee would be made up of councillors holding committee chair positions.

When the vote came to councillor Gilson she was absent from the call, the deputy town clerk, Heloise Marlow, moved on and eventually came back to councillor Gilson when she reappeared on the conference call.

When asked where she had been she told councillors she had been ‘locked in the toilet’. The town clerk admonished councillor Gilson and asked that she please inform the meeting’s chairman before leaving a meeting in future.

Councillor Gilson then voted against re-establishing the HR committee under the previous frame of reference but quickly realised that she had in fact intended to vote in favour of the motion.

This led to much confusion. The town clerk remarked: “I honestly don’t know what to do now.”

Despite councillor Gilson’s botched vote the motion was still carried.