£80k solicitor investigation finds John Zarczynski didn’t break Honiton Town Council’s code

A prominent former Honiton Town councillor and ex town mayor has been cleared of wrong-doing and breaches of the council’s code of conduct after an investigation that has cost East Devon council tax payers almost £80,000. 


It is a contradiction of a decision made in 2021 when then councillor John Zarczynski was ordered by East Devon Council’s monitoring officer to make a public apology

The monitoring officer had responded to internal complaints against the former mayor and chair of Honiton Town Council. East Devon Council has published that decision and it can be read via this link.  

At the time, Cllr Zarczynski disputed both the allegations and the apology and said he would seek further redress and he would not be apologising. 

Just two months later Mr Zarczynski, together with five other councillors, resigned from the council following repeated clashes with recently-elected councillors – in particular over the town council’s budget. Mr Zarczynski said the matter of the allegations against him were not the cause of his resignation, but he absolutely denied them and would not apologise. 

In the meantime, the wheels were rolling in a fully independent investigation into the conduct of Cllr Zarczynski following complaints which were the culmination of a series of events going back almost six years. 

They resulted in 16 allegations made against then Cllr Zarczynski – which included accusations of bullying, abusive and misogynistic behaviour, breaches of confidentiality and other breaches of the council’s code of conduct.  

East Devon Council, which has a statutory responsibility to investigate such allegations, commissioned an independent solicitor to investigate them all. 

That investigation has now concluded and a judgement has been delivered to East Devon Council, which has declined to disclose the outcome, despite having the findings in its possession since June last year. 

It is a decision in contrast to that to publish the findings of its own monitoring officer against Mr Zarczynski. 

However, Honiton Nub News is aware of the solicitor’s findings – detailed in a comprehensive 173-page report. 

Many parts of the report make deeply unpleasant reading and it appears inescapable that there was frequently a caustic, combative, abrasive and oppressive atmosphere within the council domain. Frequent clashes have been reported by various people between Cllr Zarczynski and council officials, particularly former clerk Mark Tredwin. 

Mr Tredwin was clerk to the council between December 2017 and September 2020. In June 2020 Mr Tredwin submitted a series of complaints to the Monitoring Officer of East Devon District Council.  

He complained that Cllr Zarczynski had: (a) failed to treat him and others with respect; (b) failed to have regard to advice when making decisions; (c) bullied and intimidated him and others; (d) breached the Equality Enactments; (e) attempted to compromise the impartiality of himself and others; (f) disclosed confidential information; (g) failed to uphold Council policies; and (h) brought his office or the Council into disrepute. 

The report includes the outcome of each individual allegation as investigated by the council’s appointed solicitor and contains many statements from those who were involved in incidents that provoked the complaints.  

Those statements record, in detail and often with lengthy quotes, a number of people’s recollections of events and written correspondence between protagonists. They include allegations of foul language and threatening and misogynistic behaviour.  

None of the allegations have been upheld and the report’s conclusion states there is ‘insufficient evidence’ of any malpractice or misconduct by Mr Zarczynski and that he is not guilty of was guilty of any breach of the Code of Conduct. 

However, in its concluding remarks, the report states that while his conduct may not have reached the threshold to breach the Council’s Code of Conduct, his behaviour was not conducive to ‘good working relationships.’

Below is a selection of the report’s findings

With regard to failing to treat staff with respect and dignity, the report stated: “We do not consider Councillor Zarczynski’s conduct towards the staff to be bullying, as no evidence was provided which indicated that Councillor Zarczynski was offensive, intimidating, malicious, insulting and humiliated any individual.  

 “Therefore we have concluded that Councillor Zarczynski’s conduct did not breach the part of the Code relating to bullying.” 

Similarly, with regard to the accusation that Councillor Zarczynski attempted to put pressure on or coerce Mr Tredwin, the report said: “There is insufficient evidence to support a finding that Councillor Zarczynski attempted to put pressure on or coerce Mr Tredwin or any other employee to carry out the duties in a biased or partisan way.” 

 In regards to disclosing confidential information, the report stated: “Mr Tredwin made a broad allegation that sensitive Council business was discussed in public. No details were provided about what the information was, the confidential nature of the information, how Councillor Zarczynski obtained the information or who it was disclosed to.  

“On that basis it is not possible to determine that Councillor Zarczynski breached the Code of Conduct by disclosing confidential information. Councillor Zarczynski did not bring his office or the Council into disrepute.” 

 An incident took place 12 August 2019 that was indicative of the poor relationship between Mr Zarczynski and Mr Tredwin. Mr Zarczynski was accused of swearing at Mr Tredwin and pointing his finger at him in an aggressive way. Mr Zarczynski denies this.  

 The investigation found that both men were raising their voices at each other ‘equally robustly’ and that: “After considering Councillor Zarczynski’s comments [his response to the accusations] on the Draft Report it would appear that both parties to the incident became frustrated with the others’ stance on a matter.  

 “Whilst that does not detract from the seriousness of the incident that took place, it is necessary to consider the conduct of both parties. Witnesses also told us the raised voices were of both parties to the conversation and equally robust. 

 “Whilst it is evident that the relationship between Mr Tredwin and Councillor Zarczynski had deteriorated by this time, both parties were engaged in behaviour that was not appropriate for their positions.  

 “However, having regard to the evidence provided and the circumstances set out by both parties we do not consider Councillor Zarczynski’s conduct to be such that it breached the parts of the Code dealing with respect, bullying or impartiality.” 

The report said the relationship between Mr Tredwin and some of the other councillors, including Mr Zarczynski, had ‘broken down’ by 2019 and concluded: “Although Councillor Zarczynski’s conduct, for example ignoring staff, seeking an investigation against the TDM (Town Development Manager) due to his dual role and the tone of some emails may not have reached the threshold for the various paragraphs of the Council’s Code of Conduct, we nonetheless express concern that such behaviour is not conducive to a good working relationship between members and officers.” 

East Devon Council has declined to comment on the findings of the investigation, saying: “Under the council’s standards process, the report is confidential” but it did confirm: “The investigation incurred a cost of £79,140 across three financial years – 2020 – 21, 2021 – 2022 and 2022 – 2023.”

Honiton Nub News understands that several other councillors, whose names have not been put in the public domain, have also been investigated in similar fashion by East Devon Council after it received complaints and they have also been cleared of breaching the council’s code.