Councillor faces probe over ‘bullying’ claims during land dispute

Above: A picture of the disputed land. Middle: Councillor Richard Maskell. Bottom: Professor Ed Peile
Above: A picture of the disputed land. Middle: Councillor Richard Maskell. Bottom: Professor Ed Peile

A council chairman has been accused of bullying, malicious behaviour, abusing his position and pursuing a vendetta against a prominent villager.

Councillor Richard Maskell, of Aston Clinton Parish Council, is being investigated for a string of alleged code of conduct breaches over a land dispute.

Councillor Richard Maskell, chairman of Aston Clinton Parish Council

Councillor Richard Maskell, chairman of Aston Clinton Parish Council

The complaints have been raised by Professor Ed Peile, who set up the village’s doctor’s surgery, and his wife Linda.

The row began more than a year ago when a dispute arose between the Peiles and the council over where the ownership boundary lies between Aston Clinton Park and Old Rectory Farm, where the couple live.

Now an official investigation has been launched into Mr Maskell’s behaviour after Aylesbury Vale District Council’s standards committee referred the matter so further inquiries can be made.

Other claims made against the council chairman are that he trespassed on and damaged the Peiles’ property, has been ‘dishonest in his communications’ and ‘exercised poor judgement and total disregard for legal advice’.

Professor Ed Peile of Aston Clinton

Professor Ed Peile of Aston Clinton

Mr Maskell denies all allegations and says he and fellow councillors have always acted in the council’s best interests. He has questioned the Peiles’ motives for their complaints, claiming the accusations are an attempt to punish him for the council’s dispute with the couple.

Professor Peile declined to comment on what has happened, but said he and his wife will co-operate fully with the ongoing investigation.

The investigation will focus on Mr Maskell’s conduct, not how the council has handled the dispute or technical legal issues underlying it.

A complaint was also made by the Peiles against another member of the parish council, Councillor Paul Crook.

The couple said he refused to listen and was aggressive to them when they contacted him about Mr Maskell’s behaviour.

However, this complaint was dismissed and no further action will be taken after it was decided there had not been a breach of the code of conduct.

Once the probe into Mr Maskell is complete, a report will be sent to the hearings sub committee of the standards committee.

If he is found to have broken the code, the parish council can censure him, arrange training or ban him from holding outside appointments or undertaking other responsibilities.