Keiron Knight has now started to wear a body camera usually used by authority figures to record evidence to provide footage of any future exchanges with council employees.
Details of the allegations, and a formal warning, are contained in a letter from Barnsley Council to Mr Knight, vice chairman of the Barnsley group of the National Market Traders Federation and represent a further deterioration in an increasingly bitter relationship.
Earlier this year the council broke off negotiations with him, despite his status as the Barnsley group’s official elected by stallholders to represent their position, to deal with an alternative group instead after the Barnsley group went public with a series of concerns about the new market hall, in Barnsley’s flagship Glass Works complex.
Some traders and the council are currently in conflict over rents, which have been cut by half for those trading on the upper floor of the market leading to a campaign to have costs matched for those on the ground floor.
Now the authority has accused Mr Knight of ‘challenging’ council enforcement officers and taking photographs of them at work in the town centre, then while that allegation was being investigated that he was accused of being ‘confrontational’ towards market staff, challenging them about the time they arrive at work and the tasks they were carrying out’, according to the letter he received.
It added: “The team also raised complaints the you were preventing them from carrying out their work by parking and unloading in the area they needed to work in.”
The letter warns his conduct was ‘found to fall below that expected of market stallholders’ and if the warning was not adhered to, a final written warning would be the next step. It also offered him the opportunity to review the situation with a senior official.
However, Mr Knight is refuting the allegations and said: “I feel like I’m being bullied by Barnsley Council particularly because of my role as the vice chairman of the NMTF Barnsley group who have been supporting the Glass Works traders in getting fair rents for all.”
He has questioned why Barnsley Council took statements only from its own staff and him when other independent witness material was available for their investigation.
Mr Knight accepts he took photographs of enforcement officers when a parking ticket was being issued to a market trader’s van in circumstances he regarded as ‘double standards’ and had been denied the opportunity to summon the owner to move the vehicle instead of being fined.
In a response to the council, he said he had asked the enforcement officers: “Why I could not go a fetch the van owner in question to move his vehicle bearing in mind I am an NMTF liaison officer.
“I was told I could not and a parking ticket was issued which I thought was very unreasonable considering ‘working together’ is always promoted. This is clearly not the case and their attitude should be questioned, not mine.”
Regarding his exchange with market staff, he has asked why a colleague who was present and witnessed the full incident had not been asked to provide a statement.
In his response, Mr Knight states he has been given no right to appeal and is now planning his own counter complaint about the way his case has been handled and decided.
“I will be gathering as much evidence as possible before I take this further and be really assured then I will be going to my solicitor, I find market services’ latest actions repugnant,” he said in his response to the council.
David Shepherd, Barnsley Council’s service director for regeneration and culture, said: “The council can’t comment on individual cases, however we do expect market traders to operate their businesses and personnel conduct in accordance with agreed protocols and in a professional manner.
“If an individual fails to comply with the expected standards then action may be necessary.”
Provided by the Local Democracy Reporting Service.