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Hotelier apologises for posters

HOTELIER Nigel Way has said sorry for ‘any inconvenience’ he caused by putting up posters urging people not to vote for former town councillor Dave Cawley on polling day in May.
But Mr Cawley says he is deeply disappointed with Mr Way’s apology, which ‘reads more like a corporate statement’.
He said he had always considered Mr Way to be his friend and he felt ‘stabbed in the back by his nastiness’.
Now, senior Dartmouth town councillor Francis Hawke has called on Mr Way to resign as chairman of the Dartmouth Business Improvement District and as a director of town’s tourist information centre.
And he believes the town council should have nothing more to do with either organisation until Mr Way steps down.
But Dartmouth mayor Cllr Rob Lyon has urged the town not to turn its back on Mr Way, who he says has always had Dartmouth’s well-being at heart.
He said the poster incident was ‘very unfortunate and a foolish thing to do but completely out of character’.
‘Nigel is a very passionate guy and was extremely upset about what Dave Cawley had said about the TIC, and he saw red,’ said Cllr Lyon.
‘Dartmouth’s well-being has been at the forefront of his actions and who else knows more about business in Dart­mouth? He would be a great loss to the town.’
Mr Cawley said he and Mr Way had met on Monday night to discuss things for an hour, when Mr Way ‘had appeared remorseful, apologetic and sorry’.
But he said sadly he felt none of that was portrayed in a statement which Mr Way later issued.
It read: ‘I am Nigel Way and on the day of the local government election I produced and posted eight posters suggesting that if you loved the TIC you should not vote for Dave Cawley.
‘I did this as I feel passionately about the TIC and in the past I have been one of its directors. In a recent town council meeting Mr Cawley had made some allegations about the TIC that were untrue and, in my frustration, I put up the posters.
‘I produced and distributed the posters on my own in a moment of passion and stupidity and more as a joke than with intention to cause offence. I apologise for any inconvenience I have caused to the TIC, the town council and Mr Cawley.’
When the Chronicle first approached Mr Way about the posters, he admitted putting them up but said he had asked someone else – who he did not name – to produce them.
On Monday this week, the Dart­mouth TIC board met to discuss the poster incident, although Mr Way was not present.
Afterwards, TIC chairman Angie Cairns-Sharp said: ‘While not condoning, or being aware at any time of Nigel’s actions, the board unanimously agreed today that his tremendous efforts and contributions to the TIC, tourism and indeed Dartmouth and South Devon, make him a very important member of our team who we would like to continue as a director of the TIC.’
Visit South Devon, where Mr Way is a director of tourism, said: ‘Mr Way has always been a strong advocate for the success of tourism within South Devon and we welcome him as a member of the Visit South Devon board for as long as he wishes to remain.’
BID manager Alison Steere said: ‘Whilst we do not condone Nigel’s actions and were completely unaware of his involvement, we all agree that this isolated action does not outweigh the 35 years Nigel has unselfishly supported Dartmouth.
‘We completely trust Nigel and do not wish for him to stand down as our chairman.’
Mr Way’s revelation in last week’s Chronicle followed a month-long police investigation to find who made the posters and displayed them at various locations as voters went to polls in May to elect a new town council.
Only days earlier Mr Cawley, then a town councillor, had accused the TIC of reckless spending over the creation of its website ­– something it has always denied but which Mr Cawley still maintains is true.
A South Hams Council spokes­man said: ‘The democratic process should be taken seriously and, as such, returning officer Sophie Hosking referred the matter to the police.’
Mr Way came clean about putting up the posters after a witness came forward at the end of the police investigation.
Neil Blackhurst, of the serious and organised crime branch who led the investigation, said this week the police position remained the same that no criminal offence had been identified.
During the inquiry, Mr Cawley put up a £250 reward for information leading to the identification of the culprit and now the money is to be spilt between the RNLI and Rowcroft Hospice, as agreed by Mr Cawley and the witness who told the Chronicle he saw Mr Way putting up the posters.
Mr Cawley said he would also like to see Mr Way make a donation to charity.
He said: ‘I believe this whole issue blew up from a council meeting where I actually said that the TIC does a good job. Its point of presence is vital, its website is the best in Dartmouth and that it just needed to address some of its reckless spending to survive.
‘The majority of councillors agreed with me, but for some reason I was singled out. The figures I quoted are accurate but the TIC deny this and I put that down to semantics or accounting procedures.
‘I have known Nigel for a very long time and worked with him during my chairmanship at the TIC between 2002 and 2006 and have always considered him to be a friend.
‘My comments related to the TIC as a business but what Nigel did was directed at me personally, stabbing me in the back and making it difficult for me to continue to work on projects like getting local businesses reduced shop rents, building starter industrial units and working with a developer to get some affordable housing in Dartmouth.
‘I can’t understand why as the chairman of the BID he is working against this.
‘Nigel doesn’t seem to understand the impact of his nastiness on my wife, my mother in-law and my friends; his apology is more of a corporate statement than an apology and I must say that I’m deeply disappointed with it.
‘I think more than ever that the BID needs a little fresh blood and, bearing in mind my goals for shop rents and industrial units, you would think they would welcome me with open arms.’
Cllr Hawke described what Mr Way did as ‘deplorable’.
‘I was surprised it was Nigel and very disappointed it was Nigel,’ he said.
‘I don’t dispute he has done a lot of good for the town but he has tried to usurp the will of the people.
‘I believe in local democracy and 30-odd votes could have made a difference. Dave Cawley is not everybody’s cup of tea but it is wrong that you go out to ensure he is not elected.
‘Mr Way should stand down from the BID and TIC and until then the town council should be distancing itself from both organisations.’
Mrs Cairns-Sharp said, after being informed of the prank on polling day, people were immediately dispatched to remove the posters as she did not wish the TIC to be caught up in any controversy.
Many had already been spotted in the town and taken down by Mr Cawley and Richard Rendle, who went on to win a seat on the council.
Cllr Rendle said this week: ‘I am very sad about what has happened and it is disappointingly worrying for the town. It was a foolish thing to do but councillors must have the confidence to express their worries.’
Cllr Tessa de Galleani said: ‘The incident has been upsetting and Dave Cawley, as a long- standing councillor, had worked hard for the town for 12 years.
‘I don’t think it was a prank but a moment of utter stupidity. Both are grown up and now they need to sit round a table and start behaving like it.’

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