Allegations of ‘smear campaign’ in Suburb Trust elections

Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust has hit back at claims it tried to smear a Trust council candidate in the build-up to elections.

Dr Saul Zadka, who is running for election on behalf of the Concerned Residents Group, accused the Trust of trying to dash his election hopes.

He says the Trust circulated a letter accusing him of lying to Suburb residents over the Trust’s actions.

His legal representatives also contacted the Trust threatening them with legal action and claiming some residents have not received their ballot papers. They have asked the Trust to extend the voting period.

Dr Zadka’s barrister said the alternative was a court battle.

A Trust spokesperson said some residents were too late in joining. She claimed others failed to complete their papers and were contacted, but some did not reply in time.

Following an explosive Trust AGM, at which Dr Zadka levelled wide-ranging criticism at the conservation body, the Trust posted a response to Dr Zadka’s allegations on its website and emailed it to residents.

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Nick Packard, the Trust’s estate manager, told the Ham&High: “It (the letter) is not a smear and we’re not involved in electioneering.

“But if someone says something that we think is not true we have the right to put our correction out there.”

At the AGM on September 14 Dr Zadka raised concerns over increases to the management charge and called into question the Trust’s role in Henrietta Barnett School’s extensions.

Mr Packard said the courts had found in the Trust’s favour over the increased management charge.

In the Trust’s letter, published in this newspaper last week, chair Jane Blackburn wrote: “The Concerned Residents Group is continuing to circulate misleading and inaccurate information about the activities of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Trust.

“The Trust has provided their spokesmen, Dr (Rafael) Papadopoulos and Dr Zadka, with correct facts and figures to no effect.”

Dr Zadka said: “The Trust is using the Trust facilities to smear us.

“The Trust has to be objective and they should not be involved in our legitimate campaign. They’re taking sides.”

In legal representations to the Trust, Dr Zadka’s barrister asks the Trust to consider appointing an independent returning officer, for the candidates to be allowed to be present at the count and for a list of residents eligible to vote to be given to the candidates.

A Trust spokeswoman said the conservation body considered the postal election with independent auditors “fair and reasonable”.

She said the members would have to propose changes to the constitution if they wanted to change the process.