Cllr John Robertson admitted posting comments on social media about rival Labour councillor Geraldine Kilgour, but insisted he had not been acting in his ‘official capacity’ as a councillor when doing so and therefore had not broken any local authority rules.
His arguments, however, were rejected by South Tyneside Council’s Standards Committee, which agreed to issue a formal ‘censure’ and to temporarily bar him from attending the Jarrow and Boldon Community Area Forum (CAF).
Grahame Wright, the Standards Committee’s independent chairman, who is not a councillor and who did not get a vote on the complaint’s final decision, said the panel had rejected accusations of ‘bias and predetermination’ in the process.
He said: “On the balance of probabilities [the committee upheld] that in making the post complained of, it breached the conduct code, in which he failed to treat Cllr Kilgour with respect.
“The committee upheld … that in making the post complained of he … bullied Cllr Kilgour [and] in publishing the posts brought the council into disrepute and his office as an elected member of the council into disrepute.”
Wright was speaking at a meeting of the Standards Committee, which was held by videolink and broadcast via YouTube.
At one point 150 people were tuned into the livestream of the session, which spent almost three hours hearing evidence and arguments, followed by several more hours of private debate, from which the public was excluded.
Cllr Robertson’s claim to have been acting outside his ‘official capacity’ when posting comments about Cllr Kilgour, which included calling her a ‘sick, nasty vindictive little excuse for a woman’.
This argument was accepted by Cllr Robertson’s fellow independent on the Standards Committee, Cllr Glenn Thompson, but not by the other members.
Agreed sanctions against Cllr Robertson included a formal ‘censure’ and to refer the panel’s findings back to the council, as well as banning him from attending the Jarrow and Boldon CAF for three months, which will see him miss at least one session.
Following the decision, Cllr Robertson called the committee a ‘kangaroo court’.