Hartlepool councillor punished for sharing racist Facebook posts pleas for sanctions to be lifted
Cllr Tony Richardson, an Independent councillor, has called for himself to be allowed to sit on Hartlepool Borough Council committees again after previously being forbidden following a standards hearing last year.
It was held after Cllr Richardson was reported to have shared a post likening an immigrant trying to claim benefits to a dog, while three other offensive posts shared by the councillor were also considered in the investigation.
The hearing found the posts were a significant breach of Hartlepool Borough Council’s code of conduct, with the hearing’s independent person calling the post about the dog “vile and offensive” and “hate speech in any one’s opinion”.
The Fens and Rossmere representative apologised for any offence caused and stressed he is not a racist, but was ‘significantly careless and naive’, attributing the posts to his difficulties using social media.
An extraordinary meeting of Full Council in June 2020 unanimously approved moving forward with the recommendations from the Audit and Governance Committee to address Cllr Richardson’s actions.
Sanctions imposed included removing Cllr Richardson from his positions on the Licensing, Planning and Local Joint Consultative Committees, and stating he should not be appointed to any other committees.
Cllr Richardson, speaking at the latest full council meeting, wanted to challenge for seats on several committees as part of a political proportionality review, and asked for his sanctions to be lifted.
He said: “I would like to humbly request, as I have now completed my equality and diversity training along with some information and technology upskilling sessions, that full council ask the audit and governance committee to review the sanctions applied to me in 2020.
“You know I have attended every committee meeting that I have been able to, which is the vast majority of them, in the public galleries.
“I feel that a review of the sanctions may help me represent the constituency better as an elected member.
“With the uncertainty of Covid-19 and the fact that May 2020 elections have been postponed, making it likely it may happen again, I believe that a review of the sanctions applied would be a fair and reasonable request.”
A motion was therefore raised to full council for the audit and governance committee to review Cllr Richardson’s sanctions and discuss if they should be overturned.
The motion also involved deferring making a decision on committee seats as part of a political proportionality review until the next full council meeting, to allow audit and governance to complete its review.
This was passed by councillors by 22 votes to five, meaning it will go to an upcoming meeting of the audit and governance committee, before returning to full council.
Following the initial standards hearing last year, sanctions also included recommending that Cllr Richardson should consider resigning as an elected member of Hartlepool Borough Council.
However he stated he was committed to continue working for the people in his ward.