Hearing date set for suspended Hartlepool Brexit Party councillor over offensive Facebook post

A hearing date has been set by council chiefs after a complaint was lodged against a councillor relating to a post ‘with racist connotations’ shared on Facebook.

Wednesday, 15th January 2020, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th January 2020, 9:57 am

A complaint was lodged to Hartlepool Borough Council about Fens and Rossmere ward Councillor Tony Richardson over the posts including allegedly sharing a post likening a migrant claiming benefits to a dog.

He has removed himself from Facebook and says he will not be using any social media until he has a ‘greater understanding’.

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Hartlepool Civic Centre

Council leader Councillor Shane Moore said he took immediate action over the issue and suspended Coun Richardson from the Brexit Party following the initial findings of a council investigation into the complaint.

A hearing is now scheduled to take place into the complaint and an investigation report is to be considered at a Hartlepool Borough Council Audit and Governance Committee meeting on Wednesday, January 22, which will not be open to the public.

The hearing will be held in closed session under the Local Government Act 1972.

Neil Wilson, assistant chief solicitor at the council, detailed at a recent Audit and Governance Committee last week the process carried out by the council to date following the complaint.

He said: “The local authority received a complaint on New Year’s Eve, a standards complaint against a member, against Councillor Tony Richardson. It’s a complaint that was made by Councillor James Black.

“The complaint centred around a social media post that had been made by Councillor Richardson.

“That post had racist connotations. Immediately upon the receipt of the complaint an investigation was requested, the views of the independent person sought, and it was agreed that the investigation would be undertaken.

“That investigation was largely completed by me on the 7th January, the report is being prepared and I am just awaiting comments from the councillor involved and the independent person.

“The outcome of the report requests that there be a local hearing, so essentially a hearing of the complaint by this committee.

“Because of the nature of the complaint we believe that the hearing needs to take place as soon as possible.”

Councillors commended Coun Black for making the complaint to the council when he saw the social media post.

Coun Brenda Harrison said: “I wouldn’t see him as a complainant in this issue, I would just see it as somebody who brought something to attention.

“We’d have all done it if we’d seen it.

Coun Lesley Hamilton said: “He’s complied with the Nolan Principles [the seven principles of public life] which is what we’re all expected to do and he’s passed that forward. It’s not really a complaint, it’s just adhering to the code of conduct for all councillors.”