Suspended councillor free to return to duties

Councillor John Marshall
Councillor John Marshall

A CAMPAIGNING councillor suspended for four-weeks over claims of “bullying” environment officers is free to return to his council duties.

Independent councillor John Marshall was barred for a month after claims of bullying of officers in Hartlepool Borough Council’s environment protection team were upheld.

The conduct of Coun Marshall, who represents the St Hilda ward, was brought into question during the row over “dust” on the Headland.

Residents claim their lives have been blighted for 20 years by dust from businesses on Victoria Dock.

They claim it is putting their health at risk and causing thousands of pounds of damage to homes and cars.

But years of campaigning and public meetings were dismissed last year when a report by a public health professor found there was no health risk.

The row took a new twist in December when Hartlepool Borough Council’s standards committee upheld two complaints made about Coun Marshall’s conduct.

The accusation dated back two years to a series of meetings over the “dust” issue. The committee imposed a sanction of a written apology to the officers concerned. But because Coun Marshall failed to apologise he was suspended for a month between December 23 last year and January 23.

At the time, a council spokesman said the committee decided Coun Marshall had behaved in a way that “amounted to bullying” in respect of his dealings with officers working in the council’s environmental protection team and that he had failed to comply with the Code of Conduct.

Coun Marshall, who strenuously denied bullying, was not available for comment when contacted by the Hartlepool Mail.

But speaking at the time he said: “I haven’t seen a report or any interview statements. I don’t even know the particulars of what I’m accused of doing.

“But it seems they have made up their mind. They can do with me what they like as there is no way I am going to apologise. The only people who sit in judgement of me are the people who elected me.”

At the time several residents supported Coun Marshall and sent a joint letter of support to the council.

Speaking at a Hartlepool Borough Council scrutiny forum meeting in February last year, Professor Peter Kelly, executive director of public health for NHS Tees, said health problems on the Headland are down to the age of the population, levels of deprivation and high number of smokers as much as anything.

Meanwhile, last summer Labour councillor Jonathan Brash, then chairman of the council’s health scrutiny committee, said the process had looked in great detail at the concerns raised.