HAILSHAM: Councillor sent out racist emails

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FORMER Hailsham mayor Nick Ellwood has been disqualified from serving in local government for four months after sending a series of racist emails to his colleagues.

Mr Ellwood, who resigned as a Wealden District Councillor in November, faced a disciplinary tribunal over a series of inappropriate emails and text messages which he sent to his co-workers during his time as Town Mayor in 2008.

When confronted about the emails Mr Ellwood, who denied sending the messages and claimed his email had been tampered with, threatened to take legal action against council staff if they did not drop the allegations, the tribunal heard.

The two-day tribunal, which went ahead in Mr Ellwood’s absence on December 20, found the former Wealden councillor had committed a number of breaches of the Code of Conduct which sets out rules governing the behaviour of an authority’s members.

The tribunal heard that Hailsham’s Deputy Town Clerk, Mickey Caira, was prompted to make a formal complaint against Mr Ellwood after members of staff flagged up a racist email sent from Mr Ellwood in response to a trader who had asked to hold a continental market in Hailsham.

In evidence given to the tribunal, Town Council officer David Saxby said, “It did take me back, I was shocked at the language used.

“It was not the language I would expect from an elected councillor. I thought it was just racially abusive.”

The tribunal also heard evidence that staff had also found a string of emails in which the former mayor had encouraged a council mole to spy on co-workers and report back to him.

Mr Ellwood had then offered to ‘broker a deal’ to terminate the council officer’s employment in return for the original allegations against him being withdrawn.

Speaking at the tribunal, witnesses from Hailsham Town Council said they were put under pressure to drop formal complaints against Mr Ellwood, who had threatened to take legal action against the council.

Simon Bird, chairman of the tribunal, disqualified Mr Ellwood until May 4, 2011.

He found no evidence that Mr Ellwood’s emails had been tampered with and ruled that he had committed a number of breaches of the code by failing to treat others with respect, using his position as a member improperly to confer a disadvantage on another person and had conducted himself in a manner which had brought the local authority into disrepute.