THE former Mayor of Hailsham who was disqualified from serving in local government for four months after sending out offensive emails to his co-workers says he is not a racist.
Nick Ellwood, who resigned as a Wealden District Councillor in November, was banned until May, after a disciplinary tribunal found he had committed a number of breaches of the Code of Conduct.
The scandal centred around a series of offensive emails and racist text messages allegedly sent to his colleagues at Hailsham Town Council back in 2008.
This included a racist email sent from Mr Ellwood’s account after a trader with an Asian name had made an enquiry about holding a continental market in Hailsham.
As well as breaching the Council’s Code of Conduct, the disciplinary tribunal found Mr Ellwood’s conduct in sending the email may have caused Hailsham Town Council to breach the The Race Relations Act.
However, Mr Ellwood, who did not attend the First Tier Tribunal hearing at Eastbourne Magistrates Court on December 2, has now spoken out to defend himself after a report into his conduct was made public by Standards For England last week.
“I’m not a racist. Anybody who knows me knows I’m not a racist,” he told the Gazette.
“I’m sorry but I never sent that email. Whatever evidence I sent they just didn’t want to know,” he said.
“It has been extremely stressful in the sense that I gave a lot of my life to the council.
“I was in Hailsham Town Council nearly 17 years and Wealden District Council for 16 years.
“I started for the benefit of the community. I enjoyed doing things for the community and I enjoy helping people out,” he said.
More inappropriate emails came to light when council worker David Saxby was shutting down a colleague’s computer.
He found an email from Nick Ellwood encouraging a council ‘mole’ to spy on her co-workers, at a sensitive time when the council was establishing a consultative committee and considering structural changes.
Other emails from Mr Ellwood to the employee made rude comments about an allotment holder and also called a fellow councillor a ‘fruit loop’.
He then tried to intimidate the council officer who had made the original complaint by threatening legal action in an attempt to have those allegations withdrawn, the tribunal found.
But Mr Ellwood denies any wrongdoing and said he became the subject of a council vendetta after he proposed job cuts at the council.
“Even they [the emails] were found in June 2008.
“No complaint was made, nothing was done until I asked for a review of the staff structure in June 2009.
“I could see that through a proper reorganisation, £200k of ratepayers’ money could have been saved. That would have led to redundancies,” he said.
“I’m taking advice about taking this to the European Court of Human Rights, clearly the staff acted illegally by entering into someone’s email,” he added.
• The full report made public by Standards For England can be found atwww.adjudicationpanel.tribunals.gov.uk