No further action to be taken against Crook councillor for Facebook messages

NO further action will be taken against a councillor after a community group claimed his employment as a security guard prejudiced his public support for a new supermarket.

Durham County Council has investigated the complaints made by Crook Community Partnership against Crook North councillor John Bailey and, while acknowledging he should have shown more respect with postings he made on Facebook, said there is no need for any more action.

The partnership submitted six complaints about Coun Bailey after he made several public comments in support of a proposed supermarket on Queen Street in Crook.

The community group said Coun Bailey works for Tesco at their St Helen Auckland store and should have declared an interest before speaking publicly in support of the scheme as he could stand to benefit if a new store is built in Crook.

But the council’s governance solicitor Clare Burrows said Coun Bailey actually works as a security guard for a firm employed by Tesco and numerous other businesses, meaning there is no interest to declare.

The partnership also accused Coun Bailey of making “disrespectful” and “intimidating” posts on Facebook about the partnership, and called “into account the honesty, integrity and professionalism of the trustees” of the partnership by “liking” a negative post made by someone else.

Ms Burrows found Coun Bailey’s comments showed a lack of respect but said he had already publicly apologised on Facebook for them so there was no need for further action.

The partnership also accused Coun Bailey of undermining their bid for £500,000 left over from the cancelled refurbishment of the Elite Hall in the town and releasing confidential information about their plan on the Crook Past, Present and Future Facebook page.

Ms Burrows said the details he released were already in the public domain, adding: “In a democracy members of public bodies should be able to express disagreement publicly with each other.

“In exercising his right to free speech, Coun Bailey has not attempted to undermine the bid.”

Coun Bailey said: “I speak my mind, if I keep my mouth shut about issues affecting our community then how am I supposed to represent the people who elected me.”

Crook Community Partnership was unavailable for comment at the time of publication.

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